MIAMI - As a snapshot, the Eagles' 26-10 victory over the Dolphins here Sunday looks pretty good. You can bet Andy Reid and his staff and his players would like for it to serve as their official team photo.
Everybody knows better, of course. When this dreadful season is finally over, this game will be little noted or remembered. Two losing teams played, one of them won, and everybody crossed another game off their pocket schedules.
Beating Matt Moore and J.P. Losman, the Dolphins' backup and backup-backup quarterbacks, to climb all the way to 5-8 will not make the list of Reid's career highlights.
There were real signs of life, though. That shouldn't be noteworthy, but with this team, it is - especially after that pitiful effort in Seattle. For this one game, at least, the Eagles played as if their hearts and minds were in it. Whatever awaits them in the final three weeks, that counts for something.
"We have a chance," tight end Brent Celek said. "It does matter. That's all you can ask for after the position we left ourselves in. We just have to capitalize on every opportunity we have."
The unrelenting mediocrity of the rest of the NFC has kept the Eagles' playoff chances alive. For weeks now - in Seattle, against Chicago and Arizona - they have resolutely refused to take advantage of very good chances to help themselves. As hard as it is to imagine this dysfunctional team winning four in a row, it is possible now because of this one win.
"We've been saying this is the start of our new season," cornerback Asante Samuel. "We knew we had a good matchup coming in here."
Next week's game against the New York Jets will be a better test. The Jets are 8-5 and have little margin for error in the AFC wild-card race. They are a better team than the Dolphins and have much more to play for.
After that, the Eagles finish with two NFC East rivals they've already beaten this year. So is it possible to win out? Beat the Jets, and it becomes very possible. Is it likely? We're talking about a pendulum of a team that swings wildly from wretched to competitive every week.
"[This win] can do a lot," quarterback Michael Vick said. "We started out slow, and there were a lot of games that we were supposed to win and we didn't finish. We got some wins, and we had some losses, and then I got hurt."
To salvage anything from this season, the Eagles need Vick to remain upright and to play better than he did Sunday. Vick was still sore from the rib injury that cost him the previous three games, and you could see that he wasn't sharp. Trouble is, he wasn't sharp in a number of games before the injury.
"For the most part, I just tried to hang in there and not make any excuses," Vick said after completing 15 of 30 passes for 208 yards. "I don't want to sit here and say that my ribs hurt, so I couldn't make a pass. There's no credibility behind that. I want to be a standup guy, and if there's something that could have been done better, I'll be able to watch the film and see what could have been done better."
He will see himself taking more unnecessary hits. Vick was sacked four times. He ran twice and didn't slide either time. He held the ball way too long on one play, allowing a defender to crush him as he threw it away. He also made a terrible decision on a throw that was picked off by Miami's Sean Smith.
But Vick also spun out of a defender's grasp and threw a 29-yard pass to Riley Cooper that turned field position around. And his 34-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson was a thing of beauty. That's the quarterback the Eagles are going to need to have any chance against the Jets and Dallas.
Overall, Vick and the offense looked more like the unit that sputtered at the end of last season than the touchdown machine Reid envisioned back in training camp. We're going to find out very soon whether that's because of Vick's ribs or his rust or whether defenses have solved him.
"If we continue to play this way, and ultimately get better on offense, I think we have a chance of winning the next three games," Vick said. "It's going to be tough, and it's going to be a challenge."
It is something to play for, at least. Most years, a 5-8 team wouldn't have any business talking about the playoffs. The Eagles probably don't really deserve the chance, but they still have one - as hard as that may be to picture.