PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles lost to a team they should have beaten. This is a recording.
Dial 1-900-TEED-OFF. If mad, press 1. If really mad, press 2.
It has been their hallmark throughout Buddy Ryan's tempestuous tenure, this infuriating ability to make a road kill of an opponent suddenly look like filet mignon.
To play down to the level of their competition.
To turn the should-be victory into the how-the-hell-did-this-happen loss.
They invented yet another ingenious way to self-destruct yesterday, and in the process made the Phoenix Cardinals, a certifiably bad team, look several grades better than they probably are.
But then that has been the Eagles' troubled history with the Cardinals, no matter whether they are getting their mail in Chicago or St. Louis or Phoenix.
Historically, the Eagles struggle against the Cardinals and always limp away with a glum body count. Yesterday, they lost three regulars. And, true to form, they lost to a team that had been rated 14 points their inferior.
How? Up 14-0 quickly and with their boot firmly on the Cardinals' throat, the Eagles abruptly stopped, stepped off and backed away.
Just like that.
The Eagles all but reached down and picked the Cardinals up and dusted them off and pointed them toward the end zone, which, up to then, they couldn't have found with a road map.
For no apparent reason other than supreme overconfidence, the Eagles quit playing. To a man, they didn't have a reason why.
"Damn!" said Jerome Brown. "Damn! No excuses. I don't have any answers. Damn! I don't know why, but teams like this always give us trouble. Damn, damn, double-damn!"
Said Ron Solt: "Teams like this -- we should win. We let them off the hook. Worse, we let them dominate us. Even worse, we had no killer instinct."
"You keep giving a team like that life," sighed Buddy Ryan, "and you know damn well what's going to happen."
It happened with precisely 30 seconds remaining in the game, with the desperate green-and-white loyalists on their feet, screaming vile voodoo and wishing dark hexes upon Al Del Greco, the Cardinals' place-kicker.
Impervious, Del Greco fluttered his third field goal of the sun-splashed day through the uprights and through the Eagles' gizzard, and the home team reeled away in 23-21 defeat, 0-2 in a season that may be over before it has ever begun.