To borrow an infamous phrase from Dennis Green, the Philadelphia Eagles “are who we thought they were.”
What is that? A team that can’t run the ball, struggles on defense against well-balanced teams, and exhibits some horrible play-calling and clock management in key situations.
And that, at least for this week, is a good thing.
Gone is the six-game winning streak that brought the Birds to the brink of the NFC East title. In the blink of an eye, they went from looking at a first-round bye to a second straight No.6 seed; from a week off to having to face the Cowboys in Dallas twice in six days.
But let’s not be fooled.
After all, that six-game winning streak was full of last-second comebacks, thrilling offensive plays, and, well, victories over mediocre teams. Not a single team in that stretch made the playoffs, and only Atlanta finished better than 8-8.
In short, it wasn’t all skill, and it had to come to an end sometime…and it’s better that it was sooner rather than later.
See, by losing now, what do the Eagles actually lose? Okay, yes, home-field advantage, the division title, and a bye. All big things, sure, but their season lives on.
And while Birds fans are upset, disappointed, disgusted—name your adjective, really—about what happened in Big D on Sunday, the reality is this: Maybe now the team will learn from it.
For everything the Birds did right over the last month-and-change, all the bad habits thought to be gone resurfaced.
The deep threat passing game was all but missing; DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin had one big 30-yard play each, and that was it outside of Brent Celek exploiting a busted coverage.
That’s due at least in part to Donovan McNabb, who looked like the bumbling Donovan whose head is always on the chopping block. He consistently overthrew or underthrew receivers all night, including a early bomb to Jackson that would’ve given the Pro Bowler his record ninth 60-yard touchdown catch.
He also put a ton of balls in places where his receivers would have to be Stretch Armstrong to make a successful catch, sots where the only outcomes were drops or big hits. The most egregious was late bomb to Maclin, who simply put his head down to avoid an onrushing defender instead of trying to make a catch—and getting hung out to dry like yesterday’s laundry in the process.
Oh yeah, and then there was that first-half fumble in the red zone.
Beyond that, the rushing game (which has been improved if still bad as of late) went from disappointing to non-existent. Even with the return of Brian Westbrook, the Eagles only rushed the ball 10 times for 27 yards. That’s not even bad, that’s pathetic.
Then there was the defense.
While the Eagles gained only 228 offensive yards all day, the Cowboys shredded their top 10 defense for 291 before the half, 474 overall. The usually stout run defense allowed 182 yards on 29 carries—that’s more than six per, if you’re counting—and the ballhawking secondary got burned going for the pick on numerous occasions instead of, you know, actually trying to defend.
And to top it off, David Akers—who had statistically the best season of his career in 2009—missed a 52-yard field goal, something that has long been the bane of his existence.
They are what we thought they were: a team that will beat those they're better than and lose to those those they aren't. 11-5...with an 11-1 record against teams 10-6 or worse and an 0-4 mark against this 11-5 or better.
So how is this all good?
Well, for one, the Birds won’t have to worry about needing a 10-game win streak to win the Super Bowl. There have already been three in the NFL this year, and while the Colts and Saints semi-intentionally choked theirs away, the Chargers will need to make it 14 straight if they want to leave Miami as NFL Champions. That’s not easy.
Secondly, they can adjust.
In the midst of that barrage, they saw Dallas’ hand. Maybe Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel won’t go for the pick so often next Saturday, and maybe Quintin Mikell will actually do his job at safety.
And maybe, just maybe, they might actually try to run the ball to set up that big play offense. If they think you’re passing all the time, there should be an opening for Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy somewhere.
So while the Dallas Cowboys may have “crowned their asses”—and crowned themselves division champs in the process—the Eagles lost the one thing they needed to: the air of invincibility.
They’re mortal. They know they can lose.
That makes them scrappy. Just like last year, when they were the NFC East runners-up and No. 6 seed in the playoffs—where Arizona was the No. 4 seed and the No. 1 seed was a team that dominated early and faded late.
You remember what happened then, right?