It only takes one.
Maybe it’s a play. Maybe it’s a quarter. Maybe it’s one player finishing a sequence that lifts the Eagles to a win in Buffalo and a team that is struggling as the Eagles are can breathe again. At 3-4, losers of two straight games and coming off a game that every player called “embarrassing” at Dallas, the Eagles need a spark. They need something good to happen. They need a boost of confidence.
They need a win.
"I’m confident that we’ll get things fixed,” quarterback Carson Wentz said after Sunday night’s 37-10 loss to the Cowboys. “This is a ticked-off group. We’re going to rebound from it.”
That’s what every player needs to believe as the attention turns to a very good Buffalo Bills team that has started the season at 5-1, that plays defense with passion and cohesiveness, and that is controlling the line of scrimmage and taking care of the football on offense. There is no “quick fix” for the Eagles. A team that has been there before – as recently as last season – needs to draw on that experience to save this 2019 campaign.
And, please, understand this: This season can be saved. It only takes one.
"People will say what they are going to say. Let people do what they are going to do. We still have nine games left. It is all about us," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "This one is going to sting, but how are we going to respond? I have seen this show before. We have to take our L sometimes, but how are we going to respond? We have Buffalo next week. How are we going to come to practice on Wednesday? How are we going to do this thing? That is the next step. I am all about the next step. What happened, happened."
In the very short time the Eagles have to prepare for Buffalo – and the hours certainly seem fewer after a loss like the one the Eagles absorbed on Sunday night – the focus is on putting together a great game plan for the Bills and for the coaches and players to truly believe they can turn the season around. Head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday that “the sense of urgency has to pick up,” and he’s right. The season is nearly at the halfway point. There are not likely to be any sweeping, dramatic changes in the next week. The Eagles, given the injury situation and the shorter-than-normal week – the Eagles landed from Dallas at 5:30 a.m. after the team plane was delayed by weather in Texas – don’t have a lot of time to change personnel or drastically revamp a scheme.
They’ve just got to play better football and they’ve got to coach better football. Within that, there are some things the Eagles can do to bolster their chances in Buffalo and get back into the win column. Some examples …
1. Protect the football
If there is a singular theme in the four losses, it’s giveaways. The Eagles had three in Atlanta. They lost two fumbles against Detroit, gave it away three times in Minnesota, and then had four more at Dallas. This is a fundamental part of the game. The Eagles have to be better taking care of the football. Wentz fumbled for the first time this season on the offense’s second possession when right tackle Lane Johnson was beaten on the edge. Pass protection has been an issue. Sustaining drives as well. The running game needs more. Staying ahead of the chains helps with ball security. This has to be the No. 1 focus of the week: Secure the ball.
2. Generate more pressure defensively
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has dialed up the blitz and he’s seen results, both good and not what he wants. It’s really going to come down to this: The Eagles need to win some one-on-one battles. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen is in his second season and he’s still learning on the job. The Eagles have to get up and take away his comfort area, give him some different looks on the back end in coverage, and take advantage if there are chances for takeaways. And this: The Eagles must account for Allen’s mobility. He can hurt a defense with his legs. Schwartz may look to keep it simple this week, relying on his defensive players to win their individual battles.
3. Understand just how urgent this situation is, and how salvageable this season remains
A win in Buffalo gets the Eagles to 4-4. They’re only a game behind the Cowboys, who come to Lincoln Financial Field in December. We’ll see what the Eagles look like at that time. Right now, the Eagles need urgency, discipline, and focus. The third of three road games isn’t an easy task. This is absolutely a difficult spot for the entire team. Let’s see how this week of work goes for the Eagles and how they come out in the early going in Buffalo. It just takes one win.
4. Be better at the fundamentals of the game
Blocking, tackling, catching the football. Reducing mental mistakes. It sounds simple. Sometimes, those are the most impactful improvements that can be made.
5. Trust each other and trust the schemes and the X’s and O’s
As the players said on Sunday night in the sullen locker room at AT&T Stadium, the Eagles understand that the season can now go one of two ways, and they want it to be in the positive direction. OK, so do something about it. It all starts Tuesday when the players report to the NovaCare Complex to start preparing for Buffalo.
In his Monday press conference, Pederson recalled the way the Kansas City Chiefs turned their 2015 season around, starting 1-5 and then reeling off 10 consecutive victories to reach the postseason. They won a game in the playoffs before losing to New England. Even more recently, last year for instance, the Eagles were 4-6 after a humiliating 48-7 loss at New Orleans. They were 6-7 as late as December 9 before reeling off three straight wins to make the playoffs.
It can be done. This league moves in mysterious ways. The Eagles have their work cut out for them, and none of this is going to be easy, but it can be done.
It only takes one win, and it needs to start on Sunday in Buffalo.