Today, I'm channeling my inner fan. I've been with the Eagles since 1997, been a fan my entire life. Losing stinks. And when you are used to winning and reaching the postseason and when you've tasted the ultimate success, you realize how much the other side hurts.
And today is a day to hurt.
The Eagles made absolutely no excuses after losing to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Miami played a heckuva football game, erasing a 28-14 deficit midway through the third quarter, scoring points on six consecutive drives (not including an end-of-half kneeldown), including five touchdowns. It should not have happened. Knowing that a win would push the Eagles into a tie for first place in the NFC East, the Eagles lost grip on a victory.
It happens in this sport. The NFL is crazy competitive and every single player who steps on that field is a professional. Miami deserved to win and the Eagles deserved to lose.
But that doesn't lessen the hurt the fans feel. The NovaCare Complex feels it, too, but everybody here is conditioned to move on to the next week, the next challenge. You don't bask in the glow of victories or wallow in the depth of despair after losses.
You move on.
So, that's what the Eagles have to do. Head coach Doug Pederson is taking the hits now, and he's OK with that. He's the one taking the questions from the media – hard ones that really don't have answers. Pederson's position is that the players were prepared to perform, and they played with great effort and they were in position to make plays against Miami.
The Eagles just didn't make enough plays to win the game.
"There are times when you get beat and times when you win. We got beat. We physically got beat yesterday and we have to accept that," Pederson said. "Every player has to look at that, every coach has to look at that. (We have to ask ourselves) what can I do this week to get better from that? How can I maybe be another six inches further down the field or listen to the snap count a little bit or whatever it might be to make those plays in the future."
This is all coachspeak, of course. Pederson, like every one of us, is bitterly disappointed in Sunday's loss. But it's in the past and the Eagles now move into the final quarter of the season, their playoff fate still in their hands. Trust me, nobody at One NovaCare Way is talking about the playoffs. The Eagles are talking about finding a way to win. A 2-10 Giants team that has lost eight straight games comes to town for a Monday Night Football showdown and both teams are desperate.
What is Pederson going to do to "shake things up" during this longer week? Not a whole lot is my educated guess. He's going to express to his team the urgency of the moment, but that's something the players should already know. The players are going to get it, to feel it, to be angry about it, and raise their intensity up a notch, or they're not. The leaders in the locker room are the ones who need to set the tone during the week of practice.
If players don't buy in, they just won't be in the plans for 2020. These are tough times, as we all know. Tough times don't last, but tough people do, so we're going to find out in the final quarter of the season which players really, truly want to turn this season around.
I spent most of my Monday morning answering questions from the fans, so I know how you all feel. It's not pretty out there. It never is when your favorite team loses. The Eagles mean so much to the fans, and that love is truly appreciated. Turning Hard Rock Stadium into a sea of Midnight Green was a sight to behold. Hearing the "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!" chants all day on Sunday was incredible. Thank you. You deserved better than a 37-31 loss to a 2-9 team.
The Eagles must now turn the page. That's the only option. I don't have any magical answers here. Losing to Miami was, frankly, embarrassing. That's not to take anything away from the Dolphins, who deserved the win, but for an Eagles team with a chance to tie for first place in the NFC East to play a game like that, to lose a 14-point third-quarter lead was just bad. Flat-out bad.
What's next for the Eagles? Pederson is going to stay the course. He isn't planning any dramatic changes. He isn't pointing fingers at any side of the ball or at any one of his coaches. It's on everybody. Being 5-7 is on everybody.
And the only way to finish the final quarter of this season strong is for everybody to be better. Much better, with deeper focus and commitment.
Incredibly, there is still light at the end of this 5-7 tunnel and for that, the Eagles have to be thankful. The Eagles aren't playing out the string here. They're playing to get to the playoffs.
First, though, they need to get a win. Beating the Giants is a must. It would build some confidence, which is needed right now after three straight losses.
Losing to Miami, that's in the past. I'm still in a daze about it, but it happened. Somehow, it happened. If that isn't a wake-up call for a football team that should be much better than 5-7, then the Eagles are in deep, deep trouble. They've lost to two 3-9 teams (Falcons, Dolphins) and one 3-8-1 team (Lions). All three of those losses haunt the team in the standings.
There is still a chance to salvage the season. The crack in the door remains. Let's see what happens in the next week here and how the Eagles bounce back against the 2-10 Giants at home in prime time. The whole country is watching. Can the Eagles put the pieces of what was supposed to be a great season back together?