PHILADELPHIA -- A week ago, the Philadelphia Eagles were riding the wave created by their dramatic victory over the New York Giants. A week later, that wave has crashed around them and left them with a mouthful of sand. But even though the Eagles lost this game and the Minnesota Vikings won it, even though the Eagles played one of their worst games of the year and the Vikings played one of their best, this is still all about the Eagles. And that's because the Vikings' season ends next week while the Eagles' season goes on.
"Yeah, but it won't last much longer than that if we don't start playing a lot better than we did tonight," tight end Brent Celek said after the Eagles were upset by the Vikings 24-14 at Lincoln Financial Field, a loss Eagles coach Andy Reid called "a complete tail-whipping."
The Eagles snuck into the NFC playoffs through the back door, clinching the NFC East title on Sunday when the Giants lost to the Packers. But they still had a lot riding on this game. If they had won their final two games they could have earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, which meant a bye week for the opening round. This time of the year, time off is better than money to coaches and players alike.
"It's certainly big to have a bye week and only have to win two games to get to the Super Bowl," cornerback Asante Samuel said. "That's not the case now, so I guess we have to grind it out."
But can they grind it out? This is a quick-strike team, not a grind-it-out team. And when those quick strikes are taken away from them, the Eagles look ordinary. Teams that have had success against them recently -- the Bears, Giants (for three quarters, at least) and now the Vikings -- have pretty much used the same formula. They've made sure wide receiver DeSean Jackson doesn't beat them deep and they've made sure to put a hurting on quarterback Michael Vick with their pass rush.
Before the game, Vick was officially named the NFC's starting quarterback for the Pro Bowl. But after the game, Vick was limping around the Eagles' locker room with a painful quad contusion that he'll more than likely have to deal with on Sunday -- just four days away -- against Dallas in the final game of the regular season.
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"It's disappointing that we can't get that No. 2 seed," Vick said. "But this is just a bump in the road. What we do now is look at our mistakes, figure it out and get better."
But getting better won't be easy, because they'll be playing better teams in the playoffs -- tough physical teams that have watched plenty of tapes and now believe they know how to contain Vick and Jackson.
So, now the question is: How do the Eagles regain their magic touch? They can't improve their playoff status now -- they're locked into the No. 3 spot -- so there's a good chance Vick and other key starters will play sparingly, if at all, against the Cowboys.
"I don't know how we're going to approach next week," Celek said, "but I know we have to turn things around quickly or we're not going to go anywhere."
The Eagles are in the playoffs, but it's looking more and more like they won't be around for long. They have the talent to beat any team in the league, but they don't have the consistency to do it week after week against the quality opponents they'll face in the postseason.
So, even though the Eagles are the most exciting team in the NFL, they're not the best team in the NFL. That's something they'll discover for themselves in the next few weeks.