Things came so easily for the Eagles Sunday, and that 32-6 win over the Falcons sure was a promising start.
Promising for the Nick Sirianni offense, for the Jonathan Gannon defense, for Jalen Hurts in his first start in a new scheme and really for everyone associated with this team.
There’s nothing like the feeling in Philadelphia the week after a big Eagles win. The whole city is on Cloud Nine, fans pull out their favorite old jerseys from the back of the closet and even stuff like a I-95 backup from Columbus Boulevard up to Cottman, an endless SEPTA delay or a block full of broken parking kiosks can’t ruin the city’s vibe.
It felt euphoric in Philly this week as the realization sunk in that, hey, the Eagles might just be onto something here.
Everybody was feeling it. Not only did the Eagles open the season with a blowout road win, they really validated the Sirianni hire, and that means fans aren’t just thrilled with a win but are actually allowing themselves to be optimistic about the future.
I hate to be that guy, but ... it won’t always be like this.
There will be ugly losses. There will be blown leads. There will be turnovers and dropped passes and disappointing performances at the worst time. Not being negative, that’s just the nature of football.
But those moments will be just as important as that 32-6 win in Atlanta because we won’t really, truly find out what this 2021 Eagles team is all about until it faces adversity.
And we see how it responds.
I think a lot about the 2016 Eagles, Doug Pederson’s first team.
They started out 3-0, with all three wins coming by at least 15 points. They were the first Eagles team since 1980 to do that.
So they were 3-0, coming off a bye and headed to Detroit to face the 1-3 Lions.
The vibe in Philly was euphoric then, too. Coming on the heels of the Chip Kelly disaster, it was like fans had gotten their beloved franchise back.
Then things began happening. Bad things.
Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games. Josh Huff was arrested and cut after police found a gun in his car during a traffic stop on the Walt Whitman Bridge. Nigel Bradham was arrested at Miami Airport when TSA found a loaded gun in his backpack. And on the field, the Eagles lost to the Lions, starting a stretch of 2 wins in 11 games.
Through it all, the one constant was Pederson. He was a rookie head coach, but he did a masterful job keeping that team together.
The Eagles won two games between Sept. 26 and Dec. 21. Two games.
But there was never any finger pointing, there was never any name calling. That team went through a lot, and on a blustery early December day in Cincinnati, things reached a low point when a 3-7-1 Bengals team took a 29-0 lead on the Eagles before settling for a 32-14 win.
What happened over the last few weeks of 2016 really set the tone for what the 2017 Eagles became.
On the heels of that hideous loss at Paul Brown Stadium, the Eagles played two very close and competitive losses and then won their last two games over two playoff-bound teams.
No matter how bad things got, they never stopped fighting.
Adversity? That team went through hell. But instead of letting it tear them apart they made sure it bonded them and made them stronger than ever. Through all the drama and all the losing, the Eagles became a team that believed in its coach, that believed in each other.
And 399 days after the season finally sputtered to a close, the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
The story of the 2016 and 2017 Eagles is certainly an extreme one. To go from those depths to those unimaginable heights in 13 months won’t happen too often.
But there’s no question you learn more about a team when things aren’t going well.
Right now, the Eagles are on top of the world. There will be a point, maybe soon, maybe later in the year, where everything they’ve done up until then will be tested.
Maybe an injury. Maybe a last-second loss. Maybe a losing streak. Who knows?
But that’s when we’ll really find out what this team is all about. Not trying to be a downer, that’s just reality. How they react will speak volumes.
My hunch is that Sirianni and this team’s veteran leaders will navigate the Eagles through whatever they face, like Pederson did five years ago, and the Eagles will come out the other side stronger than ever.
But we don’t know. Right now, Sirianni looks like a genius, the roster looks strong, the future looks bright.
We won’t know for sure if they got it right until things begin to go wrong.