If you peeked into the Eagles locker room over the past few days, you wouldnt have seen anything out of the ordinary.
No moping, no crying, no heads hanging. No desperation.
Over there, its Jon Dorenbos and one-time Phillies draft pick Riley Cooper playing Whiffleball in the middle of the locker room. After Cooper whiffs on a second straight Dorenbos breaking pitch, Dorenbos yells, You got drafted?
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And theres Asante Samuel shouting and screaming and carrying on, suggesting that all the beat writers join him for drinks at the Continental for his next press conference.
And theres Michael Vick cracking up the press crew by ribbing a writer for bailing out of Vicks daily press briefing the moment he uttered the word God.
It wasnt the locker room of a dejected and forlorn team. It was the locker room of a team thats loose and confident going into a game they have to win.
Theres a lot of confidence here in the ability we have as a football team, left guard Evan Mathis said. We know were not terrible. We know our record is terrible.
But were not going to hang our head about it, though. Thats not going to get us anywhere. Moping around. Going into a shell. Shutting down. Its not going to do anything for us. Were trying to keep a good vibe. We know if we correct our mistakes, were close to being great. Correct our mistakes, have accountability with each other and go out on the field and execute and play.
Normal locker room. If you didnt know their record, you wouldnt believe they've won only one game.
I think being loose is probably the best way to be right now, Vick said. I think when everyone is tense and uptight, it creates more pressure, and we already have enough pressure on ourselves. We just need to go out and focus on playing good, mistake-free football, and trying to come out with a win.
The Eagles are loose, but they know the situation is dire.
At 1-4, the Eagles are in danger of falling to 1-5 for only the third time since the mid-1970s. The 1982 team, just two years after the Super Bowl, opened 1-5 before finishing 3-6 in a strike-shortened season. And the hapless 1998 Eagles, in Ray Rhodes final year, started out 1-7 on the way to a miserable 3-13 season.
To avoid going to 1-5 in a season that began with so much hope and promise, the Eagles will have to beat a 3-1 Redskins team thats coming off a bye week, is ranked sixth in the NFL in defense, and is unbeaten at home.
The Eagles and Redskins meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., where the Eagles have won five straight games and nine of their last 11 and where they scored 59 points in toppling Donovan McNabb a year ago.
This is a different Redskins team, playing nothing like a franchise thats won just two playoff games, both wild-card games, since 1992.
And its a different Eagles team, too, finding ways to lose instead of finding ways to win.
Everybodys attitude has been positive, said tailback LeSean McCoy, whos on pace for over 1,400 rushing yards. Everybodys approaching this game like its the big game it is. We need to win. You can kind of tell in the focus and the determination everybodys practiced with the whole week.
Were far from a 1-4 team, so to be in this position, we got ourselves in it, weve got to get ourselves out.
If the Eagles can find a way to beat the Redskins, theyll get to 2-4 going into the bye week. Nothing to get excited about, but this isnt a normal year. The NFC East does not appear to be very strong, and if the Eagles win and the Giants lose to the Bills, the Eagles will find themselves with just one fewer loss than the division leaders with 10 games to go.
I think weve all handled this situation the best that we could, and I think weve handled it well, Vick said. Were just focusing on the next thing, and thats winning. We understand that can change everything around. I think everybody has handled this whole situation with class and as professionals like we all are. Were waiting to pull through.
This is a strange position for the Eagles. They havent missed the playoffs since 2007 and havent had a losing record since 2005.
Incredibly, there are only five players on the roster whove ever experienced a losing season in an Eagles uniform -- Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Mike Patterson and Jamaal Jackson.
Were in a must-win situation, the same as last week, Herremans said. We understand the implications of our record and the hole that weve dug ourselves. I dont think our goal has changed at all. Were all still focused on winning. Thats what we were put together to do. Its just about going out to practice on a daily basis, doing your job, and making sure you do that to the best of your ability.
Ive never been 1-4. Its a definitely a new feeling to me and quite a few of my teammates who have been here the whole time. Weve been in a hole and climbed out of it before, so we know what its going to take to turn it around and get the job done. We just have to go through it.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org