By Kevin McGuire
Using baseball phrases in a football conversation is often misguided, but it seems as though there is one that can work when discussing the Philadelphia Eagles. In baseball, even the hottest hitter can run into a wall when thrown a curve ball he just cannot lay off of. Good hitters will adjust to what is being thrown their way, recognizing when the curve ball is being thrown and knowing to lay off or time and position their swing accordingly. A hitter who does not adjust will continue to be frustrated at the plate as other pitchers pick up on the vulnerability.
On Sunday the Eagles were thrown a nasty curve ball in the form of a 48-30 loss on the road against the Minnesota Vikings. Will this Eagles team be able to adjust or will the Eagles go down swinging in the final two games of the season? With a division title within sight, with the Eagles owning a one-game lead on the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles must bounce back to maintain the unfamiliar role of favorite. Every good team is faced with this situation at some point on their road to greatness. The Eagles are far from greatness, but how they react after a rude awakening could be telling of what this team is made of with so much still on the line and under their control.
“I think you should go into every game with the same mentality whether it’s people from the outside that consider you the favorite or don’t consider you the favorite,” head coach Chip Kelly said during his Monday press conference. “The message I give and the message I’ve always lived with isworry about what you can control. Whether someone makes you a favorite doesn’t mean I act differentlyor someone says you act differently. Because then you’re concerned with things you don’t control. You don’t control what other people’s opinions are. If you are, you’re going to be a yo‑yo up, yo‑yo down guy depending on how people tell you what they think going into the game.”
Here is what the Eagles do control. If the Cowboys lose at the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon, then the Eagles can clinch the NFC East title and a home playoff game Sunday night with a win against the Bears. Should the Cowboys win in Landover, Maryland then the result of Sunday night’s game will mean nothing for the Eagles. Instead, the winner of next weekend’s division battle between the Eagles and Cowboys in Arlington, Texas will be crowned the division champion.
It has been a strange year for the Eagles, but Kelly has not overlooked how his team got to this point. He is as eager to see how his team comes back after last weekend as much as anyone.
“We were 3‑5 at one point with this team, and reeled off five straight victories,” Kelly said. “This game is a tough game to play. It’s a tough game. You never really understand the outcomes. Sometimes it’s tough to try to wrestle with it and justify how did this happen and that happen and what not. But we’re on a weekly schedule. We have to get ready for the Bears now. We can’t let the loss to the Vikings affect us for two weeks.“
When Kelly was hired as the head coach of the Eagles the general mentality of the fans was to give him a couple of years to get things working his way. But with two games to play, the time is now for a young team learning to win.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.