Week 15 – Dallas @ Philadelphia: Frustrations and realizations

It was almost a month ago that the Eagles belted the Tennessee Titans and calibrated their mighty machine ahead of a three-week stretch of games that loomed as the audition for the teams NFC East, NFC and indeed NFL championship hopes. We quietly sat at 8-3 having recovered from that Green Bay effort, and knew the real test was to come.

Three games: @Dallas on Thanksgiving, home to Seattle, then the return bout against Jerry’s team. No stretch this season was as important or as transparent to this Eagles team. A chance to not only end the division and playoff hopes of a foe, but also prove our worth against the champion.

What transpired in those three weeks gave me the answers to all the questions I needed to know about the Eagles as January loomed. And the simple realisation at the end of it all was this: the further we go, the luckier we’re going to have to get.

I’ll always subscribe that every champion, no matter the sport or season, needs their share of luck to win a championship. The Ravens of 2012 will always have that Jacoby Jones TD against Denver. The ’09 Saints and that onside kick. Even teams like the ’07 Patriots who didn’t even win it all, rode some luck to at least post the 16-0 season (narrow escapes against Baltimore and Philly spring to mind). And then they met a team who got their serving of luck in the form of a sticky helmet. Teams need it.

But in all those cases, and every other case past and future, teams also made their own luck. Every champion is a rightful one. Sometimes they need the cards to fall their way, but never would their ultimate success be considered fluky. Luck is merely a helping hand, but it doesn’t hold a silver platter.

I won’t bore you with the countless tales of how the Eagles have been lucky in ways so far this year. If you need a reminder, check the archive of my previous pieces. But as lucky as we may have been, the thing that kept me optimistic about this team actually being really good was the simple fact that, behind some of that luck, the team was actually REALLY good.

Before the Green Bay game, you could not fault the team’s overall performance, even in a loss. The two losses we had sustained each fell on west coast road trips to playoff caliber teams, in games we could have/should have won. Then Aaron Rodgers happened and it seemed like a wake up call. We dominated Tennessee, then kicked off that important three game swing with a Thanksgiving feast on Romo and Co.

So it was pretty easy to overlook what happened in Green Bay, which was more than a loss. It was a sign of things to come. A sign that with every game we played, with every ounce of pressure we faced, our luck was no longer a helping hand; it’s probably the only reason we’ll beat good teams right now. It might even be the reason we’ll beat inferior teams if we’re going to be honest.

We’ve been lucky to even get to 9-5 and still be in the race up to our ears. We lead the league in turnovers and they almost seem routine. But so was scoring on defense and/or special teams. We gave the ball away, then got lucky. We created some of that luck with great plays and play calling, but luck is luck whichever way you spin it.

But the last two weeks, while the turnovers continued to be delivered as if Mark Sanchez was feeling nostalgic about being a Jet, all the luck stopped. Sometimes it even fell the way of the Seahawks or Cowboys. And it exposed the team’s true nature.

We’ve stopped being playmakers and started being play hopers. We hope the plays develop like they used to. We hope Shady can break off a 20-yard run to wake us up. We hope Jeremy Maclin can pad his Comeback Player of the Year hopes. We hope Darren Sproles returning punts can be the break we need. We earn the right to stay in the games and then we hope luck will take us over the top.

The last two weeks have been frustrating to watch. And I mean “I need to put my phone down before it creates a hole in the wall” kind of frustration. Because we played well, yet nothing about the scoreline, the narrative or the results for some of the hard work paid off.

Our front 7 on defense were absolute beasts against the Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch got stuffed and yet still gained extra yards because of half hearted tackles. Russell Wilson was dodging sacks left, right and center. And yet then making 30 yard bombs on long third downs because the secondary left someone wide open. It happened vs Dallas too. Do you know how to cover Dez Bryant? Do you think leaving Jason Witten wide open is helping anyone?

I wish I could say this was photoshopped…

Every team has a reason to be annoyed or frustrated at losing year after year and never having hope. Try having all the hope and thinking it wins you football games instead of the skill and All-Pro caliber play of the men on your roster. It drives you mental, the ultimate tease.

It’s like owning a Ferrari when you’re 10 years old, knowing all the potential is sitting there right in front of you, but you cannot drive the thing. Having said that, I’m yet to meet a 10-year old who owns a Ferrari, so maybe that’s a weird example. But that’s genuinely how weird it feels. Because the way we’ve played the last two weeks has defied logic.

If we make the playoffs, we’ll need luck. Metaphorically, in the sense that our hopes are no longer fully in our control. And literally too. We need Andrew Luck to throw us a bone and beat Dallas next week if we have any chance of claiming the NFC East crown.

The season is not doomed and I’m far from throwing in the towel. But at this stage I see not a happy conclusion to this season. With Washington and the New York Giants left on the schedule, the worst case scenario is we keep the trend going and choke our season away. The best case scenario is we put on two more of those dominant displays against inferior teams, seal the division championship and then go onto the playoffs to host a team that will unearth the flaws we forgot we have.

Unless we get lucky. Then we’ll go on to play another team, on the road no less, to probably get exposed even worse than the first game could have. Unless we get really lucky. In which case we’ll somehow be in the NFC title game, hoping the Stephen Bradbury story continues while painfully aware that their are only so many empty chambers in a game of NFL Russian Roulette.

This is not where I wanted to be 14 weeks into the season. But that’s our reality. The 2014 Philadelphia Eagles are all out of luck.

If you want to read more about the Eagles, please check out my previous pieces here

If you want to chat about the Eagles, NFL or even college football (no reasonable discussion refused!), you can find me on Twitter @Sportrepreneur

Dec 14
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadephia PA (69,596)

Dallas 14 7 7 10 – 38
Philadelphia 0 10 14 3 – 27

Passing: Tony Romo (DAL), 265 yds, 3 TD’s
Rushing: DeMarco Murray (DAL), 31 car, 81 yds, 2 TD’s
Receiving: Dez Bryant (DAL), 6 rec, 114 yds, 3 TD’s
Pigskin Almanac “Maker of His Own Luck” award: Fletcher Cox (PHI)

About Scott Langford

Australia's Most Famous SUNY Cortland/Syracuse Alum Melbourne boy who belongs back in New York. Eagles fan who for some reason once wore a Giants Super Bowl ring. Current US collegiate athletic recruiter and advisor.

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