PHILADELPHIA -- They stayed in the stadium as rain drizzled down, the few remaining Philadelphia Eagles fans teetering between supportive and masochistic. There was no reason for them to stay, and there were many reasons for them to leave.
But this crew instead crowded around the tunnel that leads players and coaches to the locker room on Sunday night, hell-bent on having its feelings known in the form of a sound that's as familiar to these parts as cheesesteaks and liberty.
We're accustomed to hearing boos in Philadelphia, but something about this moment felt different. Maybe it was the looming storm and the strange weather. Or an eerie stadium that had emptied long before, when it became evident that the Eagles would lose to the Atlanta Falcons (which they did, by a score of 30-17).
Or maybe this moment -- this sad and dismal scene -- felt different because it seemed to conclusively portend that drastic change of some kind is imminent.
What type of change, you ask?
Well, at this point, we're down to just one of three real possibilities: The quarterback. The coach. Or the defensive coordi... oh, never mind on that one. It looks like we're down to two.
After this loss, even QB Michael Vick sounded as if he'd been defeated by more than the Falcons -- symbolized not by the score, but by his apparent willingness to accept and "support" head coach Andy Reid's decision, should he choose to bench Vick. And that might be the worst part about this situation, even worse than the chorus of boos.
"Obviously, he's thinking about making a change at the quarterback position," Vick said. "The thing I do know is that I'm giving us every opportunity to win. I'm trying my hardest. Some things don't go right when I want them to. Some things do. So if that's the decision that (Reid) wants to make, then I support it."
Maybe Vick was just attempting to toe the company line by relentlessly backing his coach's orders, but two disturbing notions stemmed from that postgame comment. First, if Vick believes he's giving his team every opportunity to win, what does that say about his opinion of his teammates? Second, if Vick is willing to support Reid's decision to bench him, what does that say about his convictions about his future in Philadelphia?
If the Eagles are searching for some evidence of lingering hope, they certainly didn't find it in their quarterback, even though he really didn't play all that poorly Sunday. And it doesn't seem that they'll find it in Reid, whose desperate decision to fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo didn't exactly pay immediate dividends.
Not even Reid's post-bye magic -- he had been 13-0 after bye weeks heading into this matchup -- could save him this time. Not when his defense looked more confused than ever and his offense looked generally incapable of keeping up with the elite unit Atlanta put on the same field Sunday.
After going three weeks without a sack, the Eagles added just one against the Falcons, despite expectations that their defense would be more unpredictable and willing to make more in-game adjustments. The group had been surrendering 20.8 points per game heading into Sunday's showdown -- and proceeded to give up 30 to Atlanta.
"Well, listen, I take full responsibility for that performance right there," Reid said. "So however you write it or perceive it, that's my responsibility to make sure they play better than that. We didn't play well enough."
In other words, we have an environment in Philadelphia that left Eagles fans with a simple decision on Sunday: Either leave the stadium, or crowd the tunnel to boo like mad.
It's tough to say what will happen or when it will happen; whether the latest loss will spark a change at the quarterback spot, or, perhaps more drastically, a change with the long-tenured head coach. These are all decisions that must be made by men who will evaluate this situation on their own.
But based on the howling of a fan base that had no earthly business staying until the end of this game, a growing stench continues to resonate above Lincoln Financial Field. And it can be defined by the sound of the boos that filled the night Sunday.
Yes, in some form, in some way, change is coming.
It's only a matter of what. It's only a matter of when.