In this Eagles season of sunshine and roses … storm clouds loom.
Win after win after win … but now a loss.
Great health … but now a long injury list that includes vital starters as the Eagles head into a crucial part of the season.
Self-confidence and swagger … but now perhaps roiled with some doubt.
These are your Eagles heading into Week 11, tied for the best record in the NFL at 8-1, but facing a crucible often imposed on all teams. If iron sharpens iron, this is the moment the Eagles need steely resolve.
They are at a crossroads, facing crises, the season less certain than before the loss to Washington. They can get back on the horse — a winning ride — and rebound as great teams do.
They also can go in the other direction, plagued with bad play, bad luck and an adult dose of Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor on the horizon Sunday. There’s no guarantee their one-game losing streak won’t become two.
For Eagles players and coaches, their message is redemption going into Indy. They were stung by the Washington loss, the pain profound, the ramifications real. They plan to do what they must, to not be in that same uncomfortable position.
- “I really admire this team,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said Wednesday.
- “I admire the individuals on this team because every individual on this team looked themselves in the mirror and they held complete accountability on themselves for how they could have done something better.
- “Not only after a loss but that is after the joyous moments, that is after every game. That is something that I admire about this team … The mentality that we’ve grown to have as a collective group.”
THE ROAD AHEAD
The Eagles can see everything they want to accomplish still in front of them, unimpeded — winning the NFC East, getting home-field for the playoffs. As Hurts likes to say, they control what they can control.
But they also can see what’s closing in behind them — the overachieving Giants and always-dangerous Cowboys.
They see the schedule, not imposing a month ago, now includes a resurgent Colts team followed by the Packers with Aaron Rodgers on extra rest.
In September, if someone asked how you would feel if the Eagles were 8-1, everyone would have taken the record, no questions asked. They would not have felt this week’s anxiety and doubt that is deep in the DNA of every Philly sports fan.
You know who isn’t feeling dread and anxiety? The most important people in this equation — the Eagles, themselves. Especially their quarterback.
- “It’s about us and the things that we can control,” Hurts said. “If we go out there and control the things we can, we’re a really good football team.
- “If we don’t, you don’t have the outcome that you want. That’s not anything new. That’s not anything that hasn’t been said before on my behalf …
- “I think the formula for us is what we know it is. The process for us is our process. We have to be committed to that. We have to maintain that hunger. We have to be eager to do things the right way.”
WIN THIS WEEK
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni has preached the 1-0 mentality all season. He says the team’s concentration must be on winning that week. Never has that message been more important.
- “Messaging to the team is always the same each week as far as let’s get back to work, let’s fix the mistakes that we had,” Sirianni said.
- “Same message every week really, and you find different ways to say that just to make sure everybody understands we have to go back to work.
- “We have to get better. We win, we have to get better. We lose, we have to get better. It’s a process, right? Keep going.”
Moments after the Washington loss, defensive end Brandon Graham was still in his uniform, looking eager to get in a midnight workout, or study film, or something. He talked about how the team would reflect and bounce back.
Wide receiver A.J. Brown said there’s nothing mysterious about the Eagles’ success.
- “There’s no mojo,” Brown said. “It’s just coming to work and preparing. Just that mindset and what we want to accomplish.”
Other players that night were looking ahead, too. To a man, they talked about learning from the defeat and getting back to work. They couldn’t wait to get back to practice, they said.
- “I think every game we go out there and play to the standard,” Hurts said. “Enough has never been enough, personally.
- “We talk about trying to go out there and playing to a standard all the time. Yeah, you win the game but did you play to your standard?
- “Did you do what you want to do? Did you impose your will on a team? Did you dominate, so say?
- “That’s the mentality of this team. I know we’re hungry. I know everybody has a part to play and we are committed to doing our parts and dominating … so we can all get the outcome we want in the end.”
An outcome Philadelphia not only wants, but needs.