Following the Philadelphia Eagles week one tilt with the Atlanta Falcons we are left with one irrevocable fact; the Eagles lost. For all the positing and conjecture on the air waves and in social media, the only concrete conclusion that we can draw from an Eagles week one loss is that on Monday night, the Atlanta Falcons were the better team. Still, everyone clamors for answers, demanding why the Eagles lost, and where they are going in 2015.
While the former has a much more viable explanation, the latter presents a question that can only be definitively answered by understanding that there can not be answers at this time. Still, many seem willing to point to the Eagles’ opening loss as the basis for a forecast of doom. Recent history, however, does very little to support this notion. In fact, the only conclusion that we can make is that the Eagles inauspicious start to the 2015 season means absolutely nothing whatsoever.
Leading up to the game, an increasing amount of pundits on both the local and national levels had pegged the Eagles as Super Bowl contenders. Everything from an NFC championship game berth to a league title had been forecasted by media analysts, and expectations were through the roof for the Eagles Monday night opener.
Naturally, when Chip Kelly and his offense stalled out in the first half and Julio Jones blazed a path of destruction through the Eagles’ secondary, the naysayers and negladelphians were out in full force, proclaiming themselves vindicated in their crusade against the Eagles. Sifting through all the negativity and drawing logical hypotheses are often difficult at times like these, however, it doesn’t take much to dispel the silly notion that the team’s hopes of contention are washed following one insignificant loss; if the Eagles really are at the precipice of title contention, there’s very little standing in their way at this point, especially nothing as trivial as a single loss in a young 16-game season.
In 2014, the quartet of teams that made up the conference title matches consisted of the New England Patriots (12-4), the Indianapolis Colts (11-5), the Seattle Seahawks (12-4), and the Green Bay Packers (12-4). Each team had its fair share of strife and missteps to overcome on its way to a conference championship appearance, particularly early in the season. In fact, each of the NFL’s top 4 teams of 2014 had to overcome a slow start to earn its spot atop the league standings.
The world champion New England Patriots had perhaps the most tumultuous start to 2014 season, as they opened with a decisive loss to the rival Miami Dolphins at Sun Life. Two weeks later they narrowly edged out an uninspiring Oakland Raiders team 16-9 in Foxboro, only to be absolutely decimated by the Chiefs at Arrowhead on Monday night the following week to a tune of 41-14.
Many questioned whether Tom Brady was at the beginning of a steep decline, even going as far to insinuate that Bill Belichick might be considering a switch at quarterback. The rest is of course history, as the Patriots went on to win 10 of their next 12 regular season games and capture their 4th Super Bowl of the Brady/Belichick era.
The 2014 runner-up Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, absolutely embarrassed the Green Bay Packers –more on them in a minute– during the Thursday night kick-off. Seattle, however, much to the surprise of the NFL community, fell to the San Diego Chargers the following week. A few weeks later, the Seahawks lost to the Dallas Cowboys at home, despite being renowned as the leagues preeminent home juggernaut.
Some pointed to the loss as a result of Pete Carroll’s crew merely overlooking the Cowboys and looking towards a divisional game the following week, however, Seattle dropped that game too, falling to the Rams after losing decisively just one week before. There sat the defending league champs, 3-3 trending downward, before going on a 9-1 tear and winning a second consecutive conference championship.
It doesn’t end with New England and Seattle, however, as the Green Bay Packers –as previously mentioned– were eviscerated by the eventual NFC champions in the very first game of the season. The following week Green Bay won a not-so-decisive 31-24 contest against the Jets at Lambeau, and then, managed a meager 7 points, falling to the rival Lions in Detroit week 3. The inauspicious 1-2 start prompted the famous Aaron Rodgers “R-E-L-A-X” message to Packers nation, and then an 11-2 finish en route to a conference championship showdown with Seattle.
Finally, the Indianapolis Colts opened their season with a loss –albeit to a prolific Denver team– and then dropped the following game to the Eagles, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at home in Lucas Oil Stadium, and bringing their record to 0-2. From there, however, the Colts went on to compile a 11-5 record, winning 11 of their final 14 games.
Look at the start of this season; in some respects, both the Broncos and Ravens looked horrid in their opener. The Seahawks were upset by the Rams (again), and the Packers trailed on three separate occasions to the lowly Bears. The Colts were obliterated by the Bills, and the Cowboys –whose supporters will of course be quick to ridicule the Eagles– looked uneven in their own right. Still, at the end of the season, these it’s incredibly likely that all of these teams are in the playoff picture at season’s end.
Now, to be clear, this isn’t to say the Eagles will win a Superbowl, or even make a conference championship appearance (though I think they will achieve the latter). The point here is to demonstrate that a slow start means very little in the grand scheme of things. Obviously, a win in Atlanta would have been ideal, but a loss is hardly damning. Overall, the Eagles improved as the game went on, surmounting an imposing 20-3 deficit to take the lead in the 4th quarter. The aforementioned 4 had far worse experiences during highly successful campaigns and only got stronger as the season wore on.
I implore you to be cognizant of the fact that this is a new team, something that many lost sight of during a dominant preseason stint. The offense has 6 new starters from a year ago, while the defense has 5. It’s going to take time for things to come together, and for this team to reach it’s potential. Things are far from a certainty following week one, however, judging a team based off of a slow start is irresponsible. Chances are, the Eagles are right where you think they’ll be this winter, regardless of a few likely speed bumps early on.
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