It seems like forever since the afternoon when the Eagles beat the Giants and the signs were indisputable that this football team was heading to the top of the NFC East. Two weeks -- two games and two losses -- later, the only thing indisputable is that we don't know which way the Eagles are headed, other than to Chicago for a Sunday night game.
In Game 10, the Eagles are still right in the thick of all of the playoff scenarios, and the truth is that not much has changed from that exact perspective from two weeks ago. But when you lose a couple of games, and you have such obvious shortcomings in those two games, compounded by some major injury question marks, the scenario from the micro sense is much different.
What's with this Eagles team? Is this a repeat of last season, when the Eagles were basically left for dead right around this time of the year before going on a late-season tear, and then receiving the all-time miracle last day of the year just to reach the playoffs? Or is this like 2007, when the Eagles feel too far to return to the post-season picture and then won out late to feel better about the team going into the off-season?
Or will the Eagles start something in Chicago and then keep control of their destiny for the rest of the season?
After that 5-2 start which should have been 6-1, the Eagles have fallen against Dallas and at San Diego, and while there is no shame in losing to two good teams, there is a feeling of blown opportunity and not a very impressive showing at a critical juncture of the schedule.
It makes no sense to blame one facet of the Eagles' team for the last two losses, or the one in Oakland or even that against New Orleans. It has been a team effort to reach this spot, and it requires a team effort to step back into the win column. The complete answer of how to do it is to play better football, to coach better football, to have a better performance all around.
The Eagles were good enough on that day when they beat New York to defeat any team. They played with confidence, with precision, with passion. Oh, it was a beautiful thing to see, with the hope that the Eagles had hit their stride and were ready to take off for good this year.
Alas, here we are. Can the Eagles get back to that Giants-win level?
I think they can, and I think they will. But to do it, the Eagles have to prove they have to leadership and the urgency and the adjustments from the coaching staff. Chicago is a 4-5 team, a desperate one like the Eagles and the Bears are thinking the same thing: If we can win this game, get to .500 and then get on a roll ...
That's the way it is for most of the NFC. Other than New Orleans and Minnesota, the conference is a free-for-all. Count the Eagles in that lump of teams trying to "find itself."
I wish I could figure out why the Eagles aren't better than 5-4, why they have lost so many close games in recent seasons, why they haven't been able to sustain winning streaks like they did earlier in the decade. You can point to a host of malfunctions this year -- and the list is generally narrowed to red-zone offense, third-down defense, the running game, penalties -- and understand why the team hasn't yet shown its excellence other than in fits and starts and, earlier in the year, against bad teams.
The level of urgency has to be greater this week, as does the tug of leadership. The Eagles are going with some awfully young players in key spots now, and they need each and every veteran to lead the way and point the team back to the winning side of the ledger. I don't think the coaches are going to radically alter schemes. They can't, as you know. It doesn't work that way in the NFL. There is no time to overhaul in the middle of the season. The coaches can make tweaks and adjustments and do a better job of creating good matchups, but rebuilds don't happen now.
We're at another critical time in late November and the good news is that the Eagles can turn their fortunes around and get to where they want to reach. But the time is waning and the Eagles can't count on another miracle dose of help to reach the post-season. Sunday night is so, so important to the Eagles -- another conference game, on the road, with a chance to put the Bears largely out of the playoff picture -- and everyone in the organization knows it.
We'll see. It is disappointing that the Eagles are 5-4. They sure as heck better know the kind of wall they are up against, and prepare with the right approach for such a huge game.
Beating New York is so in the rear-view mirror, isn't it? Were the Eagles really that good on that afternoon, or are they really as bad as they have been the last two games? As the Eagles get back to work to get ready for Chicago, they need to know how two games have not been enough to change the goal, but they sure have been enough to make us all wonder what is next for this football team.