PHILADELPHIA — It is a sad Monday morning here. Workers head to the office looking dejected. The birds aren’t chirping like they usually do. The Liberty Bell is cracked. The Eagles are 2-2.
It is not new for the Eagles to lose a game they should’ve won. In 1994 they lost a game to the Bengals where Cincinnati kicked two field goals in the final three seconds to win, 33-30. That would’ve been bad normally, but it was even worse when the Eagles lost in the same exact way—fumbling the ensuing kickoff after the opponent had erased an Eagles lead late—the week before to the Giants. In 2011 they blew a 23-3 lead to the 49ers and lost, 24-23. Two years ago, in Doug Pederson’s fourth game as a head coach, Ryan Mathews fumbled late and the Lions stole one, 24-23. And these are all just off the top of my head.
But none of these things happened when the Eagles were defending Super Bowl champions.
Yesterday’s loss was a doozy. The Eagles led, 17-3, in the third quarter. They had chances to win the game with a touchdown, both late in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and settled for field goals both times. They pushed the Titans to fourth down in overtime three times and gave up three conversions and, later, the game-winning touchdown with just seconds left.
And, so, the Philadelphia fans are apoplectic. Angelo Cataldi, the WIP morning show host, called it “the toughest Eagles loss I have ever experienced.” We probably shouldn’t listen to Cataldi, since he just says whatever; in different venues this year he both predicted a Super Bowl repeat and said success had wrecked Doug Pederson and they wouldn’t go anywhere.
But that sentiment he shared is real. Yesterday’s loss was a punch in the gut. After months of nothing but good feelings about the Eagles, Philly fans have had to adjust to what (so far) have just been the same ol’ Eagles. Sure, they’re just 2-2. But, in the games they’ve won, the opposing team has had the ball down to the goal line with a chance to win in the final seconds. Sure, they’ve been injured. But they were injured last season and still won the Super Bowl. This year they’ve just looked bad.
Any Eagles fan would trade a lifetime of ensuing mediocrity for a Super Bowl win, especially the weird, unbelievable run through last year’s playoffs the Eagles made. But I am sure I am not the only Eagles fan who was thinking this the whole game: What if that was it? What if Carson Wentz is Joe Flacco, with an early championship and a lifetime of questions on whether or not he’s “elite”? And an even worse Joe Flacco, since Wentz didn’t even play in the Super Bowl the Eagles won. And Wentz was one of the Eagles who looked good yesterday. The offensive line was awful. The secondary was even worse. At least they finally had a good punt return?
Eagles fans spent the offseason celebrating the Super Bowl win and pretending they were the new Patriots: The team everyone loves to hate, the team that’s going to dominate every season, the team that’s fun to root for most weeks. So far, they’ve been mediocre. It has been a hard fall back to earth.
Plenty of good teams have started 2-2. The Eagles are still missing guys due to injury. They have played a relatively tough schedule. They are a few plays from 3-1. They’ll probably turn it around, especially with such a weak NFC East. But Eagles fans are struggling today with the realization you can’t win the Super Bowl every week.