- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Man, the Philadelphia Eagles like to tell you it's going to get better. All of last year and the whole offseason, this was their sole, defining topic of conversation. We heard about how it took time for a new group to jell, how Michael Vick hadn't really had a whole offseason to prepare as a starter, how he was rededicating himself, how the defense was going to be better in its second year. We heard talk of a dynasty.
They're still at it, bless their little green hearts. At 3-4, losers of three in a row, mired in controversy and drowning in season-crippling tension and negativity, the Eagles can't stop chirping. Vick, who narrowly escaped a benching, was texting half of the folks in his contacts list this week about the playoff run on which he's about to take the Eagles. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was offering up Knute Rockne stuff Friday in his weekly briefing.
"It's a certain attitude that we are the baddest men on the field and that mentality that we're going to be aggressive, aggressive, aggressive and it's just that simple," Mornhinweg said.
Of course, it's not, or else the Eagles would be a 7-0 defending Super Bowl champion right now. It's not as simple as telling everybody you can do it. The Eagles excel at that. Where they fall short is in actually doing it. And if their offense can't get it done Monday Night against the Saints in New Orleans, then there's no reason for anyone to believe their talk ever again.
To say these Saints are a bad defensive team is to insult bad defensive teams. This team has allowed at least 400 yards in every one of its games so far this season and more yards through its first seven games than any team in the history of the league. Opponents are averaging a must-be-a-typo 474.7 yards per game against the Saints -- 304.6 through the air and 170.1 on the ground -- for an average of 30.9 points. Those numbers can't even see atrocious in their rear-view mirror anymore. The 49ers and the Bears could play with 10 men on defense and not give up numbers like that.
Monday offers the Eagles the best chance they're ever going to have to prove to anyone who's still listening that they really can play NFL-caliber offense. This was supposed to be one of the fastest, most dynamic offenses in the league behind Vick and hyper-speedy dudes like LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. No one was supposed to be able to keep up with them. And yet, behind a ravaged offensive line that's currently playing without three starters, Philadelphia cannot score. The Eagles' points-per-game average of 17.1 is tied for fourth-worst in the league. Only Kansas City, Arizona and Jacksonville score less. Those teams don't have players like Vick, McCoy, Jackson and Maclin.
So this is it. Their last, best chance to prove it. The Eagles haven't reached 400 yards of total offense in a game since Week 1 in Cleveland, but Monday they get to face a defense that spots you that many. The Eagles have committed 17 turnovers this year, but the Saints have forced only nine. If the Eagles can't roll up yards, protect the ball and score points in buckets against this team, you are officially permitted to write them off for good. Admit that you were wrong the whole time, and that this team -- in spite of the names of the backs of the jerseys and everything that's always coming out of their mouths -- simply wasn't that good to begin with.
If ever there were a chance for an underachieving team to get healthy, to purge itself of a season and a half's worth of negativity and disappointment, that chance greets the Eagles on Monday night in the Superdome. What they do with that chance will tell us pretty much everything we need to know about them.
12hEric D. Williams
11hEric D. Williams