OK, LET'S NOT make more of this than what actually happened.

There is no question that a group of disgruntled Eagles fans tried to start a "Fire Andy" chant in the third quarter of the Birds' 38-20 loss to the New England Patriots at Lincoln Financial Field.

In fact, it happened twice.

Let's not exaggerate, however, because neither chant gained much momentum nor lasted more than 30-or-so seconds.

But that doesn't mean that fans didn't make a powerful statement to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie about their displeasure with the sorry state of their beloved franchise.

They actually delivered a message to Lurie more powerful than any "Andy Must Go!" chant.

Eagles fans got out of their high-priced seats and left.

In the 17 years that I've been in Philadelphia, I've seen Eagles fans leave a game early when the cause seemed to be lost, but I don't ever recall them starting a mass exodus with more than 6 minutes left in the third quarter.

That's what happened when Vince Young lobbed a pass out of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal attempt from the 2 to tight end Brent Celek.

The Patriots led, 31-13. The fans decided they had seen enough.

By the time the final seconds ticked away, Lurie, if even he bothered to stay in his luxury suite, may as well have been alone in the shattered husk of what has always been a vibrant arena of unbridled passion - be it positive or negative energy.

That should frighten Lurie.

Eagles fans have been accused of a lot of things. Apathy has never been one of them.

You have to wonder if that's the point they've been pushed to.

After 13 seasons of Reid, most of this fan base is done. They've voiced their displeasure and did so again yesterday.

"I didn't hear them," Reid said of the chants. "The way we played I can understand it."

To this point, their pleas have gone unfulfilled.

If the goal has been to get Lurie to dismiss Reid through a show of anger, it hasn't worked.

But after yesterday's walkout, you have to wonder if they now will show their displeasure by doing nothing - just not caring about the Eagles.

On a day when the Birds earned a lusty serenade of bile as much as any time in recent memory, fans decided it wasn't worth sticking around and wasting their breath.

What if that becomes the theme for the final 5 weeks of this putrid campaign?

Apathy is the absolute worst thing a sports franchise can receive from its fans.

Lurie has to know how close this franchise is teetering on the brink of creating a serious rift with possibly the most reactionary fan base in all of sports.

Lurie cannot have forgotten what it was like when he took control of this franchise in the waning days of the Rich Kotite era.

He cannot have forgotten the "Dead Coach Walking" final days of Ray Rhodes, his first hire.

If Lurie doesn't recognize the similarities to Reid in this 13th year, he has simply closed his eyes, ears and mind to what is happening around him.

But it's hard to ignore the deafening silence of the Linc being virtually empty for the final 15 minutes of an Eagles game.

Lurie has shown unshakable commitment to Reid in the face of an onslaught of criticism. Even now, I'm sure he is not inclined to eat the final $10 million and 2 years that Reid has left on his contract.

He can find an excuse to bring Reid back.

I'm not sure, however, if Lurie fully comprehends how high the stakes have been raised.

In the past, despite all the griping after another lost championship, the Eagles could still count on frustrated fans regaining their star-crossed hopes and believing the next time would be different.

That meant that no matter how disappointed fans were, Lurie still could count on them to purchase all the tickets and buy tons of Eagles merchandise.

But it's Nov. 28, and the holiday shopping season has just gotten under way.

Given the hype coming in, this is undoubtedly the most disappointing season of the Reid era. Disappointing to the point where Eagles fans just walked out on their team.

The tickets for the final two home games against the New York Jets and Washington Redskins have already been sold, but it's going be awful strange to sit in a Linc that may be three-quarters full and devoid of passion as the Birds play out the string.

There's not a player on the Eagles roster who has fans clamoring to purchase his alternate jersey during the peak of the holiday shopping season.

Some amateur silk-screener on a street corner might end up peddling more T-shirts of "Calvin" urinating in the opposite direction of a "Fire Andy" sign than stores selling officially licensed Eagles gear.

To be fair, the "Fire Andy" chants didn't go that far yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field, but that doesn't mean Eagles fans didn't make their thoughts perfectly clear to Lurie.

They walked out on his football team - not theirs.