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By Dan Majka
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It doesn’t seem that long ago when opposing teams would fear coming to Philadelphia to face the Eagles.
Whether it was the superior defenses during the Buddy Ryan era — or more recently — Jim Johnson’s blitz-happy defenses under Andy Reid, whether its was the treacherous conditions of the surface at Veterans Stadium that ended the careers of wide receivers Wendell Davis (Chicago Bears) and Michael Irvin (Dallas Cowboys), or whether it was simply the intimidating fans that filled the seats at the Vet and now Lincoln Financial Field, opposing teams would see ‘at Philadelphia’ on the schedule and cringe.
That is no longer the case.
The Eagles are a dismal 1-5 at home this season. Four of those losses saw the Eagles blow a lead in the fourth-quarter, the other was their most recent game at the Linc, an embarrassing 38-20 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots.
The woes at home started with a loss to the Giants, the first of those four fourth-quarter meltdowns. But it was the following week against the 49ers that really set things in motion. The Eagles blew a 20-point lead in a game that saw rookie kicker Alex Henery miss a pair of makeable field goals, and collapse number two was in the books.
But three weeks later, the Eagles dominated the Dallas Cowboys at the Linc and suddenly all was right with the “Dream Team.”
Eight days later, the Chicago Bears marched into Philadelphia for Monday night football and beat the Eagles for the fourth time in five years, handing the Birds a third late-game defeat at home.
No need for panic. What better opportunity to get back on the winning track than playing the lowly Arizona Cardinals at home with backup quarterback John Skelton getting the start? A must-win game for the Eagles, but a lock for sure.
Instead, the Cardinals came to town and won on the road for the first time since Week 1 of the 2010 season. Another fourth-quarter comeback for the Eagles’ opposition.
But after a road win in their rematch with the Giants – there was a renewed hope – a chance for the Eagles to beat New England at home and really make a statement. The Birds jumped on the Patriots early to the tune of a 10-0 lead and the rout was on. It certainly was, but unfortunately, it was the Eagles who took it on the chin. There was no fourth-quarter letdown. In fact, the game was long decided by then, and the fans that remained at the Linc had already begun letting the Eagles coach now how they felt with chants of “Fire Andy!”
With just two home games remaining for the Eagles, the Temple Owls are guaranteed to win more games at the Linc in 2011, having finished 5-2 there this season.
Yes, the defense has been terrible, and yes, the coaching has been equally as poor, but through all of the Eagles’ struggles this season, it’s still hard to imagine such ineffectiveness at home.
This is Philadelphia. Home of such monikers as the “Gang Green” defense and the “Broad Street Bullies.” This is a blue-collar city that is recognized for its toughness and its tough sports teams. It’s a town that’s known for its passionate fans. It’s a place that’s supposed to intimidate the opposition. It’s evident though that the visiting teams are not afraid of the Eagles.
And it goes beyond this season.
Aside from the Eagles lone victory at the Linc against the Cowboys, the last time this team won a game in Philadelphia (not including the preseason) dates back more than a year ago, December 2, 2010 against the Houston Texans.
This season is an obvious failure and most fans are looking ahead to next year, but no matter how the rest of this season plays out, no matter which coaches and players remain when this team takes the field in 2012, moving forward, the Eagles have to reestablish a home-field advantage. It is a huge piece of any team’s success in any sport, especially football. And for the Philadelphia Eagles, right now, that piece is missing.