Brandon Graham’s turkey didn’t taste so good last Thanksgiving.
Last November, Graham was looking forward to enjoying a few holiday dinners with his family after the Eagles’ game against Lions in his hometown of Detroit, but the butt-kicking the Eagles received left a sour taste in his mouth.
The 45-14 loss last Thanksgiving was easily the worst of the 2015 season and it happened in front of a national television audience. Just five days earlier, the Eagles lost by 28 points at home to the Bucs. It was the first time in Eagles history the team had given up 45-plus points in back-to-back games and it happened within the span of five days.
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles and their NFL rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Tight end Zach Ertz, who didn’t play in the game because of a concussion, needed just one word to describe the mood of the team after the loss: “Distraught.”
“I think everyone was kind of very disappointed in our performance,” Ertz said. “Obviously, getting blown out on Thanksgiving was not what we expected. So yeah, it was tough.”
Just 318 days later, the Eagles (3-0) will return to the scene of the crime, when they face the Lions (1-3) at Ford Field at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“No revenge factor, man,” Graham said. “We just want to go out there, get a 'W' and go 4-0. That’s the whole goal.”
A lot has changed for the Eagles since that disastrous Thanksgiving game in Detroit. The next week, with a few extra days to prepare, they actually went into New England and beat the Patriots. But the success didn’t last long. The Eagles fired Chip Kelly, finished the season with a 7-9 record, restored Howie Roseman to power and plugged in a new coaching staff led by Doug Pederson.
A lot has changed, but the players from that game still remember the embarrassment of getting blown out in Detroit.
“Obviously guys remember that one vividly,” Ertz said. “It was a tough game for us, being a short week on Thanksgiving and going out there and kind of laying an egg. It was very difficult to watch, me personally not being able to play. But guys vividly remember that game and it's definitely on the back of our minds.”
The guys on the winning side remember it too.
Backup middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, whom the Eagles signed just before the 2016 season began, played in that game against the Eagles. He recalled his defense getting after Mark Sanchez early and often.
“We haven’t spoke about it. But obviously I played in that game and we did give them a pretty good butt-whooping,” Tulloch said. “But we haven’t spoke about it this year. We know that last year is last year. Obviously, we’re off to a good start and we want to continue that.”
Aside from just losing the game in embarrassing fashion, the Eagles also lost starting cornerback Nolan Carroll for the year. Carroll suffered a broken fibula early in the second quarter and was replaced by Eric Rowe, who didn’t come close to guarding Calvin Johnson. Carroll eventually needed surgery, from which he made a full recovery.
Carroll was in the locker room after the crushing loss, but couldn’t remember how bad the mood really was.
“I couldn’t tell you. I was there but I wasn’t there,” he said. “My mind was already zoned out. I was already thinking, ‘I need to get back home and figure out what’s going on, the next steps and surgery and all that.’ I wasn’t really too concerned about the loss. My mind was in a different place.”
Until it was brought up to him Monday, Carroll claimed it hadn’t even crossed his mind that he was going back to where he suffered a tough injury about 10 months ago.
Without that loss, it’s possible the Eagles’ 2015 season might have ended much differently. Instead of being 4-7, they would have been 5-6 with a win in Detroit and would have avoided a three-game skid.
It was a long time ago, but the Eagles desperately don’t want to relive the past this weekend.
“Last year was last year,” Fletcher Cox said. “I think this team has a whole new attitude and obviously a whole new coaching staff and we’re obviously approaching the game a whole lot differently.”