Don't get me wrong. I don't think it didn't bother the Philadelphia Eagles to lose all of those games they should have won back before their playoff hopes were this desperate. It just wasn't showing up on the field. Other than the immediate-post-bye Andy Reid special in which they thrashed the Cowboys, and maybe the Redskins game right before the bye, the Eagles never looked as though they felt a sense of urgency about their season.
That's changed, though, over the past couple of weeks. Michael Vick is playing hard, smart and focused in spite of obvious lingering pain in his ribs. Jason Babin is playing as though every quarterback in the league dated his sister one time and then never called her again. DeSean Jackson, the guy who's taking all the heat for putting his own health above the good of the team due to his unresolved contract situation, hurt his elbow making a tackle trying to save a touchdown after a turnover.
"I saw their guy pick it up and run it back," Jackson told reporters in the locker room postgame. "Michael Vick was in front of him. Instead of my quarterback making the tackle, I had to stick myself in there and make that play. Regardless of whether I was hurt or anything, I came back."
These are not the Eagles we remember from such uninspired losses as Arizona, Chicago, Buffalo and First Giants. They're certainly not the Eagles we remember from two Thursdays ago in Seattle. If this season were 19 games long, we'd be looking at the Eagles as a team poised to finish hot and right the wrongs of the first three-quarters of their season. As it is, they still retain a mathematical chance of making the playoffs, and they're finally playing as though they want to.
"I mean, you think back on the season and you get frustrated because there were a lot of games that we should have won hands down that we didn't win, whether it was because of turnovers or just lack of performance on offense in certain areas," Vick said. "For the most part, we played good football all season, when you think about the games that we've lost and the games that we’ve won and how they’re been decided. So it kind of gets frustrating and you have to kind of tell yourself, just continue live in the moment because there's nothing you can do about the past."
To a certain extent, there's not a lot they can do about the future, either. They need to win their final two games and hope the Jets beat the Giants on Saturday and then the Giants beat the Cowboys eight days later. If all of even one of those things fails to happen, they're out. If the Giants beat the Jets in their early game Saturday, the Eagles will take the field in Dallas knowing their season is over. But if not, and they beat the Cowboys, they will go into Week 17 with a chance at being an 8-8 division champ and a probably pretty dangerous playoff team. They'd be going in hot, with their defense playing well and Vick, Jackson and a few other guys playing with chips on their shoulders. They'd be going in with renewed life and confidence in a team that should have been playing this well from the beginning.
It may not make any sense. And if you're an Eagles fan, it's probably pretty frustrating to think what might have been if they'd showed this kind of fight from the start -- if they'd been able to finish out just two of those fourth-quarter losses that got away from them in the first half of the season. But for whatever reason -- whether they feel like they have nothing left to lose or whether it just took 12 games for everybody to jell or whether they just caught the Dolphins and Jets on bad days and are going to get smoked in Dallas -- the Eagles are finally playing like an inspired team that believes itself to be good enough to win and dominate. Whether that ends up meaning anything, we have to wait and see.