PHILADELPHIA -- Now that the "dream" is over, it's time the Philadelphia Eagles face up to reality ... and let's be honest: Reality bites.
They're not going to win their division. They're not going to the playoffs. And they may not even make it to .500 for only the third time in coach Andy Reid's 13 years here.
That wasn't supposed to happen to the NFL's "Dream Team," but it has. Not only are the Eagles tied with Washington for last in the NFC East, they come off one of their worst, most humiliating and embarrassing losses in years -- a 38-20 defeat to New England where disgruntled fans started "Fire Andy" chants in the third quarter.
"The way we played," said a somber Reid, "I can understand it."
I couldn't. Not before Sunday. But now I can. Fans are angry. Fans want answers. Fans want something more than another discouraging loss, and they're not getting it. That's not to say I think Reid should be canned because I don't. The guy is one of only two guys in the game today to coach over 200 games and win 60 percent or more of his starts.
The Patriots' Bill Belichick is the other.
"You can't really put it on Andy," said quarterback Vince Young.
Apparently, he wasn't listening Sunday. This is a league that cares about today's results, and the Eagles aren't getting them. This was supposed to be the season they would pull everything together, win their division, win their conference and make it to the second Super Bowl under Reid ... only they're not.
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Instead, they're all but out of the playoff picture with a disgraceful loss where they couldn't make big plays, couldn't make big stops and drove their fans to an early exit with a horrid performance.
"I guess it sucks for them," cornerback Asante Samuel said about the fans. "It sucks for us, too. We're supposed to be a great team at home, no matter what team you are, but for some reason we can't get home-field advantage to work for us."
Oh, yeah, that's another thing. The loss makes Philadelphia 1-5 at home this season and 1-8 dating back to last year, including the playoffs. It's one thing to lose; it's another to lose again and again at home, and that's not going to help Reid's case.
Neither will it explain much of anything that happened Sunday. After jumping to a 10-0 lead, the Eagles self-destructed in every way possible -- blowing coverages, failing to convert third downs, committing stupid penalties, dropping passes, featuring too much Vince Young and too little LeSean McCoy and having two of the worst Red Zone series' I can remember in a long time.
The first was when they were set up first-and-goal at the Patriots' 5 late in the second period, trailing 21-10. With the league's leading rusher, the Eagles chose instead to throw three times -- choosing Young's erratic arm over McCoy's dependable legs -- and suffered the consequences. They settled for a field goal.
Desperate for a score in the third quarter, they had fourth-and-1 at the New England 2, and again they had Young throw -- this time on a fade to tight end Brent Celek in the corner of the end zone. It fell incomplete.
"The teams that we saw that had success against them," said Reid, "threw the football. They did a good job of that. They were stout against the run, and you play into their strength with that. I'll take responsibility for that."
|New England Patriots|
|The Patriots fell behind 10-0 but then outscored the Eagles 38-3 to take complete control. Everything was working offensively. The Patriots ran for over 100 yards. Tom Brady threw for 361 even though the protection was shaky. Defensively, the Patriots limited LeSean McCoy and didn't stand in the way of the Eagles making a plethora of mistakes.|
|By Greg Bedard |
|The Eagles played small in a big game. Things got off to a promising start with a a few big plays and 10-0 lead, but after that the Eagles looked like a Pop Warner team. Their offense didn't generate much and even when it did, mistakes took away the momentum. Tom Brady toyed with the Eagles defense, completing passes and scoring TDs seemingly at will.|
|By Kevin Noonan |
Angry fans made sure he will.
"I heard them," said defensive end Trent Cole, "but it ain't bothering us. It ain't bothering Andy, either. We're not worried about that."
OK, fine. But I'm not sure anything worries this team, and that's not necessarily good. The Philadelphia Eagles have some of the most talented players in the game, yet they're flushing a season with underwhelming play and risk flushing their head coach with it.
Yeah, I know, they've had injuries. Who hasn't? But the Eagles haven't been able to overcome speed bumps that, in the past, failed to unnerve or conquer them. Instead, they trip over themselves, with wide receiver DeSean Jackson this week's poster boy for failed expectations.
Once one of the league's most dangerous receivers, he's now as much a threat to his own team -- short-arming a sure touchdown pass one minute Sunday, then outright dropping another in the end zone. Jackson was the guy who was suspended by Reid two weeks ago, then fined by the league last week after mugging in front of the Giants' bench following a 50-yard catch that didn't count ... because of his theatrics.
But Jackson isn't the problem. He's a symptom of what's wrong, and what's wrong with these Eagles is that they never pulled together, never reached down and found something previous Philadelphia clubs did and too often beat themselves with careless mistakes. The natives aren't just restless. They're furious, and they want someone to pay.
"This is very tough," Cole said. "It's hard to grasp. I don't know what to say. I'm really speechless about it ... I felt like we should've won this game. I felt like totally, 100 percent, we should've won this game. I felt like we were a better team, and I still do. They won, they executed and they did what a good team does."
So the problem is ...
"It's us," said Cole. "As players we have to take responsibility for our actions. We all have to execute when it's time."
I'm not sure which game Cole was watching, but the Eagles weren't the better team Sunday, and they aren't the better team, period. In fact, they're not a team at all right now. They're a mess.
Once upon a time, I was confident Reid would overcome this season because he almost always does and, well, because he's one of the most successful coaches in the game. But after this loss, I'm not sure.
"I'm disappointed in a lot of things," said Reid, "starting with myself. I didn't have my team ready to go. That's why I start with me. You can ask me any type of 'disappointment question' that you want, and I'm probably there.
"It's all our faults. We all are responsible here, and I'm not pointing to anybody. I start with myself."
So do the fans. For once, they and Reid agree on something.