Inside the Eagles: Reid needs to stop Eagles from falling flat
After months of frustration, the Eagles have earned a measure of hope. With two straight blowout wins, Andy Reid's job prospects suddenly look a bit brighter, his defense looks as it was supposed to and the crazy scenarios required for the Eagles to reach the playoffs look slightly less crazy (though still pretty improbable).
After months of frustration, the Eagles have earned a measure of hope.
With two straight blowout wins, Andy Reid's job prospects suddenly look a bit brighter, his defense looks as it was supposed to and the crazy scenarios required for the Eagles to reach the playoffs look slightly less crazy (though still pretty improbable).
But this last gasp push will ultimately be meaningless unless Reid reverses a trend that has left the Eagles disappointed each of the last two Decembers, when they have fallen flat in games crucial to playoff positioning.
In 2009, the Eagles flew to Dallas with a six-game winning streak, needing a win to secure the NFC East and a home playoff game. They were eviscerated, 24-0, before going back to the Dallas the next week and exiting the playoffs with a 34-14 wipeout.
Last year Reid's Eagles had won six out of seven, including three straight late in the year, when they inexplicably dropped a Week 16 home game to the miserable Vikings, costing the Eagles any shot at the NFC's second seed. That loss, three days after Christmas, began a season-ending skid and wild-card exit.
In the span of a few weeks, those late-December losses abruptly changed once-promising seasons into disappointments. The end results look like black marks on Reid's tenure, helping fuel his vocal critics who can point to just three playoff wins in the last six years.
The flip side of the "Fire Andy" argument, though, is that Reid almost always has his teams playing meaningful games in December, and that might continue to be the case this year. If Reid can somehow get his team to the playoffs now, he would flip the story of the last two seasons on its head by overcoming an ugly start with a rousing finish. With a playoff victory, the entire year would take on a different tone.
That hope, though, hinges on help. The Eagles could be eliminated from the playoffs before playing another down.
A Giants win over the Jets in their 1 p.m. game Saturday would knock the Eagles out of contention before the Birds take on Dallas at 4:15.
"You can't control that. The thing you can control is going out there [Tuesday] and practicing, and Wednesday practicing, and Thursday practicing," Reid said Monday. "So take care of business. I tell myself the same thing, take care of that business, don't worry about the other thing, there's nothing you can do about that game. Take care of what you can control."
He seemed well aware of needing Jets help to stay alive, though, adding, "I'm a huge Jets fan this week."
Just as the Eagles were huge Redskins fans Sunday, when they needed Washington to beat the Giants in order to stay in the race. Many of Reid's players watched that game before taking the field Sunday.
It's a safe bet they'll do the same in Dallas Saturday, athletes reduced to observers as penance for their 4-8 start.
Reid, who shares the blame for that awful opening, also deserves credit for keeping the group together even after devastating losses to the Patriots and Seahawks had just about everyone writing them off.
If Eagles management was inclined to bring Reid back, he has now given them some positives to point to, most notably the fact that he obviously retained control of the locker room even when the season looked hopeless.
The Eagles have had help from their sputtering rivals, but they also have also won just enough to take advantage.
How much credit Reid gets depends on how the next few weeks play out, and avoiding the kind of ugly collapses that made the finishes each of the last two years so sour.
Reid, who firmly believes in routine, said he has not changed the way he prepares for these late-season games.
"You keep battling through," Reid said. "That's what you've got to do."
If the Eagles get the help they need Saturday but fail to deliver in Dallas, the last two weeks will be quickly forgotten. They will be like big passing numbers racked up by a losing quarterback well after the game has been decided: helpful in the record books, but ultimately irrelevant.
This after all, was a team built to chase a Super Bowl, not the moral victory of an 8-8 mark with a nice finishing kick.
If, on the other hand, the Eagles enter the last game of the season still alive, it will be a remarkable measure of Reid's ability to keep the ship steady, even if it has taken on water due to its own mistakes.