Atlanta ripped the heart out of the Eagles on Sunday early with an 80-play touchdown drive that consumed more than 8 minutes off the clock, that exposed a defense that simply was not prepared to face a veteran quarterback who has great weapons around him and full trust in the system.
It was a mismatch.
Moving forward, and that's all the Eagles can do at this point as they prepare for the Saints on Monday night, the coaching staff and the players need to find some kind of energy, some kind of spark. They need to do something that builds trust.
Because, more than anything else, I see a team on the field that plays without full confidence that something positive is going to happen. I see receivers running routes without truly having the feeling that the football is going to arrive as they break open and turn toward the line of scrimmage. I see an offensive line unsure of what it is supposed to do, a product, perhaps, of so many changes up front already this season. The Eagles were again beaten to the punch on Sunday against Atlanta's quick front seven.
I see running backs who aren't sure if holes are going to develop and I see a quarterback who almost expects to get hit on every play and I see an offense that, all 11, aren't sure of the game plan.
Is everyone buying into the X's and O's? I don't know. The Eagles scored 17 points on Sunday, which was again insufficient, but in the examination of the game the defense received much of the blame. I'm sure the coaches, as they reviewed the film on Monday, weren't all that pleased with an offensive performance that again failed to control the line of scrimmage early, and did not establish a running game and did not give Michael Vick adequate protection.
The defense, well, it's going to take a couple of weeks, at least, to see what Todd Bowles is trying to structure. Matt Ryan picked the defense apart -- it has been a long time since the Eagles defense had such a tough game -- as he countered early blitzes with screens and found receivers open within the zone coverages and then punctured man coverage with pinpoint accuracy.
Every player and every coach used the same word to describe the performance: Embarrassing.
But, hey, it's over. It's in the past. Time to look ahead.
At 3-4, the Eagles know the season is not over. They also have to know that there is just about zero margin for error as they chase the 6-2 Giants in the NFC East and that there are a handful of teams lininig up for a Wild Card playoff spot.
Thinking about the playoffs now is not the focus. Thinking about beating the 2-5 Saints is what is directly ahead, and if the Eagles win on Monday night, well, a season can turn around very quickly.
And to do so the Eagles need a spark. What is that spark? Is it a major personnel move that grabs everyone's attention? If that's the case, the logical move is to sit Vick and insert rookie Nick Foles into the starting quarterback position, and I think it's too early for that. I'm a big fan of Foles and I think his future is bright, but Vick isn't to blame for Sunday. He showed a lot of heart, as he always does, and he countered the frequent Falcons blitzes with well-timed screens.
It was a dink-and-dunk attack in gusty winds that ultimately did not score enough points, but it's also fair to say that the offense spent so much time on the sidelines watching the Eagles defense trying to get off the field.
If it's not changing quarterbacks, I'm not sure there is a personnel move that could be made that would shake up the ranks from top to bottom.
What other kind of spark could the Eagles find? They changed defensive coordinators two weeks ago, a shocking move that continues to impact the team. A dramatic change in the game plan might be too dramatic and, actually, a setback.
I think the spark has to come from the players and from a game. The Eagles need to go to New Orleans and beat the Saints. It's as simple as that. They have to play that game with extreme urgency and not give a 2-5 Saints team any life.
For once this season, the Eagles need to do something to deliver the first punch. It's on Andy Reid to figure out how to make that opening wallop count.
I don't have the answer for how the Eagles can turn the season around. It's worrisome how quickly the season turned from 3-1 to 3-4 and reeling. At times like this, with the outside world ready to rip it all apart and point fingers, the Eagles have to find leadership within the locker room and have trust in the coaching staff and move ahead as one.
This isn't an ideal situation, obviously. Somehow, the Eagles have to find the magic of believing and of confidence. The league is moving a million miles an hour and the Eagles have to circle the wagons, control the chaos, and carve out a win in New Orleans and go from there.