About a third of them stayed home, and a bunch more left at halftime, the empty seats making their own statement on a cold November night. A lot of the rest pretty obviously gave the tickets to their kids, as if it were an exhibition game. It is what happens in a season such as this.
They did not boo the Eagles coming out of the tunnel before the game. It is not what these people tend to do, their reputation to the contrary. They booed busted coverages and the ridiculous touchdowns that result, which is what you would expect. The rest of the time, though, they pretty much kept their well-honed sarcasm to themselves (or their immediate neighbors).
They cheered the good things -- although it took a little more exhorting than usual to get them up for a third-and-goal defensive play, for example -- and they were quiet the rest of the time. The quiet made a statement, too.
It is a little bit unsettling, this life on the edge of football meaninglessness. That the final score on Monday night was Panthers 30, Eagles 22, almost seemed beside the point.
You sit there watching Bryce Brown, running for 178 yards in place of the injured LeSean McCoy, and you think about all of the interesting possibilities. He seems quick and he seems decisive, and there is undoubtedly a place for him to help this team. But you also see him lose two fumbles, and you see a running game that can’t gain an inch on a key fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, and you wonder what exactly is the point.
You sit there watching rookie quarterback Nick Foles and try to figure out what your are looking at, and it frankly is hard to know. There are no answers yet. The offensive line is an extenuating circumstance, to be sure. The fact that wide receiver DeSean Jackson left the game in the first quarter with a sternum injury is another.
But even acknowledging all of that, Foles has had trouble getting much of anything done down the field. His biggest play of the night came in the third quarter on a 51-yard pass interference call on a pass to Jeremy Maclin that was underthrown. Foles has a big arm, and he had time, and he had Maclin open, but the ball was behind him.
More than once, Foles changed the play at the line of scrimmage, switching to a couple of successful runs. There also were a couple of nice throws along the way, to be sure. But there also were probably three potential interceptions that were dropped by the Panthers.
It is like that -- with Brown, with Foles, with all of them. The good is shrouded in the fog of losing. The all-time example on Monday night might have been Brandon Boykin, who returned a kickoff 44 yards in the fourth quarter -- the longest for the Eagles this season -- and then had the ball ripped out of his hands. The Panthers recovered the fumble.
Brown, Foles, Boykin, rookies, fumbles.
The signs came out at the end. “We Want Chucky,” read one, directed at ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. “Fire Andy,” said another, simply. Then there was this one, directed at Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie: “Jeff, This is on You.”
It is on all of them, of course. But the time between now and the end of the season, when the firing of Reid will likely take place after 14 seasons, cannot come quickly enough. The whole experience is like swimming through molasses at this point -- exhausting, unproductive, seemingly endless most of all.