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FIERRO: Defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles can kiss playoffs goodbye

(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
  • The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-4 after Sunday's loss to the Carolina Panthers.
  • In the loss to Carolina, the Eagles blew a 14-0 fourth-quarter lead.
  • The Eagles trail the Washington Redskins (4-2) by two games in the loss column in the NFC East.

Forget the playoffs. The only silver lining now is a higher draft position in 2019.

Winning the NFC East, regardless of how weak it may be, is not in the cards for this year’s collection of players, coaches and mostly all new medical staff, which suddenly is being bombarded by an array of non-contact, soft-tissue injuries that may not be entirely coincidental.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz falls on the football after he fumbled during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Time for the Philadelphia Eagles to look themselves in the mirror and admit what they really are after spending the first seven weeks of the season refusing to believe what everyone else sees: A squad that suddenly doesn’t know how to win the tight ones anymore. A squad that can’t handle success because expecting and achieving are different animals.

After the heartbreaker in Tennessee was when we first heard the claims: “This is not who we are, we finish games, etc.”

Two weeks ago, after blowing another game in the fourth quarter to the Minnesota Vikings, it was more of the same.

Then Sunday, after a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter was turned into a 21-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers at home following three extra days to prepare, came this from a well-meaning but totally misguided Wendell Smallwood:

“That’s not us, that’s not who we are, that’s not how we play,” the third-year running back said. “We don’t give up games, we don’t blow leads, we don’t not execute. That’s not who we are.”

Time to own up to new identity: What Smallwood meant to say is “that’s not who we were.”

Because what they are now is a team that absolutely gives up games, blows leads and fails to execute. This is the identity of the 2018 Eagles, and it’s time they own up.

Having their coach take the Super Bowl championship sign out of the locker room in some sort of meaningless, symbolic gesture before the season began would mean nothing.

Actually, it would have been a better idea to add one or more to constantly remind them of what they were as recently as eight months ago. The reminders at least would have been something that could appeal to their pride after every defeat.

Too late now, though. This team isn’t going to the playoffs, much less back to the Super Bowl.

Offense not producing: And the biggest reason, as documented here right after the game, is lack of point production by an offense that has underachieved 10 times more than the defense, which actually remains one of the NFL’s five best in the only statistic that really matters: points allowed.

But since that’s already been covered, here’s the reasoning behind one theory that hasn’t: They can’t realistically get to 10 wins, which is what it’s going to take to win the division, now.

They have games remaining at New Orleans and at the Los Angeles Rams. Not unless coach Doug Pederson wins another golf bet with Saints counterpart Sean Payton that would force the Saints to spot them a 21-point lead can the Eagles prevail down there. Same for the Rams.

So that’s six losses right there.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson watches his team lose to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Sept. 30, in Nashville. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

For the Eagles to get to 10-6, they’d have to win all the rest. That means sweeping the division, winning next week in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars and taking care of the Houston Texans at home in December.

A break-even team, at best: Stranger things have happened for sure, but the reality is that this is a break-even team at best, its identity firmly established now as midseason approaches.

No move at the trade deadline is going to change that, either.

Even Pederson seemed to have accepted it, based on his remarks following Sunday’s loss.

“Basically told them `pressure’s off of us. Nobody on the outside world is giving us a chance to do much of anything.’ Pressure’s off, so we can go play, have fun, and just relax,” Pederson said.

Monday morning, he clarified that puzzling statement during his weekly interview with the morning team on WIP 94.1.

“Going into the season as Super Bowl champs, there’s going to be pressure every week,” he said. “We understand that. Games are big every week and pressure to win is always there.

“I think now, more than anything, you look at where we are, the pressure of being the one seed or the two seed [in the playoffs] is probably gone. But the fact is, we still control our own destiny, and I don’t want the guys to feel any more added pressure to try to make plays. Just make the ones that come to them. Don’t go looking for them. And so from that standpoint, that’s sort of what I meant with that comment is let’s focus on our division.”

Accepting the inevitable: Pederson’s message is clear enough now.

All that remains is acceptance of the inevitable. That will come soon enough — perhaps as early as next Sunday.

This team is going to have a devil of a time winning the division — so much so that a deal with the devil will almost have to be made.

Washington (4-2) is in command. And there’s not a dang thing the Eagles (3-4) can do about it now, mathematics be damned.