We have all seen this movie before. We have all seen the Eagles start slowly. Because of that, frustration makes more sense as an emotion than panic at this point. Let's begin there.
And with this: Brian Westbrook and his broken ribs really should not play this weekend in San Francisco.
They need to get Westbrook right. They do not need him playing at 70 percent, grimacing in pain with every hit, avoiding contact in order to survive. And if they really do need him that badly, given those circumstances, then this thing has a chance to go down in a very big way.
They are incredibly Westbrook-centric as an offense. That is the current reality. Part of it is by design and another big part of it is because of injury. When you don't have your top receiver (Kevin Curtis) and you don't have your only All-Pro offensive lineman (Shawn Andrews), you are going to have to lean on the biggest remaining pieces. That is Westbrook, mostly.
But they need to get him right. A week off here, followed by the bye week, will give him 21 days between suffering the rib injury and the first game after the bye. It is their best chance, that kind of extended rest. It is their best chance of Westbrook being able to be Westbrook when this team traditionally starts to find its stride.
In the meantime, they have to go to San Francisco with a simple mindset: win ugly. That means giving the ball to Correll Buckhalter more often and trying to win 17-14. Normally, I'm very much in favor of the Eagles throwing the ball because I really do believe it is the way the NFL works in 2008. The only time I think they need to dial it back is when they're having trouble protecting Donovan McNabb. But that isn't the problem now. It is that, without Curtis and especially without Westbrook, well, desperate times call for, etc.
Win ugly. That should be the Eagles' mantra this week. Their problem has always been that they aren't really built for that -- or, rather, that they really aren't built for it now. They don't have a real fullback or a tight end who can block. They don't have Andrews. It's going to be hard.
The people who say that the Eagles should play that way all the time miss the point. You do need to throw to win in the NFL, and throw a lot, and throw as a means of establishing the rest. It is an entirely realistic plan of attack. The problem, though, is the handful of games every year when you need to go to Plan B, when weather or injuries or whatnot prevent you from executing all of the pretty little drawings in the playbook.
Rest Westbrook. Win ugly. That should be the new plan.