Brookover: Bottom line is where Eagles are in standings

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Close is how the Eagles perceive themselves halfway through their first season with Doug Pederson as the head coach and Carson Wentz at quarterback. Last, however, is where you'll find them in the NFC East standings.

"I definitely don't think we're down and out," wide receiver Jordan Matthews said late Sunday afternoon as autumn's first early darkness fell upon MetLife Stadium following another winnable game that the Eagles let slip away.

With the 28-23 loss to the New York Giants, the Eagles fell to 4-4, 0-3 in their division, and 2-4 in their conference. It does not matter that their four losses are only by a combined 19 points or that they have held fourth-quarter leads in two of their four defeats or that they have had fourth-quarter chances to win every single one of the games they have lost.

The Eagles' significant statistical advantage - 443 total yards to 302 - on a day when two Wentz interceptions gave the Giants' offense golden field position that led to two first-quarter touchdowns was also meaningless when time expired Sunday.

Losses are losses, and after winning their first three to open the season, the Eagles have dropped four of their last five to go from being one of the NFL's feel-good surprises to just another .500 team in a league that loves its parity.

And still the Eagles want to see the light or at least the bright side of their increasingly gloomy situation.

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"Right now the feeling is obviously very disappointing," Pederson said. "We feel like we've had the opportunity in a couple of these ball games to pull them out. There is still a lot of season left, obviously. I feel like we're learning and we're kind of working through a lot of things. We've got some young guys on offense, obviously and . . . we're learning how to execute and finish."

How exactly you view the Eagles depends on the perspective. If you're willing to flash back to early September when Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota and Wentz was given the keys to Jeffrey Lurie's franchise, then you should probably still be delighted with where the Eagles are sitting halfway through the 2016 season.

A four-win season seemed realistic at that point and that has already been achieved. Pederson does take the opportunity every now and again to remind us that his football team, especially on offense, is young.

"This is part of our growth process on offense," the coach said when asked about being ultra aggressive on fourth-down decisions when he could have settled for field goals that might have given the Eagles the victory. "Rookie quarterback, young receivers, and we've got a veteran offensive line. We're trying to build this thing and we're trying to do it right. By putting them in these situations, they're going to be better for this. They're going to be better down the stretch. Somewhere it's going to pay off for all of us."

Perhaps, but all it got the Eagles Sunday was a five-point loss when the coach left six points on the field.

The Eagles, of course, raised expectations with a 3-0 start, but the schedule makers did them no favors after that. Their momentum was halted by a Week 4 bye and four of their last five games have been on the road, including the last three against teams coming off bye weeks. They lost all four of the road games.

"Everybody knows where we're at," center Jason Kelce said. "We're 0-3 in the division. We had a good start and now we've been losing games that are winnable. You just have to watch the film and be coachable. We know that we're really close and we just have to keep on pushing, keep on correcting the mistakes and keep on getting better."

Maybe that's all we should expect from a team that has a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback. Both men in recent weeks have shown that they have a lot to learn about their profession.

"A lot of it is situational football," Wentz said. "As a team we've just got to learn how to finish, that's what I keep saying. It sounds cliché, but it really just comes down to executing."

The last-place Eagles and their rookie coach and quarterback have eight games remaining to work on their growth as a team and they'd like to believe they are also still working for an unexpected playoff berth.

The difficult first-half schedule, however, does not get easier in the second half. Only one of the Eagles' remaining opponents has a losing record and even that game at Cincinnati does not figure to be an easy one.

Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins gathered the team together after Sunday's loss to emphasize that this season still has plenty of meaning.

"It's not an ideal situation, but . . . it's far from over," Jenkins said. "You're going to get all the questions about where we are as a team and the way it will be presented is that the wheels are falling off and all of a sudden we're doomed. We're not going to kid ourselves. This is not the situation we want to be in, but it's far from over. With that in mind, it's going to be urgent to fix these small things, but our margin from losing to winning is small. All we have to do is fix one or two things and we're back in that winning column."

For now, however, they are a last-place team trying to find its way again.

bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob