PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' true identity finally revealed itself Sunday night, and it is not the one they were hoping for.
When they left London two weeks ago, fresh off a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars to pull to 4-4, they headed back to the United States and into their bye week hopeful that what held them back over the first half of the season would ease its grip, allowing them to play like their old Super Bowl selves. Receiver Golden Tate was acquired at the trade deadline, adding to the rosy outlook.
And what better way to open the second act than at home against a Dallas Cowboys team that seemed to be teetering on dysfunction? Philly entered as a seven-point favorite.
But the fog did not lift. And, as the night wore on, the feeling inside Lincoln Financial Field was that it might be a season-long affliction.
"You've just got to believe despite the evidence," said tight end Zach Ertz, who finished with 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. "That's the only message I think we can come up with -- believe despite the evidence. The evidence says we're 4-5 and we're not as good as we thought we were going to be coming into this year, but we can't lose the faith of being brothers, playing for one another, being a family."
The math was pretty simple entering this one: According to ESPN FPI, the Eagles' chances of making the playoffs would jump from 60 percent to 70 percent with a win. A loss would plummet their odds to 35 percent. Those were the two highest potential swings in the NFL for the week.
There was plenty on the line against a top rival. And what's more, coach Doug Pederson and company had an extra week to devise a plan for this one, while the Cowboys were coming off playing on Monday night.
Yet the offensive frustrations continued. The Eagles were 0-for-4 on third down in the first half Sunday and managed 132 total yards while falling behind 13-3. Boos rained down from the stands as the team jogged into the tunnel, fresh off yielding a late touchdown.
"Message is pretty simple: Starting with myself, all of us, we need to just look at ourselves in the mirror -- and are we doing enough, are we giving enough," Pederson said. "Each person, each coach, each player in that locker room -- you have to really look out yourself, and decide every day you come to work that you're gonna give your best, and you're gonna do everything you can to get better and help this team win."
The defense, fueled by a pair of Michael Bennett sacks, kept them in it, but bend went to break eventually as Ezekiel Elliott galloped for 151 yards on 19 carries (7.9 average) with a touchdown, hurdling defenders along the way.
Carson Wentz and Ertz heated up in the second half, connecting for a pair of touchdowns, but the early mistakes and ineffectiveness proved too much to overcome.
The Eagles started slow, as they have often this season. They scored 20 points, just a couple of ticks below their average. The defense didn't generate any takeaways and broke down at inopportune times -- a theme throughout the first half.
There is plenty of season left and, therefore, room to turn things around. But at some point, a team has to be accepted for what it is. Now seems like a good time to do that with the 2018 Eagles.
"This one hurt," Wentz said. "We've got a lot of veterans in there, a lot of leadership. Like coach said, and I'm going to keep echoing the same thing, we've all got to look in the mirror. What can we do differently? Where can we be better? We realize a lot of people are going to want to write us off at this point. Now it's just time to play ball and try and go shock some people."