PHILADELPHIA - They left South Florida after a nasty burn by the lowly Miami Dolphins on Dec. 1.
The Eagles were peeling, err, reeling badly after a 37-31 loss left the with a 5-7 record and the need to win out in order to make the playoffs. That meant four straight wins for a team that hadn’t been able to win more than two in a row all season.
They spent the rest of the month taking three of those four steps, now need to beat the New York Giants on Sunday to enter the postseason on a four-game winning streak. A win and Philly will host the loser of Sunday night’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks in the first-round of the playoffs.
“It’s kind of always ‘us verses the world’ and I think that’s the mentality you take as a team and in this league,” said center Jason Kelce. “The closer you come together, the closer you come as a group, that’s how you survive in this thing. It’s us versus everybody else every single week.”
The Eagles, now 8-7, won an emotionally charged hard-fought victory over the Dallas Cowboys to get in this position. Now, they must figure out a way to rise again to the challenge of beating a team they just conquered in overtime three weeks ago.
“This game (against the Cowboys) was no different than last week, was no different than the week before that,” said safety Malcolm Jenkins. “No way we’re going to come this long, this far, to lay an egg next week.”
Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones did not play in the team’s first meeting, in which the Giants coughed up a 17-3 lead at halftime. Jones returned to the lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury last Sunday against the Washington Redskins and completed 28-of-42 throws for 32 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-35 overtime win.
Saquon Barkley ran for 189 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries.
That should have the Eagles’ attention. That, and the fact that there is nothing more than New York would like to do than ruin the Eagles’ playoff dreams while heading into the offseason with positive vibes.
“Just put on the film and watch the Giants right now,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “This is a good football team. It's a good football team. This defense that we're playing is a good defense and they have some young guys in the back end and they are playing really well, as well. This is a big defensive line.
“What Daniel Jones did (Sunday), coming off an injury and doing those things, and they have weapons on offense. And we have a lot on the line. We have the NFC East and we have a possible playoff spot. What we’ve done to this point, does it matter? Yeah it matters, but you know what, it’s about going 1-0 this week and again, putting the hard work and the preparation in to try to win a game, and it’s hard, but our guys will be up for it.”
The Eagles didn’t get to where they are now by not “being up for it.”
They have stuck together through the tribulations of their early-season struggles, which included a three-game losing streak and a lengthy list of injuries to get to where they are now.
“I think the guys really respond to adversity,” said Pederson. “You don't ever want to be in this situation with so many injuries and the way our season has gone to respond this late in the year. You'd love for this to happen - we've talked about this before, but you want to maybe respond a little bit sooner in the season. But I think that, listen, me handling the football team and dealing - I just keep it as honest and keep it as transparent as I can with the guys and say, ‘Guys, this is where we're at and this is who we are. Let's embrace it. Let's just spend each day getting better, and just focus on today.’
“That's kind of been the messaging down the stretch. Kind of whatever happens, happens. If we stick together and trust in each other and do those types of things, because a lot has to happen for a win in the National Football League, and these guys trust in each other and that's what it takes and that's what you're seeing right now.”