During the Eagles' nine-game run of success, it was almost becoming too easy. The last four games, they won by an average of 26.8 points. They encountered little resistance from the opposition. The competition providing nothing more than a practice game.
But this past Sunday, they stepped onto the field of battle against a foe that could match them blow for blow. The Seattle Seahawks limped into this battle minus key personnel on both sides of the ball, but the most important element they still had was a winning pedigree. Double-digit wins the past five seasons, five straight years in the playoffs and two Super Bowl appearances. They know when the season turns to the month of December is when you turn up the intensity.
It's not like the Seahawks stymied the Birds because the Eagles racked up 425 yards of offense. They moved the ball well enough, they just couldn't finish what they started. The 24 points they gave up were the most allowed since Week 7 against Washington. An Eagles team that was doing most of the punching for nine games got punched back.
"The biggest thing for us is each guy has to answer to themselves: Did they prepare as well as they needed to? If the answer is yes, then you've got to live with the results, but it's definitely some mistakes we made we have to clean up," safety Malcolm Jenkins told me. "At the end of the day, we've lived and died with our preparations, and so if you feel good about how you prepared and what you've done leading up to this, then you can't get upset about the results sometimes that happens. It's been going our way all year but it doesn't change who we are, it doesn't change what we were doing. We've got to dive back into our preparation."
It's only one game, one loss. No need to panic. The Eagles are still very much in control of their own destiny.
So they've moved on down the coast to face a Los Angeles Rams team that leads the NFC West with a 9-3 record, a Rams team one game behind the Eagles for conference playoff positioning. The Rams' offense is ranked fourth overall, averaging 372.7 yards, and its tied with the Eagles for the most points per game (30.1).
Defensively, the Rams are tied for seventh overall in points allowed (18.5). Also, the Eagles are well aware that the Rams have already beaten the likes of Jacksonville and New Orleans.
The Eagles can't do anything about the outcome in Seattle, but they can redeem themselves in Southern California. Wide receiver Torrey Smith said he thinks "it's better to lose now than later, obviously when it's one and done. Every game matters the most."
Right tackle Lane Johnson added that "usually in losses you really learn a whole lot. We'll go look at the film, learn from it, grow, and I think it will be a huge motivator for us."