Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - Jack McCaf­fery Colum­nist

PHILADEL­PHIA >> With lit­tle ex­pla­na­tion how he ever could know, Doug Ped­er­son long ago drew one con­clu­sion the Ea­gles: They are noth­ing like the 7-9 team of a year ago.

He said it in train­ing camp, and he said it af­ter a 3-0 start, and he said it af­ter one loss and then an­other. He said it with con­vic­tion, loud, into a mi­cro­phone, on TV. He said it from his gut, or at least from his life­time of foot­ball ex­pe­ri­ence.

He said it and he meant it. The Ea­gles are dif­fer­ent. They are bet­ter. They will be fine. And with those words, there was an im­pli­ca­tion: There would be no dis­in­te­gra­tion this year, no loss of the head coach’s author­ity, no ob­vi­ous con­fi­dence drain, no rea­son for the owner to run a mop through the joint sec­onds into the off­sea­son.

Whether Ped­er­son was a vi­sion­ary or a con man was in­signif­i­cant, at least at first. That’s be­cause foot­ball will al­ways find its own ways to pro­vide that ver­dict. And so it did Sun­day for the Birds, who had lost their pre­vi­ous two and were to host the 5-0 Min­nesota Vik­ings. They could have ended the day at 3-3 and dazed. Or they could have been 4-2 and re­vived. Ped­er­son never blinked. “Just fo­cus in on our jobs,” he said. “Do our jobs. Do our as­sign­ments.”

Do that, and it would work. Do that, even af­ter a twogame los­ing streak, es­pe­cially

af­ter a two-game los­ing streak, and things would be dif­fer­ent. So, they were: Ea­gles 21, Vik­ings 10.

“The mind­set all week has been, ‘Let’s get back to play­ing the ball we know how to play,’” Fletcher Cox said. “Ba­si­cally, it was ev­ery­one be­ing where they’re sup­posed to be. The No. 1 thing we saw to­day was we got back to where every­body was hav­ing fun.”

The Ea­gles seemed to have fun Sun­day. Just as no­table, the Vik­ings didn’t. The Ea­gles were alive all day, jump­ing into pass­ing lanes, blitz­ing from an­gles they hadn’t tried be­fore, cel­e­brat­ing.

The Vik­ings were slow, their heads down, their quar­ter­back seem­ing dis­in­ter­ested if not in­ept. And maybe that’s what Ped­er­son sus­pected all along. Maybe that’s what he knew about the Ea­gles he would coach. Maybe that’s what he sus­pected about the Ea­gles that Brad­ford had quar­ter­backed last sea­son.

In the nor­mal flow of the NFL, where only the great clubs build sixgame win­ning streaks, ev­ery team will sput­ter. But the Vik­ings had noth­ing Sun­day, and that be­gan with Brad­ford, who fum­bled four times, lost the ball twice, stood around to be sacked six times and threw an in­ter­cep­tion. Oddly, the crowd of 69,596 didn’t boo him quite as vi­ciously as they might have

other for­mer Ea­gles. That could be be­cause Brad­ford was so over­whelmed, so early, so com­pletely, that there was no need for such ver­bal over-abuse.

“We just didn’t get the job done on of­fense,” Vik­ings wide receiver Cor­dar­relle Pat­ter­son said. “We felt like ev­ery­one was dead out there.”

That’s how the Ea­gles too of­ten looked last sea­son, when they tired of be­ing big-timed by the un­der-qual­i­fied Chip Kelly. Ped­er­son must have seen that on film. And if so, he must have seen what was com­ing Sun­day.

“Ev­ery team goes through ad­ver­sity,” said Josh Huff, who pro­vided a 98-yard kick­off re­turn for a touch­down. “I think every­body in this locker room shares the same in­ter­est, and that’s to go as far as we can go. And in or­der to do that, we have to over­come ad­ver­sity.”

The Ea­gles were less than spec­tac­u­lar them­selves, be­ing in­ter­cepted twice, los­ing two fum­bles, scor­ing only one touch­down on of­fense. But they played with a pur­pose, par­tic­u­larly on de­fense. They played as if they were de­ter­mined to res­cue a sea­son.

“Every­body was rid­ing the Vik­ings band­wagon, but we knew we were a good team and we knew what we needed to do to win,” Ja­son Peters said. “The Vik­ings are a great team. But we knew we could play with them. We knew if we just stuck with our plan, we would have a chance to win.”

That’s Ped­er­son’s coach­ing ap­proach. He is not as much wor­ried about what the op­po­nent has planned as he is that his team will be pre­cise. For that, there was no panic af­ter los­ing late to the Lions and be­ing un­able to close against the Red­skins.

“It doesn’t mat­ter who is com­ing into our house,” Jor­dan Hicks said. “We have a stan­dard that we have to live up to and that we have for our­selves. And as long as we are do­ing what we’re sup­posed to do, we’ll be fine.”

They are 4-2. They thumped the Steel­ers. They had a min­i­mum of trou­ble out­class­ing the un­de­feated Vik­ings. There is too much time re­main­ing in a sea­son, which in­cludes a dif­fi­cult as­sign­ment Sun­day night in Dal­las, to de­clare them, as the man said, fine.

But six games are not too early to de­clare them dif­fer­ent, more alive, more aware, bet­ter coached than they were last sea­son.

“They really took it upon them­selves this week to make cor­rec­tions,” Ped­er­son said. “They prac­ticed great. The lead­er­ship stood up to­day and took com­mand of the game, and that’s what you like to see.” That’s what he knew he could see. That’s what he knew, that’s what he said, that’s what he keeps say­ing.

To contact Jack McCaf­fery, email him at jm­c­caf­fery@21stcen­tu­ry­media.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter @ Jack­McCaf­fery


Vik­ings’ quar­ter­back Sam Brad­ford, right, helped his old team out Sun­day, but a lot of his strug­gles were due to an Ea­gles de­fense that hounded him all day.

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