EAGLES CAN’T MATCH PACKERS IN 27-13 LOSS >>
Through the years, through the decades, through every talk show and every tweet, for as long as they’ve been around, Eagles fans have craved one of only two things. Either would do. Pick one. Their preference, much as it has been their torment, was to have the opportunity to root for, support, embrace and enrich a championship team. And for the purposes of their behavior and disposition from September through January, a championship contender would suffice. Give them a team capable of knocking down opponents and rising in the standings, a relevant, aggressive, make-astatement mob. Put them in the proper mood to sing out loud and to spell out “Eagles” with a certain confidence, and they would be happy to do so, even if they were accused of premature arrogance.
Unfortunately for them, the 2016 Eagles had not been that team.
Ah, but there was, of course, that second option, the one that some secretly seem to prefer, even if not the majority. That would be the chance to over-analyze, criticize and complain about a most inept pack of stumbling boobs. Better still, equip that team with a head coach ill-prepared for the market, either with his incompetence or his attitude.
Short of a team contending for a championship, what Eagles fans have embraced since they were crammed into the splintery bleacher seats of Franklin Field was a firm reason to demand a quarterback change or, better still, a new coach. As a more recent bonus, that would also give them a months-long running start to what every football fan
enjoys more than anything: Discussion about the draft. Yes, Eagles fans were semi-OK with that alternative long, long, long before trust-the-process became a hashtag.
Unfortunately for them, the 2016 Eagles had not been that team, either.
So into Game 11 and Week 12 they all turned Monday, trying to find out about a 5-5 definition of mediocrity that had arrived there on merit. The Eagles had been good at times, but not that good. They had been bad at times, yet typically had chances to win late in games. Their coach had flaked away from the Coach of the Year race, but he was just aggressive enough and just friendly enough to the fans that hiring a plane to drag an insulting banner above the stadium would be uncivil. Their quarterback had been struggling, but he was a rookie, and a popular
one, and clearly had talent. Besides, the backup was too small, too unaccomplished and too under-sold by management to have built any measurable support group.
What a dilemma. What torture. How exactly were the seat-licensed customers to judge a team that was, yes, in last place in its division yet still within reasonable reach of the playoffs?
Bring in the Packers, that’s how. Bring them in when they were on a fourgame losing streak and desperate. Bring in Aaron Rodgers, one of the best to ever play quarterback, and bring him in when he was just starting to absorb some criticism in Green Bay. Bring him in hungry. Bring him in ready.
Do that, and some definition would begin to show.
That’s what happened Monday at the Linc, when the Birds lost, 27-13. It
took a while, but the Eagles were exposed as too soft defensively, too limited on offense, and too ordinary beneath the coaching headphones.
In losing for the fourth time in five games, and for the sixth time in their last eight, the Eagles were defined early. That’s when they won the toss, decided to try their defense against Rodgers rather than take possession, and wound up seven points in arrears within the first 5:09.
Doug Pederson hadn’t promised much this season, but he did suggest at an aggressive defense, the kind the fans preferred, the kind they came to remember in many ways Monday as Jeremiah Trotter was added to the franchise Hall of Fame. At times, his Eagles had been that team. Monday, they were more than satisfied to play their cornerbacks yards away from Rodgers’ targets. Their passrushers
were smothered by an injury-plagued Packers’ line. And under such straits, they were incapable of handling Rodgers, who was 17-for-21 by halftime and would not be sacked in the game.
The Eagles were slightly more presentable on offense. Carson Wentz, who made enough helpful plays to continue to hint that he someday could be a newage Rodgers, was accurate, bouncy, confident. And the Eagles helped by hanging onto, not dropping, his passes. That included Dorial Green-Beckham, who was busier due to the game-time scratch of former first-round draft pick Nelson Agholor and an early injury to Jordan Matthews.
Had the Eagles won Monday, adding the Packers to an impressive list of Linc victims, it would have given them, and their fans, a fueling effect. They would have won for
the second time in three games, remained a threat in the wild-card race, solved Rodgers and showcased Wentz. That was their moment. That was their opportunity.
Instead, they were soggy on defense and lacking, as usual, a sufficient supply of playoff-level scoring threats.
By the time the Linc lights were dimmed, both the Eagles and Packers were 5-6. One team, though, had fresh inspiration. The other had to settle for trying to blame Agholor for everything.
But at least the Eagles’ fans had one of their wishes. For a while, anyway, they could complain with confidence and impunity.