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Can Eagles pull off a miracle?

Former Flyer Brian Boucher reminds the Birds that strange things happen in sports.

THEY ARE one game out of first place.

When you say it like that, it doesn't sound so bad. Forget the Eagles' 4-7 record, forget how their last two games played out and flip those easily avoidable losses to the Dolphins, Redskins and the Falcons, we might even be talking about repairing this thing in time to fend off the rest of the miserable slop that inhabits the NFC East Division.

But really, what level of insanity does it take to believe they have a chance to beat the mighty Patriots Sunday? Even a wounded edition.

That they could win even two of the next three games against New England, Buffalo and Arizona before embarking on those final two winnable games against Washington and New York?

The level that Herb Brooks had when he told that U.S. Olympic team back in 1980 that they had a chance against a Soviet team that had thumped them 10-3 just 13 days before in front of a packed Madison Square Garden?

Probably more.

The insanity of manager John Johnson - and he was a little goofy - when he repeatedly told reporters that unranked and underachieving Buster Douglas was too big for Mike Tyson, too quick, and that he would jab him to a pulp and win the heavyweight crown in 1990?

Yep, just about that level.

Or how about we channel the more recent insanity of those 2010 Flyers, who ran through three goalies, used two coaches, lost key players and key games down the stretch, reached the playoffs through a last-day shootout, fell behind three games to none to the Bruins, yet came closer to winning a Stanley Cup than any Flyers team since Ron Hextall nearly single-handedly stole it from the Edmonton Oilers in 1987.

The Flyers lost nine of 11 during a brutal late March stretch in that 2010 season and needed a shootout victory over the Rangers on the last day of the season to secure a playoff spot.

"We were in," one of their goalies, Brian Boucher, was saying Monday. "And playing ourselves out.

"I remember driving into the arena and people had bags on their heads. Even in warm-ups, I'd look up and see the bags. People were not happy with us."

And when Boucher outdueled Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout, jumped in the air, and pumped his fists?

"There was a lot of relief right there," he said.

The second-seeded Devils lay immediately ahead, and then maybe the Penguins or Capitals and Bruins. The Flyers were the team everybody wanted to play. They were playing backup goalies, missing key players, and a bunch were already playing hurt.

And those bags? Back then, the team talk was of staying together and playing for each other, of not hearing the boos and the criticism - the same talk that has and will continue to emerge from the Eagles locker room, especially after last Thursday's 45-14 embarrassing loss to Detroit.

It's a way of coping, said Boucher, "a way to galvanize."

Does it work?

"I think it can," he said. "But you don't want to do it over the long haul."

Clearly the Eagles need something. Something big. Like those Flyers, they have suffered injuries to a number of key players. Like those Flyers, a number of key players are playing at less than 100 percent. There are reports of dissent as there was back then, doubt surrounding a coach who had replaced a popular players coach and been fired from his previous job, the usual discussions about leadership.

And about home-field disadvantage.

"Players will say they don't listen to the fans or the media," Boucher said. "But you do. You feel every bit of it. You go to the grocery store, people will still talk to you. And they'll be nice to you, sort of, but . . . "

"When I was younger, I didn't understand it. It's not like I wasn't trying as hard as I could. Then when you get older, you realize: That guy up there took his three kids to the game, paid four hundred bucks, five hundred maybe with food, and you just gave up four first-period goals.

"I'd be mad too. I'd probably yell something at Brian Boucher too."

But that undercurrent cuts at confidence, which sometimes reinforces a perception that some players are not giving their all.

"Maybe you're not focused on the right things, maybe you're not playing smart, working together," said Boucher. "Somehow you have to figure out a way to reverse that psychology. Because it beats you down."

That's what the Eagles look like now. A beaten down team that is more mentally eliminated than it is mathematically. A team not unlike that 2010 team was heading into its stretch run, its confidence teetering, desperate for something, anything, to reverse the current vibe.

"In 2010 we could have tanked," said Boucher. "Instead we did something good, almost something great. Maybe the Eagles can do something like that here.

"Why not? Why not believe in miracles? What've you got to lose?"