Eagles

After another close win, Eagles 'turning the corner' in tight games

CARSON, Calif. — Let's be honest. If it was last year? They would have lost to the Giants, and they would have lost to the Chargers, and we'd all be sitting here wondering why they were 1-3 instead of 3-1.

Something has changed in this Eagles locker room, and in the span of eight days, this football team has won more close games than it did all last year.

"Last year, we just could never find a way to win tight ballgames, and obviously this year, we're starting to learn that a little bit, and I think we're turning the corner," Carson Wentz said.

"It's a big part of our character and our makeup, and we're just finding ways to win, so that's a good sign of things to come."

The 2016 Eagles? They were 1-6 in games decided by seven or fewer points.

In the past eight days? Some last-minute craziness led to a three-point win over the Giants, and on Sunday, in a soccer stadium on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills, they escaped Philip Rivers and Co. with a wild 26-24 win at the StubHub Center (see breakdown).

Last time the Eagles won in consecutive weeks by three or fewer points? Early in 2014. Sunday's win was the Eagles' first by two or fewer points in four years.

It's still early, but something feels different. The Eagles seem to be learning how to win (see Roob's observations).

"Absolutely," Chris Maragos said in the tiny L.A. Galaxy locker room. "That's something we didn't have last year, just that ability to win close games. This year, we've been doing that one extra thing, making that one extra play, doing that one thing at the end of the game to put you over the top.

"That's big for us, and especially because there are a lot of young guys making those plays. It shows everybody believes in what we're doing. When things do go wrong, nobody's hanging their head. We just put our head down and go back to work.

"To make those steps from last year? To win these close games, especially this one on the road, West Coast? It's just big for us, and we just have to keep racking them up."

The Eagles are 3-1, and they were also 3-1 last year and we all know how that turned out, so you don't want to get too carried away here.

There is still a ton for this team to get better at. They're allowing way too many big plays (see report card). They've been running out of gas defensively in the fourth quarter. They really haven't gotten the outside receivers going. 

But there's something to be said for winning football games while you learn, and right now, nobody in the NFC has a better record than the Eagles, and only Big Red and his Chiefs — who face the Redskins Monday night — have a better record than the Eagles.

"It's a sign of maturity, growing up a little bit," Jason Kelce said. "The reality is in this league, the talent level is so close that most games are going to be close, decided by less than a touchdown. 

"Last year, we scored more points than our opponents (367-331), but we didn't make the playoffs because we lost so many close games. So it's great that we're winning them now. It's definitely an encouraging sign."

Big plays at big moments can wipe away a disappointing performance, an inconsistent game.

Like Wentz's 19-yard completion to Alshon Jeffery on the last play from scrimmage last week. It was Wentz's only completion over 14 yards against the Giants, but when he had to make a play, he made a play.

And on Sunday at StubHub Center, when the Eagles needed to run out the clock, they were able to run out the clock. 

"If we can continue to execute in those situations, those end-of-the-game situations, it gives us a great chance," Malcolm Jenkins said. "You can't expect to blow people out in this league, so it's those situations that make the difference, and the last couple weeks, those plays have gone our way."

The Eagles have already doubled last year's total of one road win.

"We had a lot of tough ones last year," Rodney McLeod said. "This year, I just think we've found our identity. Whether it's the offense making a play at the end to get us in field position or the defense making a play, we're getting the job done. 

"It's maturity. Just experience playing together. But when games are coming down to the last drive, the last plays, we're finding ways to win them that we weren't finding last year."

Last year, the Eagles lost by one to the Lions and Ravens, by five to the Giants, by six to the Cowboys and by five and seven to the Redskins.

Their only close win was 24-19 over the Giants at the Meadowlands.

“They’re learning," head coach Doug Pederson said. "They’re learning from last year. They’re learning from even this year. Even though we’re four games in, this team is really beginning to believe in themselves and believe in each other. 

"It’s never really one aspect. The offense is bailing out the defense, the defense is bailing out the offense, and special teams sometimes bails out everybody. That’s what they’re learning. They’re learning to play together and they’re coming together. That’s exciting and it’s fun to watch.”