The Eagles could have easily rolled over and died in Los Angeles on Sunday night.
Their chances of winning the NFC East went out the window a week earlier in disappointing fashion with a 29-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in overtime, an overtime where Dallas just marched the ball right down the defense’s throat to win the game with a touchdown with less than two minutes left. The Eagles never saw the ball in the extra session.
It loss ended their first two-game winning streak of the season and dropped them below .500 at 6-7.
Easy to roll over, right?
Head coach Doug Pederson didn’t let it happen, and if Sunday night showed anything, it is that he this team is still all-ears to what he’s preaching.
“I challenged the leaders of the football team last week to stay engaged, to motivate the young players, to come to work every day excited and get ready for another long road trip,” said Pederson. “As the week progressed last week, each day got just a little bit better and a little bit better and a little bit better and by Friday, I felt that the guys’ energy was back from the week before.”
Pederson said Saturday’s walkthrough before playing the Rams was one of the best of the season, calling it “more of a jog-through, but very spirited and kind of upbeat.”
Instead of lying down and dying on the season, the Eagles got on an airplane, flying all the way across the country, and played one of their more well-rounded games of the season, with the offense scoring points, the defense forcing turnovers and giving the offense good field position, and the special teams forcing a critical turnover on a late-in-the-game punt.
"Doug just has a really positive outlook and I think he relates really well to players," said offensive coordinator Mike Groh. "I think they relate well to him. His message is on point each and every week, so I think it's an effective message.
"He keeps it pretty simple, boils it down for them and we've got a lot of respect for him, so they play hard for him."
It added up to a 30-23 win over an 11-win Rams team.
“We had the two wins, the Giants, the Redskins and then a tough Cowboys loss in overtime”,” said Pederson. “Sometimes as a coach, you're concerned with another long West Coast road trip, and will there be any kind of a letdown, especially after - our defense was on the field for almost 100 plays the week before. But we as a team, we really stay committed to our process and to what our task at hand is.”
Plenty of credit was given to the return of quarterback Nick Foles. Some praise even heaped on rookie defensive back Avonte Maddox, who returned after missing three straight games with ankle and knee issues and a player who defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said the Eagles probably don't win Sunday without him, but there wasn’t a peep about Pederson.
It goes with the territory, really.
“I think part of my job is to make sure that the team still understands the goals at hand and what's right there in front of us,” said the coach. “I think it's important that we maintain that vision and have that vision. We're still playing for something. And then of course, the players have to embrace that and go play. So, I think it's a big part of the messaging to the team each week and they responded well.”
During Monday’s news conference Pederson reflected on what part of his job entails, and part of that job description was culled from his 12 years as a player in the NFL.
“Sometimes I'm not the smartest guy, and probably not the best communicator all the time, but there are moments where maybe something I've read or something I've seen or something like that, that sort of sparks a little fire inside of me that says, ‘That's something I need to share with the team,’” he said.
“I think, too, I know what these guys are battling through each week. It's tough to win games in this league and I've been there. I've been on teams that have done that. I think to show a little bit of care and concern and love for the players goes a long way, and they will respond as they did (Sunday) night.”