Lawlor: How Will Eagles Respond To Must-Win Game?

A once promising season is on the ropes. The Eagles are 4-6 and barely hanging on in the playoff hunt. Is there any hope for this team?

I know things look dire right now, but history tells us the Eagles still have time to turn things around. Let's go back to 2006 for an example of how things can change.

The Eagles lost to the Titans, 31-13. That dropped them to 5-5. Even worse, Donovan McNabb tore his ACL and was done for the year. Jeff Garcia started the next week at Indianapolis. The Colts dominated the Eagles, winning 45-21.

Life was not good.

The Eagles sat at 5-6 and their season looked to be over. Somehow Garcia got into a groove, the team came alive, and the Eagles won five games in a row. That made them NFC East champs. They beat the Giants in the Wild Card round and then lost a close one to the Saints in the Divisional Round.

A season that looked completely lost turned into a fun final couple of months. The players and coaches never gave up. They kept battling until they got things on track.

The 2018 squad has to take that same approach. Just keep battling and trying to figure things out.

The 2006 season changed when McNabb got hurt. That affected the other players, forcing them out of their comfort zone. The other players realized they had to play better if Garcia was going to be able to win games. That injury brought the team together.

It doesn't always have to be an injury. Teams can come together when a player returns from injury. Maybe playing a really tough opponent proves to be the catalyst. Heck, it can even be a single moment in a game. The 2003 Eagles were struggling until Brian Westbrook returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown to beat the Giants in an ugly 14-10 game. The Eagles won the next eight games in a row after that.

Pederson has talked for the past six weeks about how close the Eagles were, and it was true. Getting dominated changes that conversation. Maybe it will affect the players and bring out the best in them.

The 2008 Eagles were 5-5-1 and coming off a 36-7 loss to the Ravens. McNabb was benched in the loss and there were all kinds of questions about his future. I think that was also the first time there were questions about head coach Andy Reid's future. Things looked bad.

Somehow that situation proved to be a rallying point for the Eagles. They went 4-1 down the stretch, including an epic 44-6 win over Dallas on the last day of the regular season that no one will ever forget. That team made it to the NFC Championship and should have won that game.

Teams can hit rock bottom. What do they do when that happens?

Just a couple of years ago the Eagles had a really bad stretch. The 2016 team went to Cincinnati having lost two games in a row by double digits. The Bengals were struggling, so the Eagles thought this was there chance to turn things around.

Instead, the Bengals dominated them. The score was 29-0 in the third quarter. That was the true low point of the Pederson era.

Neither Pederson nor his team panicked. The Eagles had a fourth-quarter lead the next week, but gave up a late touchdown and lost. The next week the Eagles scored a touchdown late against the Ravens and then went for two. The conversion failed and they lost, but you could see something in them. They had hit rock bottom and come back fighting. Lane Johnson returned from suspension and that team won the final two games of the regular season.

The current players are a proud bunch. Most of them are Super Bowl Champs. More than a few have been to the Pro Bowl. They know success more than failure. Losing 48-7 will not sit well with them. This loss can be the turning point.

This week's game will tell us a lot. The Eagles don't have to blow out the Giants to prove they've changed. We do need to see the team play with more energy. We also need to see better fundamentals. Blocking and tackling have not been good the last two weeks. That is as basic as football gets. They require effort, desire, and toughness more than pure talent.

There is a lot of noise on the outside. Inside the NovaCare Complex, the focus is on solutions, not blame. Pederson and his staff are trying to figure out how to get the offense going. Jim Schwartz is trying to coach up the defensive backs as best he can.

Players like Carson Wentz, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz, and Malcolm Jenkins are trying to figure out the right message to their teammates.

This team wanted to go back to the Super Bowl. No one expected to be sitting at 4-6 and on the fringes of the playoff picture. Sunday's loss was a huge wake-up call to everyone. 2017 is long gone. You better find some answers in a hurry or 2018 is going to be a wasted season.

There is still time. There is still hope. It is up to the players and coaches to find some answers and win a game.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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