The Philadelphia Eagles are a long way removed from their glory days at the moment. Eagles fans like myself remember the last real glory days from 2004, when Philadelphia finally broke through to reach the Super Bowl. Some of us wondered if the 2012 Birds could be like the ones in 2004 - but the team that really resembles those NFC champions is visiting Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 28.
If anyone resembles the 2004 Eagles, it is the 2012 Atlanta Falcons. These birds have waited four years to finally win an NFC title, just as Philadelphia did in 2004 - and Atlanta is on its way to an equally hot start as well.
Eight years ago, the Eagles were trying to erase the memory of three straight NFC title game losses. But they came out with a vengeance in starting out 7-0, and never looked back as they cruised right up until the Super Bowl. In fact, they capped it off by beating the Falcons to finally win an NFC title.
Today, it's the Falcons who are trying to recover from three straight ugly playoff defeats - only all before the NFC title game. But like Philadelphia in 2004, Atlanta has gotten off to a blazing start and is almost 7-0 itself. Matt Ryan is having a statement season, like Donovan McNabb did all those years ago, and is gearing up for his own postseason redemption.
This year's Falcons don't have a Terrell Owens to push them over the top, but that is quite a good thing in the long run. And while Atlanta isn't cruising along most every week like Philadelphia did eight years ago, a 6-0 start is still a 6-0 start. In fact it is quite encouraging for the Falcons, given how difficult the NFC is now compared to 2004.
The Eagles technically dominated the conference for years until it actually won it - and it helped that there was no real competition. The 2004 Falcons put up a fight under Michael Vick, but it was incredibly clear that Philadelphia was the No. 1 team from start to finish. It was finally the Eagles' time and no one was equipped to stop them at all - at least not in the NFC.
Unfortunately for this season's Falcons, they have the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears right behind them. The Eagles would prefer to be part of that elite pack as well, but they may be stuck in the second tier for some time if they don't upset Atlanta.
The 2004 Eagles did suffer their first defeat when they visited the Pittsburgh Steelers and got blown out. Maybe the modern-day Falcons will suffer their first loss in a blowout defeat at Pennsylvania as well. However, these Falcons would prefer to be like those Eagles in far different and better ways.
This year's Philadelphia team still dreams of doing that too, but it has a lot more to worry about right now than Atlanta beating it to the punch.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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