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 PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Worst to first to worst again.
Since falling three points short in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots three years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles have been on quite a roller-coaster.
The Eagles followed their first trip to the NFL title game in 24 years with a 6-10 season in 2005, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The organization blamed that disastrous year on too many injuries and too much turmoil surrounding Terrell Owens' bitter departure in midseason.
When quarterback Donovan McNabb went down with a knee injury after a 5-5 start last year, it appeared Philadelphia was headed for another last-place finish. But Jeff Garcia came in for the rescue and the Eagles ended up falling 56 yards short of playing in the NFC championship game for the fifth time in six years.
With McNabb returning and the defense revamped, expectations were high entering this season. Halfway through, the Eagles (3-5) are buried at the bottom in a tough NFC East.
They could end up staying there for a while. Rebuilding seems more likely than retooling at this point.
Coach Andy Reid is dealing with a difficult family situation while trying to steer the team. McNabb, still playing his way back after his knee injury, isn't guaranteed to return next year, as rookie Kevin Kolb waits his turn.
All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins could be nearing the end. Same for Jevon Kearse, the once-dominant defensive end who hasn't lived up to his big contract since joining the Eagles in 2004. Tackles William Thomas and Jon Runyan and linebacker Takeo Spikes are past their prime, too.
After a seven-year run that included six playoff appearances, five division championships, four trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl berth, the window of opportunity is closing fast on the Eagles.
To a man, none of the players is giving up. With eight games left, they really can't say otherwise. Still, it was clear the Eagles were far from contenders after losing at home to division-leading Dallas 38-17 Sunday night before a national TV audience.
``We're going to get back in it,'' defensive end Trent Cole said. ``We're going to keep playing out the rest of this year, win some games and hope for the best. We're going to play for pride and respect. If you have to play for pride and respect, that is what we're going to do.''
If the Eagles win at Washington (5-3) on Sunday and beat winless Miami the following game, they will be back in the playoff picture. But after the Dolphins, the schedule gets much tougher. The Eagles play at unbeaten New England on Nov. 25, and their final five games are against teams currently .500 or better.
``There's a lot of season left here and it's important that we have an urgency and continue to put maximum effort into each game, starting with the Redskins,'' Reid said. ``We need to just win back-to-back games. That's what you need to do, and get yourself on a roll. Things can change quickly in the NFL, but you've got to do it.''
The problem for the Eagles is that the Cowboys (7-1), New York Giants (6-2) and Redskins are better now than they were when Philly reigned in the East. Six other NFC teams are ahead of the Eagles, who are three games out of a playoff spot.
Until they are mathematically eliminated, the Eagles won't look toward next season.
``In this situation, it's not looking down the road,'' McNabb said. ``It's about focusing in on who's next and winning that game.''
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