Browns look to upset desperate Eagles

Published 11:19 pm Saturday, December 13, 2008

The scruffy faces staring back at the Philadelphia Eagles in the mirror are a constant reminder of the team’s desperate state.

Every game is must win for Philadelphia (7-5-1) right now, starting with Monday night’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns (4-9). The Eagles have no room for error. So, if the standings don’t make it clear, players have adopted a new look to keep them focused on their playoff push.

Just like hockey players during the NHL’s marathon playoffs, the Eagles are tossing aside their razors and growing beards. It started with safety Brian Dawkins and the secondary and expanded to other parts of the locker room.

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‘‘It’s just a little something we decided to do as a team,’’ Dawkins said. ‘‘It’s not just the defense, it’s whoever wanted to join in and do it. For me, the reason that I decided to do it is it’s just a reminder every time that I get up and every time that I look in the mirror and every time this thing itches you. It reminds me what’s going on right now and it makes me think about the task at hand and that’s the run we’re trying to make.’’

After playing the lowly Cincinnati Bengals to a tie and a lopsided loss at Baltimore, the Eagles seemed headed for their third last-place finish in four years. But they responded with convincing wins over Arizona and the New York Giants to get back in the playoff picture.

Philadelphia is a half-game behind Dallas and Atlanta, both 8-5, for the final wild-card spot. The Eagles will make the playoffs if they win the last three games and the Falcons lose once.

By squandering opportunities early in the season, the Eagles have put themselves in a tough spot. They can’t look ahead to division games with Washington and Dallas and suffer a letdown against the Browns, who are 14-point underdogs.

‘‘We’ve got an opportunity here to have an extra day to study them and we can see the talent that they have on their football team,’’ coach Andy Reid said.