These are tough times for the Eagles -- players, coaches, fans, everyone. Three straight losses heading into December to take a 4-4 team into the teetering region of a season is not ideal. The media smells blood. The losing must stop, and stop now.
The team leaders in this Philadelphia Eagles locker room have seen it all before, including losing streaks and crises in confidence and bouts of insecurity. The solution? Go out and win, baby.
"Without a doubt there's a cure," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "You've got to get back to playing smart, good football and you've got to do it from the beginning and you've got to do it for four quarters. It's the same thing you say when you're winning games and you want to keep winning games. When you're losing games, you've got to find that edge, play with confidence like you've been winning games, you've got to play clean. You need to eliminate the mistakes and stay in games and give yourself a chance to win at the end. Obviously the last two weeks we haven't given ourselves a chance to win games."
At this point in time, on an evening five days before the Eagles are to play at the mighty New England Patriots, players are being swarmed by the media and everything is in question. Do coaches call out players for making mistakes? What could the coaches do differently with the pace of the day and of training to correct mistakes? Is the scheme the problem? Is it the players?
Are you concerned with the level of confidence the defense has on the field?
"No. I just think we need to go out and start fast and make some plays," Barwin said. "We can't afford to get behind like we've gotten the last couple of weeks. It's just human nature when you're down early and by that much to lose some confidence. It's important that we come out swinging, come out executing, playing physical, playing fast, playing hard from the first snap."
The defense has struggled in the last two games, allowing 90 points and 10 touchdown passes. The run defense hasn't been effective, and when the Eagles have trouble against the run, everything snowballs.
What's going on with the defense? It's technical, said safety Malcolm Jenkins.
"We misfit a lot of runs as of late. We've given up big, explosive plays on the back end, missing tackles when those runs do misfit," Jenkins said. "We've been really bad in the red zone the last few games and third downs have been an issue. All of those things are individual players messing up on different plays. I would say on third down we've had a few coverage breakdowns, just miscommunications of somebody dropping coverage or not doing their job."
Jenkins said he didn't think there were schematic problems. It's not a coaching thing, he said. It's on the players.
That seems to be the tone of the locker room. Offensive tackles Lane Johnson and Jason Peters said the same thing. "We have to go out and do our jobs," Johnson said. "That's what it comes down to."
Accountability is the right approach. Nobody has pointed fingers at the player next to him. Once that happens, and the locker room is fractured, it's very hard to glue back together.
The mindset now, with New England ahead, is to salvage the season, end the losing and get back to the top of the NFC East.
It's more difficult than just words, of course.
"We've got to dig out of this," wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. "We're better than this. We have to get back to doing our jobs and playing Eagles football."
In the old Eagles days, head coach Buddy Ryan used to relish these moments. He would say something to the media to stir the pot or have his leaders call a team meeting and "circle the wagons," as he liked to say, and the Eagles would come out breathing fire. Sure it was cliché, but it worked and the players bonded in the "us-against-the-world" mentality.
Is that what this team needs?
"We just need to do our jobs and play football," Barwin said. "That's what it comes down to and we know it."
So there you go. The Eagles need a victory. Gotta find a way against a really good Patriots team that, injuries or not, continue to win. These are the defending Super Bowl champions, after all. Nothing is going to come easily.
"That's just it," Johnson said. "Go out and play our best football and see what happens. Prepare right and play our best. That's the goal. We know what's going on in the division. We just have to take care of our business and not worry about anything else. I'm not worried about the locker room at all. We're in it together. We know we need to get a win."