Later than expected, Eagles think they're ready to make a run

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In the spirit of celebrating a 17-10 win over the Giants on Sunday night, a jubilant chest bump turned into a bear hug as Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson met his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, on his way to the locker room.

Is this what the dream looks like?

A few minutes later, as reporters streamed in to talk to the happy players, running back LeSean McCoy shouted with a smile so all could hear that he knows "everyone picked us to lose."

Is this what the dream sounds like?

This was how the Eagles originally pictured their ride, the one they began concocting in August with the addition of multiple big-name players. They envisioned talent and depth and wins like this over NFC East rivals. So perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that after just their fourth win in 10 tries, the Eagles were back to talking big, back to believing they have a roster loaded with players capable of a deep playoff run.

"I think we're capable of big things," McCoy told me. "I think once we get -- if we get to the playoffs -- we'll be a lot to handle. Teams know we're a good team."

Let's pause for a moment to absorb everything you just heard, from the ecstatic scene in the locker room to the lofty expectations. By this point, you've probably formed one of two opinions about this team:

(1) The Eagles are as delusional now as they were in August when Vince Young originally and regrettably dubbed this "The Dream Team." Give them another week (two at the most), and they'll lose another game to sink their postseason hopes.

(2) Maybe the Eagles finally found the cohesiveness they expected to develop much sooner. Better late than never, though, since it's just in time for them to make a magical run and turn this dream into a reality.

No doubt, you can imagine which side the players fall on. They still believe. They still see this team growing, with enough time left to make this season right.

"We were tired of letting all of these opportunities pass," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. "After all of the bad things we've done this year, we feel like we still have a chance. And if we still have a chance right now, you have to take that as a blessing and take advantage of it."

Nothing wrong with players keeping their hopes alive, of course. And maybe they make a point: Maybe the Eagles' ability to overcome this adversity, in the wake of injuries to Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin, proves they've just found their groove.

They orchestrated a game-winning, 80-yard drive in 18 plays under the direction of backup quarterback Vince Young and backup wide receiver Riley Cooper. That's apparently enough for them to also believe they can win their next six.

"I didn't say it was going to be easy," McCoy said. "Even getting this win here, it was a lot of hard work. And a lot has to go our way to run the table. But this is a starting point."

That's the fantasy. Now, for a little bit of reality. Because the truth is, even Eagles fans will agree these playoff aspirations are far from reasonable, particularly given the lack of consistency we've seen to this point.

Can the Eagles make the playoffs? Sure. The NFC East is a jumbled mess, and the injury to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler might even make an NFC wild-card berth more achievable.

The bigger problem has nothing to do with the impressive drive that won the game for the Eagles on Sunday, or with the math that currently keeps Philadelphia alive. It's about what they've done to prove they've got what it takes. Two defining wins -- one against the Cowboys and one against the Giants -- simply don't provide enough evidence.

It's certainly possible this current mode of desperation will be good for the Eagles. If nothing else, it will keep them from falling flat against beatable opponents like the Cardinals, who beat the Eagles 21-17 last week.

"Nobody likes to talk about getting into a little desperation mode, really having your back against the wall -- but that's how it is," Jenkins said. "We feel like we still have an opportunity. But heck, we've got to approach it like we're in the playoffs right now."

For the Eagles, Sunday might have been the place where the dream came to die; where a season that started with massive and immediate expectations surrendered itself to a sobering reality.

Instead, for a team clinging to the belief that chemistry has finally been found, Sunday's win turned a funeral into a euphoric celebration.

It's hard to imagine Philadelphia winning its next six games, given the flaws that remain. But the players aren't counting themselves out. Not after they found a way to stay alive on Sunday.

"We might need a little help, but if we just win out and take care of our business, we'll be fine," McCoy said. "It won't be easy."

Hey, a guy can dream.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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