Tough talk from Eagles about soft play

Posted: November 10, 2011

WHAT IS IT about the Eagles and the fourth quarter? Why have they lost four games they led going into the final 15 minutes?

The popular answer among the fan base - that this is a "soft" team, incapable of prevailing at crunch time - is, unsurprisingly, an unpopular answer in the locker room. But if you look closely at some of the rationales provided by Eagles players, they might be talking about the same thing the fans are talking about, using less harsh language.

When a reporter brought up the S-word to Michael Vick yesterday, just as an Eagles spokesman intoned that this would be the final question of Vick's media session, the quarterback said: "We're going to conclude on that. I can't answer that question. This team is not emotionally soft, no. You gotta ask somebody else that question."

Yet, earlier, in discussing the fourth-quarter quandary, Vick said this: "When certain things happen in a game, we kind of go into a panic. You can't do that; you've got to keep pushing forward, stay confident, and keep a [winning] attitude. When we do that, we're one of the best teams in this league, I think. When we don't, you see what happens, we don't win football games."

So, yes to "panic," no to "soft." Got it.

"Just finishing," said the NFL's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, when asked the root of the problem. "Couple games, we kind of finished well, this [last] game, we didn't. I think it's just lack of focus. We have a team where we want 'em at, and [have to] be able to finish the game out the right way, which we didn't do . . . And having an attitude. You have to have an attitude to finish games, finish runs, block this, block that, make the plays, make the catches . . . Like a determination type of factor. Have that 'it' thing, just go out and do it, to finish 'em off."

Asked whether attitude and determination were like mental or emotional toughness, McCoy said: "Yeah, I think it's more mental. Knowing the type situation in the game. Having them where we had [the Bears] late in the game, we could of kind of put them away. Especially having a chance to win the game [on the last drive], that's definitely attitude. Just going down and executing. The defense held 'em enough, they gave us an opportunity to take the game over. I feel like this is one of our strongest points, is our offense. To go out, be counted on to put points up, to create a long drive and win the game. I think that's a big thing that's absent."

Wideout Jason Avant said: "We've been in good positions, the plays have been there, we haven't executed near the end of the game. There's no one to point [at], there's no one to blame but us . . . We acknowledge that fact and we're trying to go out in practice today and get it corrected.

"When you look at film and things like that, it's not a lack of effort . . . It's just we're not making the plays at the right times. From this point on . . . we have to have a playoff mentality, when it comes to going out to every game like [if we lose], we're going to get knocked out."

Could the missing element be leadership?

"We have tremendous leadership on this team," Vick said. "That's not our problem . . . Going out and getting it done on the football field is our problem."

One outside source with some solid knowledge of the personalities involved is Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb, traded from the Eagles in August after four seasons, the last two spent dressing next to Vick.

"I speak with Mike and some other guys on the team here and there. I think everybody knows they have the talent," Kolb told a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters yesterday. "Everybody knows when they put it together, it can be like the Cowboys game. It's just a matter of doing it every time and being disciplined. Without getting into it too much, I think they all realize they have the chance to be something special, and it's still a long season from here, and they can get it turned around. I just hope they don't do it this week."

Scraping through

Like you, Eagles kicker Alex Henery was surprised his career-long 47-yard field goal fluttered just over the goal post Monday night.

"I was just low on the ball. When I hit it, the ball's skinnier at the bottom, so it just kind of tails in," Henery said. "I thought it had no chance, the direction it was going. Then once it came down, I couldn't see, because of the line. When I saw the guys raise their hands, I was kinda surprised."

Birdseed

Defensive end Brandon Graham said his first game action of 2011 "felt good." In the aftermath, Graham, coming back off a knee injury from late last season, said he was "pretty much sore; nothing too serious. My shape was not a factor, like I'd thought. That was my biggest thing . . . but with the rotation [defensive-line coach Jim] Washburn has, I don't see it being a problem" . . . DE Juqua Parker was a limited practice participant yesterday, with that persistent high ankle sprain. Safety Nate Allen (concussion) and left guard Evan Mathis (turf toe) did not practice . . . Speaking of turf toe, Arizona QB Kevin Kolb said he did not practice yesterday, but said he is "a lot better the last 2 days" . . . Kolb said the Cards will stay at a Delaware hotel this weekend because Philadelphia is booked by a dentists convention . . . Michael Vick on the Penn State controversy: "I'm very saddened to hear about what's been going on. I'm a big fan of Joe Paterno, and I hope everything works out. I think the reputation that [Penn State] has has been hard-earned, so I just hope everything works out."


For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LesBowen.

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