McMullen: What does a Positive Step Against Giants Really Mean?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - It's hard to win in the NFL, even with the rapidly-declining Eli Manning playing quarterback for the other team.
The Eagles deserve all the credit in the world for heading to North Jersey on a short week and getting their swagger back against the hapless New York Giants.
The next test looms, however, and if Philadelphia regresses back to the shoot-themselves-in-the-foot gang when Carolina, a good but not great team, invades Lincoln Financial Field next Sunday, everything that went on in the rain at MetLife Stadium will evaporate into the narrative that Eli stinks.
Sixty minutes of dominance against a bad football team could launch a talented Eagles group back toward being a contender just like Jake Elliott's 61-yard game-winner did against the same team last season. Or it could be just that 60 minutes of taking advantage of a bad football team emotionally clinging onto its past.
Doug Pederson clearly believes the former.
“I think the guys these last two weeks having let a couple games slip through our hands — and this is what I love about the team: The players don't panic,” the Eagles coach said. “The players are resilient. The players know. Players are smart. You guys are around them. You know, they're smart. They understand what's going on. They see it. They hear it. They read about it. They see it on television. And then as coaches, we point stuff out.
“So at some point, when I talk about ownership, the guys have to take it upon themselves to make the necessary changes, to fix it."
The Eagles' players indeed fixed it against the Giants, playing a relatively clean game against a team that needed unforced errors from the other side to stay competitive.
Despite the lack of preparation, however, Philadelphia never gave the Giants any air. If anything a three-touchdown win in a league defined by parity can't explain just how overmatched the Giants really were. It was the first time the reigning Super Bowl champions looked like well, Super Bowl champions.
"I can stand up here and talk to the team until I'm blue in the face, but until they realize it, until they take ownership of it, until they sort of embrace it, it probably won't change," Pederson admitted of his team's less-than-stellar play during a 2-3 start. "And what I saw last week was -- and really the last couple of weeks - is they're saying and doing the right things. They're showing up to practice every day. They're not complaining about a short week and we're outside running around and getting ready for a Thursday night game. They're not making excuses for injury. And that's what our culture has established."
In some ways, the short week was good for this team which wanted to get the Vikings loss behind them as quickly as possible. Now, there's some extra time before Carolina and with that comes the opportunity to stay awash in the positivity.
Really good teams put the wins behind them just as quickly as the losses so if you are looking to learn something about the 2018 Eagles the date to circle is Oct. 21.
"I think they'd had enough, and quite honestly, they rose to the occasion [Thursday] night and played well in all three phases," Pederson said.
For one game, it felt like 2017 again. Now, it's the time to find out if that was substantive or a mirage.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen