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Eagles closer to last place than repeating as champions

November 14, 2018
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Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor, bottom left, is tackled by Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, top left, outside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, center, and free safety Xavier Woods during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles are closer to being the eighth defending Super Bowl champion to follow up with a losing record than becoming the ninth team to repeat.

A season that began with promise has been a major disappointment. The offense is inconsistent, the defense has wasted several leads in the second half, and a slew of injuries has left the team short-handed in key areas.

Still, the Eagles (4-5) are in the mix in a mediocre NFC East.

“There is a level of frustration, but listen, we’re very close,” coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday. “We’re so close in a lot of areas. You look at our output and production offensively, we’re very similar to where we were last year.

“The difference is creating turnovers on defense and then scoring in the red zone. That’s kind of what’s staring at us right in the face. We have to finish better, and we have to score more points.”

The Eagles have lost three straight games at home, including 27-20 to the Cowboys (4-5). They have four games remaining against division opponents, including two versus first-place Washington (6-3). Next up is a difficult game on the road against the New Orleans Saints (8-1). Philadelphia is a 9-point underdog.

“I never want to throw around the word desperate,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “We realize where we’re at. We know where the division is at. We don’t want to overthink anything. We have a tough matchup against a great team. We’re cognizant of it. We’ll go there and give our best effort.”

Pederson spoke to the team’s leadership committee before practice to get a sense of morale and came away optimistic.

“They’re all disappointed obviously in the performance the other day,” he said. “They’re eager to get back on the practice field and they’re excited for this week and this opportunity. I think they understand what’s in front of them.

“They know that the sense of urgency in practice, it’s not a panic or anything other than just a sense of urgency of understanding your job, doing your job, doing it collectively, and making sure that they just focus on one play at a time. I really do feel like they’re in a good place and they’re positive about the future.”

The Eagles overcame several key injuries last season on their way to a 13-3 record and the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles, linebacker Jordan Hicks, special-teams captain Chris Maragos and Wentz each sustained season-ending injuries.

Already, running back Jay Ajayi, safety Rodney McLeod and cornerback Ronald Darby are out for the rest of this season. Sproles has only played one game, wide receivers Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins are on injured reserve, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan hasn’t returned yet from offseason surgery, and Maragos also hasn’t come back.

“Last couple weeks it’s been really urgent around here,” Wentz said. “Urgency is always there. Every week is crucial and important.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the last champion to have a losing record the following season when they were 7-9 in 2003.

NOTES: CB Jalen Mills (foot), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), TE Joshua Perkins (knee), and Sproles (hamstring) didn’t practice Wednesday. T Lane Johnson (knee) and CB Sidney Jones (hamstring) were limited.

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