You hear it in your pizza shop, in South Philly parking lots, One NovaCare Way:
Can you believe how good our Eagles are? How good we got already?
You should. You certainly should.
Now 8-1 at the bye thanks to a seven-game winning streak, the Eagles have arrived atop the NFL like a package on your doorstep you didn’t expect. Really, it’s like opening a present every week: You peel back the gift wrap and you can’t believe what’s sitting in your lap. It’s exactly what you wanted.
Taking the starch out of the Panthers on a short week in North Carolina? Check. Beating Washington for the second time this season? Check. Playing poorly and still beating the Niners by more than three TDs? Check. Destroying the best defense in the league? Check.
Despite the myopic, pro-Dallas review offered by linebacker Tamba Hali, who was still stinging after the Cowboys’ offense clobbered his Chiefs on Sunday night, no team in the NFL lays a better claim to preeminence than the complete and balanced Birds.
Coach Doug Pederson sent his Eagles off to Miami and Texas and the balmy Caribbean on Monday with this message: Enjoy what you’ve done, and own what you’ve become, and prepare to do and be even more.
“Yeah, and coaches, the same way,” Pederson said. “We [usually] get four, five hours on a Sunday afternoon after a game to enjoy one, and then we’re back in the office cranking on the next week. So I want the coaches and players to enjoy and to look back and reflect on what we’ve accomplished so far. As great as it is, we still have half a season. Seven ballgames left. We’ve got to enjoy this time this week and reflect on what we’ve done, but we’ve got to come back ready to go next week.”
The fans would do well to follow that same advice. Enjoy. The Birds land in Dallas two Sundays from now for a prime-time game against their archrival. In the interim, if you bleed green, feel free to relish 13 days of complete self-satisfaction.
We’re past the point where the team can be considered just good, or just good enough; or, really, surprising at all. It’s gotten to the point where it’s perfectly permissible to expect entertaining competence and occasional brilliance every time it takes the field.
From the game plans to the in-game adjustments, from the execution to the heart, a team like this — a team that ticks every box — should be enjoyed and adored in the moment.
This is the moment.
You won’t find a die-harder Birdbrain than that guy in the pizza parlor, growing his Mo-vember mustache. He not only makes a great antipasto, but he also was aware of the salary-cap implications of trading Mychal Kendricks last spring, and he realizes that the value of a cerebral, mobile center like Jason Kelce outweighs Kelce’s lack of size. But, on Saturday night, he was still worried about the Broncos on Sunday. The Broncos, who then lost, 51-23.
You won’t find a more enthusiastic Birdbrain than the guy in the parking lot Monday morning, screaming into his flip phone about how he fleeced his bookie because the Broncos were only 7 1/2-point underdogs. Apparently, his bookmaker’s intelligence approximates that of a male donkey. Still, flip-phone guy admitted, he should’ve bet more than 100 bucks, but who figured they’d score half a hundred?
Not surprisingly, you won’t find any Birdbrains anywhere who are more optimistic about the team’s prospects than the team’s employees, both present or past (it’s a franchise that inspires loyalty). Certainly, employees both past and present entered the 2017 season optimistic about the team’s prospects, and hopeful for a measure of success, but even they were unprepared for this avalanche of excellence.
They have a big, smart, strong-armed quarterback, a four-headed running-back attack, a star tight end, a veteran go-to receiver and two young track stars, all fortified by an elite offensive line. They have a top-notch, versatile front seven, two linebackers playing their best in their prime, two safeties so neatly matched that they finish each other’s sentences and three cornerbacks who weren’t supposed to be much good, but who are, in fact, more than good enough.
The coaches teach them precise assignments tailored to their abilities, assignments the players carry out with commitment and vigor. They are built for today — Alshon Jeffery, Malcolm Jenkins, Carson Wentz — and for tomorrow — Jalen Mills, Nelson Agholor, and, well, Carson Wentz. They are improved, and they are improving.
So, why the hesitation?
What’s not to like?
Granted, you can’t blame anyone in Philadelphia for wondering if it isn’t all a mirage. After all, the Eagles are 0-for-LI in Super Bowls.
Meanwhile, the rest of the NFC East has won about 23 percent of all Super Bowls.
It’s understandable if you get a little self-conscious when you can’t keep up with the Joneses.
It’s unforgivable if you don’t enjoy the moment.
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