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On Day After, The Message Is To Beat Skins

I spent time with both Andy Reid and with Donovan McNabb on Monday, and with various coaches at the NovaCare Complex. We have all been through these times before, the game-that-slipped-away day after, and the feelings are always the same: Anger, frustration, and, ultimately, the understanding that those who wallow in the misery tend to remain there for quite some time.

By day's end and as Tuesday beckoned, the focus was already on a good Redskins team that is visiting Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. At the quarter pole, the Eagles are 2-2, disappointed with that record but very much understanding that there is a lot of football to be played this season.

"What you do to get over it is to trust each other and to work hard and get better," said Reid. "I like this team. I like the attitude of the team, I like the chemistry and I like the mix that we have. We're going to be OK. We have to keep it positive and at the same time challenge ourselves and have a great week of practice. That's what you do. That is what we have done in the past and that is what we are going to do now."

Said McNabb: "I've said this for a long time: You have to have short-term memory in this business. We know that. I'm looking forward to getting back to practice on Wednesday and preparing for the Redskins."

There are going to be no dramatic changes here. Oh, I'm sure the coaches are going to tweak the X's and O's, and the expectation that tight end L.J. Smith and maybe running back Brian Westbrook and possibly even Kevin Curtis will practice this week and play against Washington changes the complexion of this football team.

To turn things around, though, the Eagles have to be much better at the little things. They started poorly in Chicago and finished poorly, and while the play between those moments was excellent at times, the Eagles were left with a bunch of wouldas, couldas and shouldas.

Bottom line: They blew the game and are now looking up at the rest of the division. It is not a good place to be, but the old "there is still a lot of season ahead" mumbo-jumbo is still very much true. As we learned last year, though, the rope shortens considerably with losses like the one the Eagles had in Chicago.

What is most frustrating from this perspective is that both of the Eagles have losses have been close games, decided in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles have not taken the momentum of the moment and made it theirs. The lack of consistency in the red zone is something that, clearly, must be improved.

To avoid what happened last season, when the Eagles went bumpity-bump-bump on the way to 5-8 and out of the playoff picture, the team has to keep its confidence and play with poise and precision. Is there a team out there, I ask you, that you look at and say, "They are better than the Eagles?" I don't feel that way. I feel the Eagles can beat any team, any where.

Is there a difference between last year's team and this year's team? Oh yes, many. For one, Donovan McNabb is healthy now and not dragging around a knee as he did then. There are more playmakers on offense, and the defense is producing takeaways and moments of domination. The special teams are measurably better.

But the Eagles are 2-2, and that is a letdown. There is a sense in the early days of this week of thinking too much about what could have been through four games. At least, that is the sense from the fans and the media.

Inside the NovaCare Complex, the coaches and players are taking the correct approach. They are preparing to play Washington, winner of three straight games and a team with the kind of positive momentum the Eagles seek.

There is no other choice. Nobody has lowered expectations. Nobody has lost confidence. Nobody has lost trust. The Eagles have not lacked effort, desire or the will to win. They have just fallen short at critical times, and that above all is what needs to be improved.

It's on to the Redskins, as painful as that might be for you. Feel free to point blame where you choose, because everyone shares in it for the loss to Chicago. That game was light-years ago by NFL standards. All of the emotions from Sunday's loss are gone, and the determination of gaining some footing in the division is the reality.

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