DEVASTATING late-November loss, huge controversy erupting over the head coach embarrassing a star player. Lots of fallout and off-field drama, while the Eagles tried to regroup for another game in just 4 days, which they would play without top corner Asante Samuel.
That was the situation a little more than 2 years ago, when the Birds welcomed the Arizona Cardinals to Lincoln Financial Field, the last time before tonight that the Eagles played a Thursday night game. What happened? Why, a 48-20 victory, of course, over a team that would later beat the Birds in the NFC Championship Game.
"We had an attitude after we got our butts whipped'' 36-7 in Baltimore, with Donovan McNabb benched at halftime, strong safety Quintin Mikell recalled this week as he and his teammates prepared for tonight's game against the Houston Texans. "It's really crazy how this week, it really feels almost the same as what happened that week.''
Of course, McNabb is gone now; wideout DeSean Jackson is the guy in the spotlight, Andy Reid's target after Sunday's loss in Chicago, the man being asked uncomfortable questions about his treatment and his role in the offense. If Jackson responds the way McNabb responded back then, all will be well; McNabb, who had authored seven turnovers in his previous seven quarters of play, committed none that night while going 27-for-39 for 260 yards, four touchdowns and a 121.7 passer rating.
"Gotta start fast, gotta play fast,'' Jackson said Tuesday, when asked what from that situation could be applied to this one. Jackson was held to just two catches for 26 yards in Chicago. "Especially after a game like last week. I think everybody's just ready to go out there and play. We're not going to get caught up in anything else. We just want to go out there and win a football game. That's all that matters.''
Against Arizona, Joselio Hanson started in place of Samuel, whose neck was injured then (currently it's Samuel's left knee; he is "questionable'' after missing the Chicago game and being a limited practice participant this week). After the Eagles took a 7-0 lead on their first drive, Hanson intercepted Kurt Warner, setting up the TD that made it 14-0.
"We came back with a different mindset - that we had to play more assertive and be more accountable,'' Hanson recalled this week.
"It is for me, I know that,'' Hanson said. "I'm going to try to get this win, make a statement. It's national TV.''
After that Arizona game, Reid said one thing that helped was that the Cardinals played a very similar defensive scheme to the Ravens, so the offensive game plan didn't change that much. Reid said the Eagles took plays they hadn't been able to run in Baltimore, reheated them and served them up to Arizona.
Several Eagles players suggested that after seeing how deep Cover 2 and interior-line stunts worked for the Bears against the Eagles' offense, the Birds ought to expect to see those things from the Texans.
"Well, the one thing they do is they give you a bunch of different looks,'' Reid said of the Houston defense. It shut out Tennessee and rookie quarterback Rusty Smith on Sunday, 20-0, but still ranks 28th in the league. "They gave the Titans a bunch of different looks; tough ones, tough looks. We have to be on our 'A' game. They had guys coming free and hitting the quarterback and running back. They're not afraid to play man coverage, they're not afraid to blitz. You just have to make sure that you're sharp with your pickups, and if they show you something you haven't seen and you don't pick it up, then you have to make sure that you have it answered quick, and get ready to come back and deal with it.''
It was the Eagles' defense, though, that was the main problem in Chicago, as the Bears scored a season-high 31 points, going 3-for-4 in the red zone.
"We were in position last week. We've just gotta make plays,'' said Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. His unit has the worst red-zone ranking in the league, opponents scoring on 76.67 percent of their trips inside the 20.
Though he's quite a bit younger than Warner was in 2008, Matt Schaub, like Warner, is not an especially mobile quarterback and has been sacked 24 times. Warner's Cardinals were an air show, without much of a running game. The Texans have a potent, balanced offense that features the NFL's leading rusher, Arian Foster (1,147 yards on 224 carries) and its unofficial light-heavyweight champion, wideout Andre Johnson (65 catches for 869 yards).
"[Foster]'s a one-cut guy, he's one cut, north and south,'' Eagles rookie defensive end Brandon Graham said. Graham figures to start again tonight, Juqua Parker remaining sidelined by a hip injury. "He's not really somebody who's going to try to shake you, he's just a real power back that's got a lot of speed.''
McDermott agreed, and said: "Their running philosophy is the zone running scheme, like they have in Washington, and like they had in Denver.''
McDermott, who called the Chicago loss "a reality check,'' recalled the quick turnaround 2 years ago.
"This is a young defense, this is their first time going through a situation like this,'' he said. "We've got to get back on the horse and stay mentally tough.''
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