Are the Eagles Pretenders, or Was Sunday's Ugly Loss to Minnesota an Aberration?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 16, 2013

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Presumably, the Philadelphia Eagles were going to lose at some point. But nobody expected their magical ride to end like this. Not against a three-win Minnesota Vikings team that was playing Sunday without its best player. 

Not in a performance that saw them give up 48 points to an offense that hadn't scored more than 38 since 2009. 

This defense had given up at least 21 points in just one game since Week 5, yet it gave up that many in the fourth quarter alone in a crucial December game (aren't they all when you're in playoff contention?) against a Vikes team that didn't have 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson

The Eagles hadn't lost since October and were coming off back-to-back victories over playoff contenders Arizona and Detroit. And then they hit a wall in Minnesota. 

What the heck happened?

Some of us will attempt to draw grand conclusions regarding this performance. They'll claim it's an indication that a team that won just four games last year and was arguably playing above its head has come crashing back to earth. 

That's not necessarily the case.

This might have been somewhat of an over-correction, but it really appears as though it's just the NFL being the NFL. You know, that parity-laced league in which the term "any given Sunday" is as real as it gets. 

Want to help understand what happened to the Eagles at the Metrodome? Look at what the Cowboys did Monday night in Chicago and then against the Packers six days later.  

Dallas was hammered by the Bears in every way possible, with the defense allowing Chicago to score on all of its offensive drives. In the first half Sunday against Green Bay, the Cowboys were dominant on both sides of the ball, taking a 26-3 lead. But they were outscored 34-10 in the second half, falling by a point. 

Jekyll, Hyde, Jekyll again. What a schizophrenic league this is.

Or look at what the NFC South-leading Saints did last week against the red-hot Carolina Panthers and then against the out-of-contention Rams Sunday.

New Orleans crushed Carolina 31-13, ending that team's eight-game winning streak with ease. But then the "powerhouse" Saints fell behind 27-3 to Kellen Clemens and the Rams.

It doesn't make sense. 

The point is that nobody is immune to dud games. Philly might have preferred to have gotten this one out of the way earlier in the year, but it's not an indication the Eagles aren't peaking. They're lucky it happened against someone other than Dallas and in a week other than the last one of the 2013 regular season. 

Eagles-Vikings: Key stats
Time of possession23:3436:26
Rushes (McCoy vs. Asiata)830

If this team is resilient enough to overcome a 14-0 deficit in eight inches of snow against a good Lions team, it is mentally strong enough to come back from an ugly loss to the Vikings. It seems to believe in this coaching staff, and the coaches themselves appear to be good at making the necessary adjustments. 

The Eagles fought back after a three-game losing streak in September and back-to-back brutal losses to division-rivals Dallas and New York in October. They can overcome this. 

Should you be concerned that Matt Cassel and a practice-squad running back were able to carve up the Philly D for four quarters? Should it bother you that scrappy young corner Brandon Boykin has a possible concussion? Should you be stressed about the revolving door of mediocrity the Eagles have at the free safety position? 

Yes, absolutely and without a doubt. But every team in this league has some basic concerns, and Philly still has fewer of them than the Cowboys, who choked again in Week 15. That's all that matters right now. 

The offense has already come out of the rut that it was in during the first half of Sunday's game. Quarterback Nick Foles wasn't on his game early against the Vikes, costing his team a touchdown with a second-quarter penalty and throwing an out-of-the-ordinary third-quarter interception. But he battled back and threw three touchdown passes as the Eagles made things interesting. 

This team fights.

The problem is that there was no room for error Sunday because the defense simply didn't show up. That has to change, but if defensive coordinator Bill Davis can get these guys back on track after giving up 52 points in Denver, they can survive this as a team. 

The Eagles have to hope now that this will merely serve as a late-season wake-up call, a reminder of what it feels like to be beaten up. Maybe they'd begun to forget, which is a dangerous trap to fall into.


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