Tune in Thursday for The Hangover, Part Six. If you can stomach it.
Remember the offseason of self-congratulatory binge-preening? The Mummers costumes, the talk-show appearances, the book promotions? Well, after five games the Eagles are left with wave after wave of nausea with a side order of migraine. It'll take more than two aspirin and a dark room to recover from a 2-3 start that, at worst, should be 4-1.
Their loss last week in Nashville was as sad as a country song. Sunday's raggedy, 23-21 gift to the Vikings should be ample reparation for any brutish behavior, real or imagined, Vikings fans suffered at the NFC Championship blowout in January. Next: On Thursday night the Eagles cross the state line and travel 100 miles north-northeast, to the swamps of Secaucus, to start the divisional portion of their schedule: the six games they are hoping will bring them back to January football.
It has come to this, and quickly: The best team in football clasping its hands and praying it can save its season by beating a one-win rival.
"We've got our first [division] game against the Giants this week," left tackle Jason Peters said. "If we just win our division, get to the postseason — that's far-fetched right now — but if we get rollin', get to the playoffs, you never know what's going to happen."
So, cross your fingers, I guess.
The team swears it isn't resting on its laurel (with only one Lombardi Trophy, it only has one laurel). The players say that this underrepresentation of talent and skill isn't a Super Bowl hangover.
That's hard to believe.
They have committed 43 penalties, tied for third in the league, for 395 yards, fourth in the league. Worse, their turnover differential was minus-3 entering the game. Fumbles lost by Carson Wentz and Jay Ajayi likely cost the Eagles at least 10 points, since Wentz's was returned 64 yards for a touchdown and Ajayi's happened at the Vikings' 5. The Vikings dropped a lateral that the Eagles recovered, so the differential grew only to minus-4.
They were plus-11 in 2017, when they tied for the league's best record.
"That's the biggest stat," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "Last year, we were taking the ball away at a really high rate, and the offense took care of the ball pretty well. That's just a result of, defensively, not being opportunistic, and offensively, a lack of focus, a lack of discipline."
Lack of focus. Lack of discipline.
Sound like there's a lack of humility and a lack of desire. Sounds like there's a lack of the desperation that fueled a roster full of angry young men.
Young men who felt undervalued. Under-appreciated. Underdogs.
No way, they say.
"I think we have more to prove now than we did at this point last season," said center Jason Kelce. "I don't think we've lost that edge."
At this point last season they were 4-1, and at this point last season they were a pleasant surprise, like precocious youngsters getting pats on the head for every gold star they earned.
At this point this season they are hunted, and they are wounded. If, as Kelce notoriously orated in his February finery,
an underdog is a hungry dog, and hungry dogs run faster, what, then, does a wounded dog do?
He fights. Or he dies.
Peters expects to fight.
"We've got a quarterback coming off injury. I'm coming off injury. Sproles is coming off injury," Peters said. "Carson and I didn't get a full training camp."
>> PHOTOS: Scenes from the sidelines at Eagles-Vikings
Peters, quarterback Wentz, running back Darren Sproles and receiver Alshon Jeffery all missed part of last season with injuries that limited their participation in training camp. Wentz missed the first two games of this season. Jeffery missed the first three.
Sproles missed his fourth consecutive game Sunday with an unrelated hamstring injury. Peters committed his third false start of the season Sunday. Jeffery caught two passes for 39 yards.
Wentz? He completed 24 of 35 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns, but 58 of those yards and one of those touchdowns came much too late. He lacks the speed that made him so fleet before his injury. He fumbled for the third time in three games. He failed to diagnose blitzes, he ignored receivers who were open in his field of vision, and he made abysmal, dangerous decisions.
This will pass, Peters promised, when the offensive line synchronizes.
"We've just got to block better for Carson. He's going through his reads, and it's taking … We've just got to hold them off longer so the guy can make a play."
The good news, it seems, is that they're honestly assessing the situation. They're talking about foot-shooting and self-infliction and the like. Ajayi, for instance, looked in the mirror after his red-zone fumble. What he saw turned his stomach.
"I can't do that," Ajayi said. "I pride myself on being elite. I want to be elite. I want to be the best. You can't do that when your team's counting on you. That's what we talk about when we say 'self-inflicted.' "
Every hangover is self-inflicted.
>> READ MORE: Jay Ajayi thinks the Eagles need to run the ball more
>> SOCIAL MEDIA ROUNDUP: Big-guy touchdown, Jalen Mills hate, and look what happened to the Giants