COSTA MESA, CA – First, the setting: The Eagles are living in a hotel for the week, practicing at the Angel Stadium of Anaheim and will play the Rams on Sunday at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. So it's an unusual week from that standpoint alone.
Two, the Eagles are coming off a loss, their first after nine-straight victories and 10 full weeks. Crazy stuff. A different feeling, really, because after a loss you understand that the outside reaction in many cases goes 180 degrees away from the way it was during all of those wins.
Let's say that right now Eagles fans, along with a nudge from the media, are a bit extreme. We call it passionate, and it's a good thing.
It's also something the Eagles – players and coaches – must block out. The Eagles know they didn't play a great game – or a good game, really – on Sunday night in a loss at Seattle. They understand what the loss means in the big picture.
No need to overreact here. The Eagles are going to be fine. All the work they did winning 10 of their first 11 games isn't erased because they lost to Seattle. They came up short in a playoff atmosphere to a team that sure looks like it's going to be in the postseason. Sunday's game at the Rams is another pre-playoff, playoff test. The Eagles need to respond.
And it's all going to start with head coach Doug Pederson and the coaching staff and the practice plan they put in place for when the team gets back on the field. You get the sense from hearing Pederson the last couple of days that he knows this team needs to get its edge back after some less-than-razor-sharp weeks.
The Eagles are in great playoff position at 10-2, but also have to take their collective game up a notch down the stretch. We've got four games left in the regular season. The Eagles want to play their best football in December heading into the postseason.
Quarterback Carson Wentz no doubt beat himself up a bit after Sunday's loss. He fumbled at the goal line and threw a late-game interception, and for a quarterback and a competitor like Wentz, it was a painful night.
"It was the story of the game, really," he said. "We turned the ball over. They didn't. On a road game like this, in this atmosphere against a great team like they are, it's tough to win when you do that."
It's not the end of the world that the Eagles lost on Sunday night, but it is a moment of adversity to consider. The Eagles don't have a margin for error in the race for the best record in the conference. They are playing in December with a second-year quarterback and a second-year head coach in the middle of a three-game road trip. This isn't an easy stretch, by any means.
We're going to learn about the leadership here. And the resiliency of the team. The Eagles have overcome a lot of injuries this year, and they've put together a mighty strong 12 games. The final quarter of the season is upon us.
The time that separates the best from the rest in the NFL.
"Obviously got to keep them kind of dialed in because the week is different. We've got to eliminate the distractions of traveling to practice, and we're in a hotel and things aren't quite as simple, let's say, as if we were back in Philadelphia," Pederson said. "And then just the part of the game. Again, we're facing a playoff-caliber football team this Sunday (which is) good in all three phases. Their offense is obviously very explosive and playing well and I've got to bring everybody kind of full circle back to that and focus on that during the week."
The Eagles responded to their loss in Kansas City with nine wins in a row. How will they bounce back after the loss in Seattle? The schedule isn't easy, not with a red-hot Los Angeles team, a resurgent Oakland Raiders squad, and a playoff-hopful Dallas team still on the schedule. Not to mention a Giants team with an interim head coach and a return-to-the-starting-lineup Eli Manning at quarterback playing football with no pressure at home.
Sunday looms as a very telling game. A spot of adversity is knocking. How will the Eagles answer?