By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — Is there a silver lining to getting routed, 52-20?
The majority would say no.
But I say it is so.
Call me a lone wolf howling at the moon, but there is a bright side from the drubbing the Eagles took at the hands of the Denver Broncos last Sunday.
Yes, it was their third loss in a row. Yes, it was the first of those three losses where they were not in the same hemisphere as their opponent.
Not going to say it’s a good thing, or a fun experience to endure, so don’t reserve me a padded cell someplace.
It’s just not as bad as some are making it out to be.
And this is neither spin control nor nit-picking to say that this player or that player made an isolated play here or there to be excited about.
I’m not an Eagles cheerleader.
My name isn’t Dave Spadaro.
It’s about the overall picture, and the quest to get to where new coach Chip Kelly and Co. project to be down the road. “Down the road” could mean by the end of the season of change and experimentation, or 2-3 seasons down the road.
It is said, wisely, that we learn more from our losses than our victories – even if we don’t realize it.
And there was much to be learned from Sunday’s loss, and not just that we should wave the white flag and purposefully finish 1-15.
After the Eagles stunned the Washington Redskins in the first half of their opener and held on for dear life in a 33-27 win, they fell by three points to San Diego, 33-30, and by 10, 26-16, to former coach Andy Reid and his Kansas City Chiefs.
And the largest public outcry, along with losing a media-created revenge game with Reid, was that the Eagles have gone more than a calendar year since last winning at home.
Within the team, from the front office on down, was an outlook that was equally off-point and unfocused.
There was the sense that the San Diego game was wrought with opportunities to win, and that Reid’s Chiefs merely took advantage of mistakes – namely a barrage of turnovers – to eke past the Birds in a game that was actually tighter than the final count. And in both contests, as in Denver, suddenly ineffective placekicker Alex Henery missed a field goal that could have changed momentum.
Surely, a lot of the Eagles’ players, wearing badges of invincibility while sipping their smoothies and trying to rejuvenate their bodies from playing three games in 11 days, were telling themselves – and each other – that they should and could and would be 3-0 after three games if they weren’t their own worst enemies.
In reality, they were looking in the mirror and running a con game on themselves.
If they lost those games, it was because the other team was better.
It could be argued that if the Redskins didn’t “beat themselves” in the first half of the opener, the Eagles could have lost that one.
San Diego’s offense did what it wanted whenever it wanted. That’s why the Eagles lost, plain and simple. It wasn’t Henery’s missed field goal at the end of the first half, or even them having to settle for a game-tying field goal before the Chargers came back and easily marched for the winning field goal.
The truth was that if San Diego needed a game-winning touchdown, instead of a field goal, they would have gotten that as well.
The Swiss cheese of a defense, which any wearing glasses that were not rose-colored knew was not going to stop anyone this season, was making Philip Rivers look like Peyton Manning as much as Peyton Manning looked like himself this past week.
Against Kansas City, the hard truth is only one of the myriad of turnovers was unforced – meaning the Chiefs’ defense made plays to take the ball, and the momentum, away from their revved-up hosts.
The Eagles went into Denver 1-2 because they were a 1-2 team, not a team that was a few plays shy of being unblemished.
News Flash: Every team that falls in the NFL can point to this play or that missed opportunity or a bad call by an official as turning points. It’s just that when the home team wins, we don’t look at it from that perspective.
So how does this all make what happened in Denver a good thing?
Because there are no more delusions of grandeur. The Eagles took on an upper echelon team and saw just how far away they are from being in the conversation.
They are not there.
Not even close.
As in life lessons, we learn in sports that hitting rock bottom is sometimes the best cure to a chronic illness that we pretend isn’t there.
There is no more pretending.
After an initial first four games that almost cry conspiracy, the schedule begins to moderate. The next two are on the road – at the New York Giants and at Tampa Bay – but both of those teams are winless and struggling even more than the Eagles in terms of getting it together.
Moreover, we are talking about Sunday games at 1 p.m. that are under the radar. No Monday night, like the Redskins. No Thursday night, on a few days of rest after a tough loss, like the Chiefs. No “game of the week” at 4:25 to be foils for Manning’s mastery.
The Eagles, with their issues no longer obscured by excuses, will be punching in their own weight class for the next few weeks.
And they have a puncher’s chance of getting themselves turned around, even with that porous defense that cannot be addressed until the offseason, because they are no longer looking in the mirror and seeing somebody they are not.
Even if they don’t get to that 9-7 or 8-8 that might win the NFC East, at least in theory, they can begin the process of improving and changing the culture and showing slow and steady improvement as the season progresses.
And when they look for a turning point, it will be easy to say it was a win they snatched from the jaws of victory or a game where the defense started to find some modicum of mediocrity and made a game-saving stand.
But the real starting point – the ground zero – will really be the game they don’t want to talk about, which is last Sunday’s pounding in Denver.
This column originally appeared at http://www.phillyphanatics.com