How long will Eagles soar before landing?

September 21, 1993|By Rich Hofmann | Rich Hofmann,Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- "There's a long way to go, so let's not jump on our bandwagon like you did last season," said Rich Kotite, the undefeated coach.

Words to live by.

"We still have a lot of work to do -- that's obvious," said Eric Allen, the owner of two game-turning interceptions in the last two games.

The truth, and nothing but.

"Defensively, we've got to have some foundation," said Seth Joyner, still the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive soul. "Defensively, got to be more solid. Offensively, we've got to become more consistent; defensively, too. We're just playing in spurts. We've got to be more consistent if we want to go to the Super Bowl. That should be everybody's goal, and we've got to be more consistent in every phase of the game."

There can be no argument here.

But there can be no argument, either, with 3-0. That's the Eagles' record, in case you were fixated Sunday upon the antics of Mitch Williams instead of Calvin.

The record doesn't tell you how good the Eagles are, because that bit of wisdom only can come later. The 3-0 start doesn't tell you how well they've played, either, because the fact is -- in a lot of areas -- the Eagles have been sporadic at best, still finding their way.

What this tells you -- the only thing this tells you -- is that the Eagles have had three opportunities, and they've cashed them all. They've been given three chances and they've grabbed them. They've had some things fall into their laps and they haven't dropped them.

That's all we know.

That's plenty of knowledge for now.

"Everybody's got to have a certain amount of luck on their side, no matter what team you are, no matter who you are," Joyner said. "Look at Dallas last year. They have 22 starters and none of them got hurt all season. That's a great amount of luck. You've got to have some things bounce your way, no matter who you are.

"And it seems like, when we most need it, we're getting some bounces," Joyner said.

As usual, he's right on target. As a card-carrying member of the 7-and-9 Club, I figured this team for a lot of 34-31 games, just like Sunday's exchange of haymakers with the Redskins at Veterans Stadium. I figured Randall Cunningham for a big year, for big numbers as he played from behind. In fact, I figured the Eagles would have to come from behind a lot.

I just didn't figure they'd win them all.

The prediction still stands. It will be hard for them not to win more than seven games now, but it has to stand; you can't go changing these things in midseason. Besides, it isn't fair to deny the Eagles the pleasure of sawing the limb out from under me and the rest of the card-carriers. Anyway, a lot of the rationale remains intact: The schedule still is murder at the end, and this team still is sitting on a mountain of mended bones and artificial joints, injuries waiting to happen.

As it is, half the team is hurt now. The first bye week couldn't come quicker. Atop the NFC East for the next two weeks sit the Giants and the Eagles, both undefeated, both with questions. When it comes to the Giants, you wonder about the easy schedule so far. When it comes to the Eagles, you wonder about the means to their end -- forced into holes twice, forced over the top by a heroic quarterback in the final seconds.

You wonder. But, as Kotite said, "You can't question that kind of stuff. You go with it. That's what confidence is. That's what belief in your teammates is. It reflects stamina, to some degree. It reflects poise . . . It certainly reflects being able to operate very well under pressure."

That includes the people on the sideline. Coaching has been a big part of this thing. New offensive coordinator Zeke Bratkowski, despite a lifetime in the game, was a bit of an unknown quantity around here as a play-caller. Now it's pretty clear that he and Cunningham have meshed both quickly and well. Of course, you could have said that about Cunningham and Kotite after four games last year, too.

And as for the defense, well, sometimes you can take that Bud Carson fellow for granted. When you have Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Byron Evans, Joyner and Allen on your team, you tend to think of the stars more and the schemes less. Well, with the personnel changes this year, plus the injuries -- especially the injuries -- Carson has blitzed from every which way and rotated personnel like crazy.

You wonder how long this trickery can cover the problems. The more the Eagles get on film this year, the more the weaknesses of injured players and others will be highlighted. Sunday might just have been one of those games, one of those games in which both teams lob explosives at each other all day and the last team standing wins. As Kotite said, "It was one of those games. Hold onto your rear end, because that's what kind of game it was."

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