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Tough Times Bring Out ONE In Eagles

He felt the moment was right, Brian Dawkins did, and he called his teammates together on Wednesday to deliver a message. The season is at a critical point, has been for the last couple of weeks, and Dawkins made the move that team leaders make when the times are tough.

"I just felt like I needed to say something to the guys and see if we can all get on the same page," said Dawkins, "and get this thing rolling. It's a feeling for me. I've always said this, I'm a prayerful man, and I always pray about things when I feel something in my spirit and I'll speak up and today was that feeling."

One for all.

All for one.

It is the only way the Eagles can move forward. Wednesday was a media-frenzy day for an hour or so, when reporters and cameras numbering more than usual came to the NovaCare Complex to grill head coach Andy Reid on his state of the team and to dive into McNabb for his now widely-discussed post-game comments from Sunday.

Everything else was football. Study. Practice. More classroom work. What the talk shows and the Discussion Boards and the roundtable talk shows chirped about stayed outside. On the inside, within the team, the only thing that mattered and that matters between now and the immediate future is beating Baltimore on Sunday.

Dawkins, no doubt, hammered that point home on Monday. He is a veteran of many years and many critical points, and so it was appropriate that Dawkins rallied the troops. Reid and McNabb are taking the heat right now. Dawkins wanted everyone to know that the heat is to be spread around equally.

"This is a very demanding place, let's just say, and it's always been that way. The room for error is not that much, not that great, not only for coaches but for players also, and not just on this ball team, but period, sports in this town," he said. "Whether it's fair or not has no relevance, it's going to be that way. As a team, as a coach or whatever, as a player, you can't allow yourself to fall into that. You have to go out and do your job, and that's what he's doing, that's what Andy's doing. He's concentrating on what he has to concentrate on and that's us, and that's making sure that the coaching staff and the players, we're all on the same page in trying to get this thing corrected."

The Eagles need that kind of leadership more than ever right now, on and off the field. Reid, as is his way, was stoic and resolved as he met the media. He understands the game, he knows the landscape and in the end what matters is how the Eagles play. Wins and losses.

Outside pressure, headline criticisms and fan frustrations can't take him away from doing everything possible to put the Eagles back on course.

"I don't get into all that. I'm here to do my job," said Reid. "I know people want us to win football games, and we want to win football games and that's the important thing. Anything that gets in the way of that, I ignore. We just have to take care of business and get ourselves on the right track."

Reid has never been a coach who motivated his players with tongue lashings or paint-peeling speeches. He sets a standard of expectation, pushes his players to reach and remain at that tempo, and then gives the locker room a chance to breathe and to form its own leadership within those walls.

The method has been productive in the 9-plus seasons here, with just two losing records to go along with six playoff appearances, four division titles … and you know the numbers.

There is no question – at least from my perspective – that the Eagles are playing hard on every down. That is not even a question here. Where the team has lacked in 10 games is really, across the board. As Reid has said, accurately, everyone shares in the blame. The team has struggled in short-yardage situations, in large handfuls of time opening games, on defense in big games against the run, in coaching X's and O's and uses of personnel, on special teams and in the mental-toughness department.

Little things have added up to big things and, thus, the team is 5-4-1 with little margin for missteps if the playoffs are to be attained.

Reid is the one ultimately responsible. Again, he knows that. That's why all that happens outside is really not the story. The story to be written is how Reid directs the team from this moment ahead.

To have the Eagles reach the highest level, Reid needs his quarterback to find his mojo once again. McNabb's time on Wednesday with the media started with a joke or two, a lot of smiling, "no regrets" about admitting he didn't know about the overtime rules in the league and, finally, emphatically, the end.

"The overtime is over," said McNabb.

Honestly, I thought McNabb handled himself well. And I have to tell you that I don't really care that he didn't know the rule, because it didn't affect Sunday's 13-13 tie. I don't care that a lot of players around the league have joined McNabb in agreeing with him that they didn't know the rule.

I care that McNabb gets back to what he was early in the season when he threw the ball to spots and allowed his receivers to make plays, that he broke free in the pocket and showed a great lower-leg strength and quickness that made him a dual threat, that he projected a confidence that bled over to the rest of the team and allowed us all to get a glimpse of just how good this team could be when it walloped St. Louis, played with heart and grit during a heartbreaking, but encouraging, loss in Dallas and then matched haymakers with Pittsburgh in a stirring win at Lincoln Financial Field.

What happened to that team?

Can that team come back before it's too late this season?

Players-only meetings can have all kinds of impact on teams. They are galvanizing, for sure, but it remains to be seen how profound the effect will have here. Nobody knows. The days of preparation leading up to Sunday are enormous, of course, with the telling 60 minutes starting at 1 p.m. that day.

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