I've been thinking back to the October 5 loss to Washington and, as much as the other four defeats, and the tie, are bothersome, the one to the Redskins still hurts. The Eagles had a 14-0 lead on a beautiful day at Lincoln Financial Field and had everything going their way and it ... just ... went ... away.
That was a team still finding itself, one that had a difficult time of recovering from adversity and one that was not consistently winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.
This Eagles team is different. The Eagles are playing outstanding football right now. They believe in each other. They have the confidence of three straight victories, and the urgency of knowing that a loss knocks them from the playoff chase. From a roller coaster of the first 11 games, a locker room of leaders and "mentally-strong" players, a trait head coach Andy Reid suggested his team had early in the year, emerged and bounced back from the brink.
So what does this mean for Sunday? Well, it means the Eagles enter the game with a tremendous amount of momentum. They have a sense of purpose, and they have fresh in their minds the butt-whupping Washington put on them in October. Washington ran for 203 yards and quarterback Jason Campbell played error-free football for an efficient, patient, effective offense. Washington's defense shut down the Eagles after the first quarter and, yeah, everyone was smarting after that loss.
I can't wait until Sunday arrives. I'm having a really hard time making it through the day-to-day functions. This football team has me excited, on edge. I feel a special something about this team, just as I felt the team earlier in the season was searching for that certain "it." This team reminds me of past Eagles teams, teams that had great runs on the way to the playoffs.
The Eagles understand that they have done nothing but keep their season alive with these three consecutive victories. They have two more to go to have a chance to make the playoffs. It is the right attitude to have for a team that woke up three games ago and realized how good it could be by playing 60 outstanding minutes of football every week.
Washington's season has taken a turn for the worse since October, while the Eagles have surged. The two sides of mojo meet on Sunday, so we'll see at this crossroads game for both teams how far the Eagles truly have come since their early-season ups and downs.
* ODDS AND ENDS AND THIS AND THAT *
- Some numbers to digest from the three-game winning streak: The Eagles are 33 of 50 converting third downs, while holding opponents to 9 of 33 conversions. The Eagles have outscored Arizona, New York and Cleveland 98-44.
- Donovan McNabb has completed 69.2 percent of his passes for an average of 247 yards per game, with 7 touchdowns and just 1 interception. His passer rating in the three wins: 107.9. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 58.2 in the same three games.
- The Eagles are averaging 153 yards per game rushing during the three games, versus their average of 94.5 yards per game in the previous 11 outings.
- Andy Reid is 13-3 against NFC East teams in the month of December. Impressive.
- Some day, Quintin Mikell will be recognized as a premier safety in this league. His season has been outstanding, and I imagine he will receive strong consideration as the Eagles vote on team MVPs this week.
- I chatted with rookie cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu on Wednesday afternoon. He continues to work out and recover from his knee injury from a year ago. He also breaks down film for the defensive coaches and sits in on meetings and gets mental reps in the defense. What I know about Ikegwuonu: He is a tremendous athlete, a very good prospect. How well he deals with the mental side of things in the NFL remains to be seen. "I know that is going to be the biggest challenge, but by being here and around the guys, seeing how it works in the NFL, I think I'm going to be prepared," he said.
- McNabb has 3,511 passing yards this year, fifth-most in Eagles history for a single season. He is on pace to break his franchise record of 3,875 yards, set in 2004. He is also 24 completions away from a new Eagles record. Pretty good numbers for McNabb, huh?
- Check this out: The Eagles lead the league in yards per game differential, gaining 359.3 yards and allowing 274.4 yards. The 84.9-yard difference beats the Saints, Steelers and Giants. The Eagles' plus-6.9 points per game differential is fifth-best in the league.
- In the category of "big plays" -- plays of 20-plus yards, the Eagles rank fourth in the league with 58 such plays. In 2004, the team had 67 such plays. Granted, that team coasted the last two games, but you can see the numbers are comparable.
- Kevin Curtis looks a lot better these last few games, doesn't he? That sports hernia injury could be, seems to be, just about all the way healed and Curtis has his explosiveness back.
- By the way, the offensive line deserves way, way, way more credit than it has received. McNabb has been given a great pocket this season and the running game is alive as the offensive line gets the opportunity to punish off the ball.
- Here is an interesting list: Westbrook is among talent like Marshall Faulk, Lenny Moore, James Brooks, John David Crow, Frank Gifford and Timmy Brown as players with at least 25 rushing touchdowns and 25 receiving touchdowns. Wow!
- So, has the Eagles' rookie class contributed? DeSean Jackson leads the team in receptions and has been a threat in the return game, Quintin Demps is having a fine season on kickoff returns and on special teams and is playing more and more on defense, and Trevor Laws is seeing quality snaps as the third defensive tackle. Mike McGlynn, by the way, replaced Winston Justice on the field goal protection team last week and played around 20 snaps in his first regular-season action. I still think third-round defensive end Bryan Smith will be a force in the future. Joe Mays had a great preseason and is finding patience he didn't know he had during a quiet rookie season.
- Most improved player on this team? Akeem Jordan would be a good choice. He went from a player last year who started the season on the practice squad and then was promoted to the active roster and now is a starter who is playing outstanding football. He is a great athlete who has worked extremely hard to reach this point, and there is a lot more in store for Jordan.
- At the same time, Omar Gaither has handled his demotion with class and professionalism and he continues to work hard. The Eagles may still need Gaither this year at either middle linebacker or the WILL spot and on special teams.