December was a disaster for the Eagles.
With the New Year’s Eve meeting with old friend Jonathan Gannon and his Arizona Cardinals set to close out the month and the year, the Eagles have two short weeks to sort out exactly what kind of team this will be come playoff time.
With a three-game losing streak and as awful a win over the Giants as could be hoped for, turning the page is just what this team needs.
Tempers flared on the sidelines. The coach admitted he needs to dial back his emotions. The quarterback, who is even-keeled through good or bad, might need to show a bit more emotion. Injuries are piling up even as reinforcements slowly get healthy.
In short, a lot has to happen for the Eagles to make their way to Las Vegas for a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Coach Nick Sirianni has no illusions that his team is ready for the playoffs after a much-too-close win over the Giants.
“I think what we’ve shown is that this team is resilient,” Sirianni. “We have resilient guys. We’ve had to show that a bunch this year. We would love to be winning by multiple scores, but that’s not the reality of the NFL.
“I think you have a resilient team because of the resilient leaders we have on this team. And so, we were able to overcome, but to do the things we want to do, we can’t make those mistakes.”
Not running out of bounds at the end of the half. Fumbling away the second-half kickoff. A slip that turns into a pick-6. Allowing a 69-yard touchdown pass to the backup of a backup quarterback for one of the league’s worst teams.
Good teams would hammer the Eagles for those kinds of mistakes. Playoff teams feast on those mistakes.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts, despite the pick-6, may have turned a corner. He seemed his own self in the pocket. Confident and accurate.
Still, there’s a ways to ago. A long way.
“I think we’re hungry,” Hurts said. “I think we’re motivated, eager. Kind of the same things I’ve been saying just in terms of that standard we have for ourselves and demanding that of ourselves.
“I don’t think win, lose or draw, there’s a circumstance where we compromise the standard of what we want and how we want to be. It’s just a matter of being together and committing ourselves to that excellence and chasing that.”
Long ago, in the days of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie spoke about aspiring to be the “Gold Standard” of the NFL. After winning Super Bowl LII, the talk was of making trips to the Super Bowl a new normal. These days, the Eagles’ mantra has been: The standard is the standard.
Still, even with 11 wins, there hasn’t been a time when the Eagles have looked truly on point, together, sharp. Those dominant games that were so frequent last year haven’t shown up.
The biggest cheers on Christmas came after the second-half chants of, ‘Run the ball, run the ball,’ were finally acknowledged with back-to-back, fourth-quarter runs.
Eagles fans can simultaneously enjoy a win and the agony of how they got there.
“Through the standard we’ve been talking about,” Hurts said. “It’s like a double-edged sword of what’s more important, winning or the standard? It’s a very manipulative thing to the mind sometimes. I can play to the standards and lose and be sick, I can go win and not play to the standard and be like, ‘We have more work to do.’ It’s that fight we balance as competitors.” ••