The Chicago Bears haven't made the NFL postseason since 2010, and, judging by their 3-7 record going into Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field against the Eagles, that drought isn't going to end this year, either.
By definition, though, the Bears are a dangerous team. They have a talented rookie quarterback who mixes in good plays among the predictable mistakes, and they have suffered through a very difficult schedule that makes playing on the road against a 9-1 team no more daunting than any other week. Desperate for good news? That describes the Bears, but in some ways, from a much larger perspective, it goes for the Eagles as well.
"We're a desperate team, too," said tight end Zach Ertz. "We haven't won a playoff game since I've been here. That makes us desperate to keep going."
Ertz and 11 other Eagles took part in the team's last postseason appearance, a wild card-round loss to New Orleans in 2013, Chip Kelly's first season, but only Brent Celek can remember taking part in a playoff win here. Of course, that was in 2008, the second season of what has grown into an 11-season career.
In fact, if you look around the Eagles locker room for players who have experienced significant playoff success, the majority of it is clustered among three guys who were part of the 2012 Baltimore championship team — Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe and Torrey Smith — and LeGarrette Blount, who won two Super Bowls with New England. Together, those four players have 25 of the 36 career postseason wins on the entire roster.
Almost everyone else is still waiting for his playoff moment, and that atmosphere has permeated the locker room. Other teams are desperate? Hungry? Motivated? Well, get in line.
"That's the mind-set of all of us," said cornerback Patrick Robinson, who was 1-2 in the postseason with New Orleans. "We keep that in mind and we consistently do our jobs, keep doing what we're doing and we're headed up. How far we go is up to us."
After beating the Cowboys on Sunday, they are within a thin tiebreaker or two of clinching the NFC East title and locking up a return to the postseason. If the Cowboys lose their Thanksgiving game to San Diego and the Eagles beat Chicago on Sunday, that pretty much does it. In that event, Dallas would still win the division if it went 5-0 to finish the season and the Eagles went 0-5, but the weight of probability against that would be crushing.
Merely getting to the playoffs has been a logical conclusion for a while. Getting deep into the playoffs is what will now determine whether the season is a success or an ultimate disappointment. To that end, toughening up for the challenges to come is a good thing, even if a loss or two comes along with it.
"I thought it was really good for us that we won a game that had some adversity to it," receiver Torrey Smith said after the Dallas win. "It's not that any of the other games were easy, but we really had to dig down and stay together and get it done."
The Eagles trailed, 9-7, at halftime against the Cowboys, and while that might not sound like immense adversity, they had led their previous two games by a combined 48-9 at halftime. Since they last trailed at halftime — 6-3 to Kansas City in what became their only loss of the season — the Eagles had led the opening half by a combined 119-46 in winning seven straight.
After Sunday's game against Chicago, the Eagles have their two best remaining tests during a nine-day West Coast trip. They are on the road against Seattle (6-4) and the L.A. Rams (7-3), before finishing the schedule against the Giants (2-8), Oakland (4-6) and Dallas (4-5). At this point, though, does it matter who they play or how they play?
"We like to say the opponent is faceless. That's where we're at," said offensive tackle Lane Johnson. "When you come in thinking you're going to roll over teams, that's when you get hit in the mouth. We know we're a good team, but they don't give any trophies for being where we are. We want to show people there's a reason we're 9-1. It's not b.s. Look at the film and it will explain itself."
So far, the film has been great, but the Eagles are focused on making it even better in the bigger games to come. They define themselves as dedicated and unified and, increasingly, as desperate for much more. That might sound funny at 9-1 — desperate — but it sounds like a plan to them.
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