Eagles are desperate and dangerous

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Eagles are desperate and dangerous

FOXBORO - There's no getting around the fix the Philadelphia Eagles have put themselves in. The paper champions of August are 4-6. Another loss and this season that began under the Dream Team banner will quite likely be trending toward nightmare.

On Wednesday, four days before the Eagles will take on the Patriots in Philly, Eagles head coach Andy Reid stiff-armed talk that asked about his team's desperation level.

"It seems like every week in the National Football League is a do-or-die game," said Reid. "Thats kind of how you approach it I think from a coaching standpoint.

But to be 4-6 after all the expectations?

"You know what? I dont get into all that. I just get into I think as coaches youre problems solvers," he explained. "You get in and you try to figure it out and make sure you put the guys in the right position and coach your guys up thats kind of what you do. Theres no time to look back or look forward you get so entrenched in the moment and making sure you get that right."

In this particular moment, the Eagles are coming off a huge NFC East win over the Giants. But all that did was, essentially, extend their season. The Cowboys lead the division at 6-4. The Giants, tied record-wise with the Cowboys, aren't even a Wild Card team currently. The 7-3 Lions and Bears hold those. So the Eagles have to win their division. Too much ground to make up in the Wild Card race.

They are desperate. And, as Sunday's win showed, they are dangerous even with Michael Vick nursing broken ribs and the newly reconditioned Vince Young directing the offense.

In some ways, it's appropriate Young now has to try and cover the checks his mouth wrote when he somewhat innocently used the term "Dream Team" to describe the collection of talent Philly amassed.

Reid wanted no part of the long-since stale Dream Team talk on Wednesday.

"I dont worry about all that. I dont worry about that stuff," he said. "Ask somebody else on these questions. Im a very simple guy, so I dont get into all the whole philosophies and things and all that stuff."

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, signed as a big-ticket free agent after finally leaving the Raiders, gave his take on the nickname.

"I didnt think anything of it when I first heard it," he explained. "I just thought it was Vince talking about how he felt and how he was excited and how it was like a dream come true, something like that. You learn very quickly how things can get spun. I mean I think we all got a lesson in that after that statement he made. Then it turned into us just being cocky and us being over-confident and saying way too much, etc, etc which we were never doing. No one ever took it like that when he said it. It was just something like that hes always looked forward too or hes happy to be in this situation."

No Eagle is happy to be in the situation they now find themselves. They must know kick the lid off the coffin and climb out.

"We knew from the start that things dont happen overnight," said Asomugha. "We knew that expectations were going to be great and it was going to be assumed that we would be undefeated, but we knew there was going to be some work to be done. Everybody was ne, everybody was learning, and coaches included. We just needed to be real with ourselves and I think it becomes a bigger issue when you think about what the expectations have been and rightfully so.

"We try to keep it in perspective between what those expectations have been and what the reality of the situation is," Asomugha added. "When you bring a team together you have to build them. The team has to build and there has to be chemistry and they have to gel before things start to happen. You think you are going to play like what people would call an all-star team or something like that and you should just win every game, but not everybody got to be on the same page.

"You see teams over the years win many games and even Super Bowls without the most talented players, but those type of teams have been in the same types of systems for four or five years. Theres been a growth period that has finally clicked for them. So, thats pretty much what weve been hoping for and experiencing that moment for when it just clicks, which has happened in several games this year. It just has to happen for the entire game and we got to make it happen every game."

This week, it's the Patriots the Eagles have to step over if they want to keep their season alive. And then they have to do it again and again and again. They have to make it happen, as Asomugha said, every game.

Belichick: You give up individuality when you play football

Belichick: You give up individuality when you play football

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick’s Friday press conference began with him swatting back inevitable questions about Rob Gronkowski. It’s the dance and Belichick doesn’t love it but on this day he at least went through the steps.

PATRIOTS-RAMS PREGAME

By the end, though, Belichick warmed to the conversation with the media in general and was letting some Friday perspective loose.

The portion I found most interesting came at the very end when Belichick was discussing Logan Ryan’s adjustment to a different role in the secondary and reduced playing time.

Did Belichick talk to Ryan? Often, the coach will say that his conversations are private. Not this time. And the reply gave insight into the message the Patriots impart over and over and over to their players. The same one the coach has given since 2000. The boat won’t move unless everyone grabs an oar and rows in unison with the rest.

“Yeah, sure,” Belichick began. “We always talk about that. It’s not an easy conversation because everybody wants to play more but at the same time everybody wants to have a good team and everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to do their role. We all want it to be bigger but sometimes we have to understand the bigger team picture, which I think our players do. Again, that’s not always. But you give that up when you play football. You give up some of your individuality. You give up some of your individual preferences or individual control you have to play the great team sport of football.

“If you want to go out there and run track, or swim, or throw the shotput, or play tennis or whatever it is; great,” Belichick added. “There’s nothing wrong with that and you control everything. You control how you practice. You control when you practice. You control how hard you hit the ball or how soft you hit it or whatever. Play golf. Then you’re your own team but when you buy into a team sport, not just defensively but offensively and in the kicking game, practice for the show-team, practice for the other side of the ball, so forth and so on, then you make a commitment to the team. And that’s different than playing individual sports.”

Unanimous buy-in is very hard to attain. Players’ livelihoods depend on how they show out on Sundays. For every Elandon Roberts -- a rookie who’s pinching himself at the opportunity to be a starting linebacker on the Patriots after being lightly-regarded out of Houston -- there’s a Jamie Collins who was on the cusp of a payday bonanza but was playing under a modest contract and in a system that wasn’t allowing him to just run around and make sensational plays.

“All players, that’s something that all players have to deal with but that’s part of playing football,” said Belichick. “But to your point of Logan [Ryan], he does a great job of that. But yeah, do all players want to play more? Do all players want more opportunities? Of course they do. But we have to try to set up a system and a structure that we feel like gives our team the best chance to win and I think everybody respects that.”

Lengel hopes to help Patriots function as 'well-oiled machine' when asked

Lengel hopes to help Patriots function as 'well-oiled machine' when asked

FOXBORO -- Want a sense of what it's like for a player to come into the Patriots locker room in the middle of the season and drop everything in order to familiarize himself with a new place and a new system?

PATRIOTS-RAMS PREGAME

Ask Matt Lengel about his socks.

"It just got to the point where I was living out of my suitcase in my hotel room," Lengel said on Thursday. "I was like, just forget it . . . I'd wear the same thing in the facility. I just didn't care. 

"I didn't want to think about having style. I didn't have time to do laundry. I was wearing the same pair of socks for a week, and then I'd find another pair and kind of let the other ones dry out a little bit. That's just what you gotta do. Things happen."

The second-year tight end was signed by the Patriots off of the Bengals practice squad back in Week 9 as a depth piece. But now with Rob Gronkowski on season-ending injured reserve after undergoing back surgery on Friday, and with Martellus Bennett dealing with an ankle issue that has limited him since Week 5, Lengel is a play away from becoming the lone available tight end on coach Bill Belichick's roster. 

"Matt's got a little bit of experience," Belichick said this week. "He was on the Bengals practice squad last year so he's picked things up, I'd say, ahead of a rookie type player. He has some experience there and he's got some skills. He's done a good job with what we've asked him to do. Works hard. He's been a dependable guy."

When Gronkowski was dealing with a chest injury that kept him out of the team's Week 11 win over the 49ers, Lengel was activated for the first time and saw the first six snaps of his professional career. In front of a handful of family members who flew in from different parts of the country he played six snaps, including one where he laid a strong block on first-round pick DeForest Buckner to help spring running back LeGarrette Blount for a 20-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Lengel was inactive last weekend against the Jets, but will likely be back in uniform Sunday versus the Rams. He acknowledged this week that he felt as though he's progressed with his understanding of the offense with each passing week, and he indicated he would be ready to do whatever he's asked should the Patriots need him to take on a larger workload.

"Mentally, I feel a lot more comfortable," the 6-foot-7, 266-pounder said. "Even coming into the facility in the morning, going through meetings, sitting in a meeting, being told what to do, everything is just processing a lot smoother than it did. 

"When I first got here, I'd get [to the facility], try to learn the offense, then I have to pay rent back at my place in Cincinnati, but then I gotta find a place to live here. Then I'd come home after all that and I'd study. Now that's all calmed down. I go home, and I'm not living out of a suitcase right now which is nice. I'm not wearing the same pair of socks for two weeks just because I don't feel like dealing with it in the morning. It's pretty nice. It's a lot easier."

Remembering those first few weeks with the Patriots, Lengel referred back to something he'd heard about Mark Zuckerberg that helped him get by. Eliminating small choices -- like what to wear -- that popped up over the course of Lengel's day might've helped him save energy to pour into his new gig.

"He wears the same thing every day," Lengel said of Facebook's founder. "He says it's because he doesn't want to spend the energy. I don't really care about trying to impress anyone with fashion here. My fiancee's back in Cincinnati. I'm just wearing the same pair of sweatpants, same pair of jeans for two weeks in a row until I can move into my new place and find a washer and dryer. 

"That's the thing for me that helped. It really did take a little bit of anxiety out, a little bit of stress out. You're just trying to cut all the unnecessary out of your life for at least a few weeks."

Soon after he arrived to Foxboro, Lengel described himself to reporters as more of a blocking tight end given his experience. A member of the Northeastern football program before it disbanded, Lengel eventually transferred to Eastern Kentucky and finished his college career with 33 catches for 361 yards.

The Patriots will likely use a variety of players to piece together the responsibilities normally taken on by tight ends in Gronkowski's absence should Bennett need a breather. Fullback James Develin may see an increased role since he meets with the tight ends on a daily basis and understands their duties. Offensive tackle Cameron Fleming could continue to be used as a blocking tight end in certain situations in order to fortify the edges, as he's done in the past.

But there have been times -- like on Wednesday of this week -- when Lengel has been a one-man position group, getting one-on-one tutorials from tight ends coach Brian Daboll. Lengel said he has tried to make the most of those moments, as he has every meeting, in order to allow the Patriots offense to function without a hitch on the occasions he is called upon to be in the huddle.

"The way I look at it is this place is a well-oiled machine," Lengel said. "I'm here coming in to be a spare part. I don't want to do anything to hinder the performance of this team. I only want to try to make it better. Asking any questions, if anything is unclear, coach Daboll is awesome about letting me ask. He encourages me to ask questions because we're all just working for one purpose, and that's the team. That's a huge theme around here, and that's really impressed me about being here. Guys are all in for the team."

It's been a little more than a month since Lengel got the call letting him know it was time to get his suitcase together and head back to the area where his college career began. Coming off of a trip to London with the Bengals for their game against the Redskins, Lengel was watching NBC's "The Voice" with his fiancee when he was informed that the Patriots wanted to sign him to their active roster. 

"I was like, 'What? Huh?' In the NFL you just never know who's watching," Lengel said. "That's what's crazy about it. You always have to prepare like your name is going to come up. There's just always that voice in the back of your head saying, 'Hey, your time might be coming soon.' "

With Gronkowski out and Bennett playing hurt, Lengel's time in New England could come sooner than anyone anticipated.