Birds keep sinking lower in a lost season

Posted: November 28, 2012

So this is what it's like for fans of Kansas City and Jacksonville and all the other no-hopers of the NFL. They gather at this time of the year out of habit more than anything, looking for some glimmer that the next season won't be as useless as the current one.

They wait until the schedule finally produces an opponent just as disorganized and dispirited as their own and maybe, just maybe, the outcome will go in their favor and they can drive home not feeling like losers once again. There's a difference between that and actually feeling like a winner, but you take what you can get.

At Lincoln Financial Field on Monday evening, leading up to the weekly American football festival, the parking lots were quiet, the streets were strangely calm, and the customers slogged toward the stadium gates like the remnants of a parade that lasted too long.

In previous years, these nights were electric, with the crackle of voltage starting in the stands and working its way down to the field. As the Eagles and the Carolina Panthers began play on Monday, there were great swaths of empty seats, and there wasn't enough juice in the place to power a flashlight.

And, of course, it ended the same way.

The Eagles couldn't win a game at home against a team that went in with an even worse record than theirs. If there is a bottom to the pit, they haven't found it yet. The streak is now seven straight losses, and they won't be better than a .500 team for the second consecutive year. The low bar that owner Jeffrey Lurie wanted the team to clear still proved too high for these Eagles.

"I'm going to keep battling and control what I can control," coach Andy Reid said.

Because there's really nothing else to say.

Monday's 30-22 loss to the Panthers was the same as the others in some ways. The Eagles gave the ball away, and turned touchdown opportunities into field goals, and couldn't tackle, and committed dumb penalties, and didn't do any of the little things that decide football games.

It would be easy to say the Eagles did these things because they are operating without some of their best players, but for two seasons that is how they have played regardless of which players have been on the field. At some point, it isn't about the players any longer, and Reid knows that as well as anyone.

"Sloppy football," he said. "I don't see them tanking or anything like that."

What he saw, and what the fans saw as they tried to pick out bright spots and imagine the team they hoped would emerge from this dreadful season, was very little to fuel that hope.

There was a reason to lean forward and study how Nick Foles handled his second start at quarterback. If he isn't the future, who is? On this night, Foles was better than he had been in his first start against Washington, but still didn't do much to inspire long-term confidence. Foles completed 16 of his 21 passes, which was good, but his longest completion was just 16 yards, which meant his play repertoire was chosen with a low degree of difficulty.

There was a reason to like rookie running back Bryce Brown. The seventh-round pick reeled off one touchdown run for 65 yards and another for 5 yards, and every time he touched the ball his first few steps into the hole were so quick he was always a threat to break another. In a season without a lot of fun, he was fun to watch.

Of course, he was also a threat to drop the ball, too. (Nothing is perfect this year.) Brown lost two fumbles, one of which set up a drive that led to a go-ahead field goal for Carolina.

If this were another season, and not one of ultimatums and endings, the coach would start coaching for next year. He could find his own bright spots amid the gloom and start planning for what will come.

But this is now. This is the season of doing what they do in those other tortured cities. There is only the silence of waiting for something to watch, waiting for something to like.

Just waiting for next season.


Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

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