EA­GLES CAN’T MATCH PACK­ERS IN 27-13 LOSS >>

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

PHILADELPHIA >>

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.

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