PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Winning in the NFL sometimes comes down to one or two plays at the right time. The Eagles believe they are starting to make those plays when it matters most.
Last year, Doug Pederson’s squad went 3-0, but slipped to a 7-9 finish. The team lost a host of close contests, with many of the defeats coming on the road. This year, the Eagles are off to a 3-1 start and are coming off a pair of wins in close games. For Pederson, there is a clear difference from the disappointing finishes in 2016.
“I think the guys have really embraced that from last year,” said Pederson. “They learned from that. Their resiliency, as I mentioned the other day, about the football team. We have got great leaders on the team both offensively and defensively. Is it a perfect 3-1? No. We’ve got a lot of work to do and the guys understand that and the guys want to be coached. They want to be coached hard, so I want them to hold me accountable.”
The players are embracing crunch time this season. Last week, the Eagles closed out the Chargers with an impressive, clock-eating drive. Two weeks ago, the Eagles beat the Giants on the final play of the game. Center Jason Kelce says winning the nail-biters could translate into a post-season appearance.
“I think it’s good that we’re winning close games,” Kelce said. “I think that’s always a good sign. Most of the wins in this league are going to be close. Games in the NFL are decided by a touchdown or less a lot of the time. The ability to close out close games ends up making the difference between playoffs or not.”
Many of the same players from last year remain on the Eagles roster. They understand what it feels like to be finished off by opponents in the fourth quarter. This fall, cornerback Jalen Mills and his teammates are writing a different ending and Mills says it has simply been a matter of an attitude adjustment.
“You still feel the hunger,” said Mills. “I’m not saying the guys weren’t hungry last year, but we know the spot we were in last year and how it ended. You see the guys a lot more focused. You see that laser-sharp focus from everybody and we’re still hungry to get more wins under our belts.”
The Eagles are hoping that next win will come on Sunday against Arizona. The Cardinals come to town with a record of 2-2 but have plenty of high level players on their roster. The Eagles are expecting another tough contest and Mills and his teammates would be fine if the game came down to the wire again.
“Our last couple games have come down to the end,” Mills said. “We had the field goal and the last game was close as well. As a young guy, you kind of don’t understand but in year two, those little bitty details, those small details and those tough wins that you get towards the end definitely help towards the end of the season.”