Whatever happens over the next eight weeks, we'll look back at this game as the turning point in the season. We'll either remember the Monday night get-together with the Saints as the moment the Eagles, after two months of some pretty dreadful football, finally started putting it together. Or it'll be the the official beginning of the end of the Andy Reid era in Philly.
In that sense, the last half of the season should be exciting. Ideally, however, that excitement won't turn into anxiety, a familiar last-half feeling for Eagles fans in recent years.
Any hope of a turnaround starts with quarterback Michael Vick, of course, who said Thursday that in terms of his style of play, he's turning over a new (old) leaf. Translation: his days of conservative football are over, it's back to his free-wheelin' ways.
"I’m very comfortable running the offense," he said. "It’s just that when certain things are going on sometimes, I’m only human like everybody else. I think I was just trying to cater to certain things and trying to be what everybody wanted me to be. The most important thing is I have to let it go. I have to get my swag back. I have to go back to playing football the way I love to play it and not worry about what’s going to happen because that’s out of my control. What I can do is know what I can control is the way I can play and how aggressive I can be."
That could be somewhat disconcerting since Vick has eight interceptions and five lost fumbles through eight games. But poor decision making has been less of an issue in recent weeks; he's thrown just two picks against six touchdowns in his last five games (though he does have four turnovers in that span).
Plus, as a defensive player emphasized to Yahoo.com's Jason Cole recently, "Mike ain't the problem."
"Look, we all know he's struggling," the player told Cole. "That ain't some secret. But we're not helping him and that's the problem. The defense isn't helping him, the offensive line isn't helping him. None of us. We all gotta help each other and that's what we talked about."
And that, in conjunction with Vick's improved play were the reasons -- despite speculation to the contrary -- that Reid didn't bench the man the Eagles signed to a $100 million contract before the 2011 season in favor of a rookie. Plus, how would Reid have looked if he sacked his veteran quarterback two weeks after sacking defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
"This ain't time to be throwing people to the street," the player said. "We already had that with [Castillo's firing] and that didn't work. We gotta hang together."
So now what?
Well, the good news is that the Eagles face one of the league's worst defenses. The bad news: Drew Brees is still the Saints' quarterback. And as long as he's under center, New Orleans will have a chance to win. It's just that, unlike previous seasons, luck hasn't been on their side. At 2-5, it's clear they've been affected by the ramifications of the bounty scandal, namely losing coach Sean Payton for the season.
Still, Castillo's replacement, Todd Bowles, understands that New Orleans' offense goes as Brees goes. And stopping him will be tough.
"They’re an attack team," he said Friday. "They attack you with the running backs, the tight ends, and the wide receivers. You got to have a good overall game plan against them, and you have to hope that he is off a little bit. You have to hope they are a little bit worn down. (Brees) been tough for years now. It’s not just this game. He’s been tough against everybody. They are the number one pass offense in the league for a reason."
One of the reasons Brees has been so good for so long is that he's accurate to all areas of the field while using every available receiver. Which means that everybody has to be on their game, perhaps none more so than beleaguered cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Bowles was asked if Asomugha struggled against the Falcons' Julio Jones last week because of a lapse in technique.
"No, his technique is fine. It was fine against Baltimore. He got beat on a double-move by Jacoby [Jones] in that case right there. This game, I think he opened up the gate on Julio [Jones] and let him run. Julio can run."
The Saints don't have a Julio Jones-type player on their roster but they have plenty of competent pass-catchers who are quite comfortable in the offense.
Ultimately, though, this game will be decided by Vick and the offense. You have to score to win and that means an offensive line that protects, a coach who isn't afraid to use his high-priced running back, and a quarterback who can make good decisions with the ball. It could be the last, best time until owner Jeffrey Lurie decides to blow the whole thing up and start over. Reid knows this, Vick knows this.
Now it's about what happens next.