PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles and coach Buddy Ryan have repeated a Super Bowl mantra for four seasons, trying to convince themselves and their opponents they were the bullies from the East, come to plunder a championship.
But, after yesterday's game at Veterans Stadium, the mantra sounded hollow. The Eagles lost to the Indianapolis Colts, 24-23, as quarterback Jack Trudeau completed a two-minute drill with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Bill Brooks and Dean Biasucci kicked the extra point with no time remaining. Boos from what remained of the crowd of 62,067 showered the field, as the Colts danced for joy while the Eagles walked slowly to the locker room.
"This has to be the lowest of the lowest," Eagles safety Andre Waters said. "Anyone can make excuses, but there are no excuses. We're in a hole so deep. It's funny. We have the same record as Dallas."
The Eagles dropped to 1-3, and commandeered a spot alongside the Cowboys and Phoenix Cardinals at the bottom of the National Football Conference East. Suddenly, instead of talking tough and talking Super Bowl, the Eagles are talking scared.
"It's ridiculous we lose the way we do," quarterback Randall Cunningham said.
Indianapolis (1-3) rose up with an effort that may have provided a temporary reprieve for its besieged head coach, Ron Meyer.
"This is the biggest victory of my career," Meyer said. "You could say it was a big win for the Meyer family, too."
But, in Philadelphia, the Ryan firing watch began. After opening the season with home losses to the New York Giants and Phoenix Cardinals, the Eagles appeared to veer back on course with a victory over the Los Angeles Rams. But this was a horrid defeat, the kind that often produces long-term contamination.
"I've been in the business a long time, and this is the worst loss," Ryan said.
The Eagles showed time of possession without big-play backup means little in the National Football League. Despite holding the ball 17:50 longer than the Colts, the Eagles offense produced only two touchdowns (Cunningham's passes of 35 yards to Keith Jackson and 21 yards to Fred Barnett) and three field goals by Roger Ruzek.
Philadelphia's defense also was sliced apart by big plays. Tailback Albert Bentley's 73-yard catch and run with a screen pass set up Trudeau's 5-yard, first-quarter touchdown pass to Jessie Hester. Hester returned the favor in the third quarter, grabbing a 36-yard Trudeau pass to precede Bentley's 26-yard scoring run.
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles came up puny. They put together a 16-play, 66-yard drive that ate up 7:44, but settled for a 31-yard field goal by Ruzek and a 23-14 lead at the two-minute warning.
The Eagles then performed a magic act, transforming Colts quarterback Trudeau into John Unitas. During the Colts' 82-yard drive in the final 1:56, Philadelphia used a meek defensive alignment, employing three down linemen, one linebacker and seven defensive backs. Trudeau, starting in place of injured No. 1 draft choice Jeff George (pulled stomach muscle), went wild, completing seven passes on a quick trip upfield.
"Our defense likes to be in a situation like this, where the game is on our shoulders," Waters said. "But they kept driving and driving, and we couldn't come up with the big plays."
Six of Trudeau's passes went to Brooks, and the last one brought down the Eagles. Tight end Pat Beach was the primary receiver on the final play, but he was swallowed up by a pile of defenders in the middle of the end zone. Brooks squirted free at a corner, and Trudeau found his man.
"There was some scary stuff at the end," Trudeau said. "That's a tough way to get a touchdown."
And it's an even tougher way to absorb a defeat. Are the Eagles going to the Super Bowl? Get serious.