The NFL calendar is lying to the Eagles.
It says there's a long way to go in the season, but the Eagles know better. They are 2-3 and have earned that record by their play the last two weeks, and they are in an NFC East Division that appears stronger than at any other time during Andy Reid's 10 seasons as coach.
For the Eagles, then, the NFL calendar says it's getting late awfully early.
Just to make certain the Eagles realized they aren't far from critical condition, quarterback Donovan McNabb, as frustrated as his teammates, called a team meeting Monday, 24 hours after a dismal loss to Washington.
Basically, he told them that they had better start playing as if it were November rather than early October, and that it's one thing to say they have a good team but quite another to prove it.
"Definitely, there weren't any games played, that's for sure," backup running back Lorenzo Booker said, characterizing the tenor of McNabb's speech. "Any time a guy like Donovan or [Brian] Dawkins gets up there to speak, you know it's serious. Those are guys who have been great in this league for a long time, especially for this organization. You could have heard a pin drop in there, that's for sure."
McNabb tried to convey a sense of urgency, and for good reason. The Giants are 4-0, the Cowboys and Redskins 4-1. The Eagles, who will play at San Francisco on Sunday, are losing touch with their main competitors. They are 0-2 in the division and have four games remaining against those rivals.
It's too early to panic, but not so early when it comes to their playoff chances. In that respect, the Eagles' margin for error is razor-thin.
"I called it because I thought it was definitely needed," McNabb said. "It was something people needed to hear. If you're sitting here 2-3 and think we're OK, then you're wrong. You can be an older guy. You can be a younger guy. It doesn't matter. If there's something you want to say, get it off your chest. I felt it was needed.
"This isn't something in which you want to stand up and say, 'I'm the leader,' " he added. "You set the tone by getting out there on the field and doing it, and if you have something to say, you speak about it. It's something that people take heart in what we're doing. You have to enjoy your job, have passion for your job, and my passion relies on me going out and doing what I have to do and winning. And if we're not doing it, then I have a problem with it.
"I think everyone has to understand what situation we're in. It's a one-game-at-a-time approach, but you have to have a sense of urgency to go out and change that."
It would be understandable if McNabb felt the sense of urgency more strongly than his teammates. He is in his 10th season and will be 32 next month. Since the Super Bowl season of 2004, the Eagles are 19-19 in games McNabb has started, and Reid didn't draft Kevin Kolb two years ago to have him stand on the sideline forever.
"We think we have a pretty good football team here, but you know the time for talk is over," said Dan Klecko, who is expected to get more playing time at fullback on Sunday. "You don't have a good football team until you prove it out on the field, and that's the bottom line."
At the meeting, McNabb said, there were no negative vibes. He said everyone was working hard. The effort is there. But the production is not. The Eagles have scored a grand total of 11 points - three field goals and a safety - in the second halves of the last three games. In those three games, McNabb's passer ratings have been ordinary: 80.2, 77.5, 79.1.
Dawkins indicated that McNabb had taken some responsibility for the team's problems.
"I would say it's pretty consistent with Donovan when he feels like he needs to talk in that atmosphere," Dawkins said. "He's straight, direct, blunt, and honest with this situation - with himself, first, which I think is always a great leadership quality."
In the loss to the Redskins, the Eagles went into the turtle position after opening the game with two efficient drives. McNabb threw downfield once the entire game - a sideline pass to Booker - and tight end L.J. Smith became a forgotten man after catching two passes for 19 yards on the initial possession.
"We called plays in the first two series to L.J. and he caught balls, and we just never went back to calling those plays for him," McNabb said.
Despite evidence to the contrary, McNabb said he believed that he had thrown downfield enough the last two games.
"I think we have, but still we haven't capitalized on the intermediate game as far as the passing game is concerned," he said. "In this game, it's about collecting first downs and taking the shots [downfield] when they are there."