Perceptions mean a lot. Reality means more.
Perceptions changed about the Eagles from training camp until today. Mostly, outsiders were in disbelief over how the Eagles played and what they accomplished.
Here’s the chatter about the Eagles as the season progressed:
During training camp: “They look like a 9- or 10-win team, if things break right. Probably a wild card team. Also, is Jalen Hurts really any good? There are lots of questions about him.”
When they struggled to beat Detroit in the opener: Told ya. OK, Hurts looked good but they couldn’t stop the *Lions*?
When they struggled to beat Jacksonville to go 4-0: “See, they barely beat the Jags. Ten wins, at best.”
When they defeated the Cowboys to improve to 6-0: “OK, they beat the Cardinals on the road and followed it with a win over Dallas. This team might be the real deal. Inside track for the NFC East and best record in NFC.”
When they defeated the Texans to improve to 8-0: “Can they go undefeated? Hurts is the league MVP.”
When they lost a sloppy game against Washington to fall to 8-1: “Now, we’ll see what the Eagles are made of.”
HOW GOOD ARE THEY?
Eagles skeptics have their ammunition after Monday’s loss. If you didn’t believe in the Eagles, this is your day.
Believers know it is a long season, things happen, and unless you’re the 1972 Dolphins, every team loses a game.
In rewatching the Eagles-Commanders game, announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were gushing about the Eagles through the first quarter, the Birds jumping to a 14-7 lead.
But as Washington turned around the game, the broadcast pivoted to how strong the Commanders looked, especially on both lines.
Last week, incredibly, one national guy said the Eagles’ 8-0 record was based primarily on the fact they hadn’t trailed in the second half. (Wait, isn’t that good? I thought.)
His point was that the Eagles hadn’t been challenged yet. My point: Isn’t that good? I get the premise, but never trailing in a game is considered a shortcoming?
For most of the season, the national media was hesitant to proclaim the Eagles as anything more than just a good team.
SKEPTICAL, THEN ACCEPTANCE
At some point, you have to accept what you see.
I was skeptical, too. I had the same questions as everyone else. I didn’t *know* enough about the quarterback, the newcomers, how they would play together and how they would play in crucial moments.
Nothing speaks louder than winning. You are what your record says you are, as exalted philosopher Bill Parcells once proclaimed.
There are several realities about the Eagles. Howie Roseman’s offseason acquisitions have been ridiculously good. James Bradberry, Haason Reddick, Kyzir White and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are four season-changing defensive starters.
Until the Washington loss, there was talk about the Eagles going 17-0. Now, they are focused on bouncing back. They don’t want losing to become a trend.
- “Of course I want to win,” wide receiver A.J. Brown said. “But now all this 17-0 stuff is over with.
- “Now we’re going to wake up and, ‘How are you going to respond?’
- “It’s all good, man. This is a game that we love to play and sometimes you get hit in the mouth and it’s about how are you going to respond? It comes with it.
- “I hope we get back up and start fighting back and I feel like we will. We’ve got good teammates in this locker room, a lot of vets.”
ON DECK: INDY
More reality: Indianapolis is next for the Eagles, a road trip against a 4-5-1 team with last year’s rushing champion Jonathan Taylor. Taylor rushed for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground last season.
The Eagles are coming off two games in which their run defense was slashed. They remain without injured first-round defensive tackle Jordan Davis. They rank 20th in defending the run.
Clearly, the Eagles must fix their run defense — and quickly. Opponents find and exploit weaknesses.
Another reality, this one more sobering: The Eagles move forward without potential Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Goedert, who reportedly will be out for “extended time” after suffering a shoulder injury on the play where he was whiplashed by a Commanders’ face-mask tackle.
Goedert’s loss complicates and weakens the Eagles offense. Behind him are Jack Stoll and rookie Grant Calcaterra — good players, we suppose, but not Goedert.
Goedert has 43 catches for 544 yards, second in the league, and three touchdowns. He leads the league in yards after catch. He is the third leading Eagles receiver, three catches behind DeVonta Smith.
He has become a favorite Hurts target, especially on quick passes in the flat.
It’s too early to proclaim the Indy game as a crossroads game, or a must-win game. If you didn’t think there would be bumps in the road, well, that’s on you.
“I kinda wish it was still going on,” center Jason Kelce said about the Eagles’ undefeated streak ending.
Good teams learn from their errors, correct them and improve. The Eagles are a good team. We’ll see how good starting Sunday.
That’s not perception. That’s the reality of the NFL.