By Simon Evans
(Reuters) - The giddy pre-season talk of a 'dream team' seems long ago for the Philadelphia Eagles. After four consecutive defeats, head coach Andy Reid is facing criticism from all quarters with pundits lambasting his team and fans calling for his head.
All that Reid could summon up in response on Monday after a turnover ridden 31-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills was to turn to the well-used coaching mantras of hard-work and perseverance.
"It's my football team. I've got to get it right," Reid told reporters. "We'll do this thing as a football team...everybody is being accountable.
"We've just to work through it and get it right. That's the best thing about football, it is a team sport."
The problem for Reid is the team simply isn't functioning on the field. The 'wide nine' defensive front has been roundly criticized for being ineffective, against the run in particular.
Bills running back Fred Jackson ran 26 times for 111 yards and a touchdown and also caught six passes for 85 yards on Sunday.
"Who didn't know we were going to run the ball?" Bills wideout Stevie Johnson told reporters after the game. "They've been exposed in the run game the entire season."
Reid said improved tackling in the second half indicated that was the key to getting things right, and he argued it takes time to implement a new strategy.
"It worked the second half very effectively," he said. "Anything new, you have to work with and work out the wrinkles and get it right. The players have to learn it, the coaches have to learn it."
Reid has been head coach of the Eagles since 1999 and took then to the Super Bowl in 2004 where they lost the New England Patriots. They have made the playoffs nine times including each of the past three seasons.
The 'dream team' phrase was uttered by back-up quarterback Vince Young in late July and has come back to haunt the team.
The key element to the 'dream' was to be quarterback Michael Vick who was rewarded for a great comeback season last year with a reported $100 million, six-year deal.
On Sunday Vick threw four interceptions, two of which the Bills turned into touchdowns. Those turnovers took his tally for the season to 10, seven interceptions and three lost fumbles in five games.
So far this season it has been the 'old Vick' that fans have seen. The player who looks brilliant one minute and then undoes it all with a rash mistake the next. The new version was supposed to have ironed out the mistakes.
But Vick is not alone in making crucial errors. Untimely penalties and offsides have cost the Eagles plenty.
"Sloppy teams do dumb things like that all the time, and the Eagles are right now both sloppy and dumb," wrote Sports Illustrated's Peter King on Monday.
The local media have already gone a step further with Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan asking, "Is it time to bid Reid bye-bye?"
"Every major decision Reid has made in the last three years has blown up in his ever-redder face," Sheridan wrote. "The seasons of consistent success, of double digit wins and deep playoff runs, feel like ancient history. They feel like the work of another coach."
Reid said he had no problem with opinions.
"It's America, everybody can do that," he said, adding the players were listening to him and were ready to work hard to put right the problems.
The next three games will go a long way in determining whether this season really is the end of the road for Reid with the Eagles. Philadelphia travels to the Washington Redskins on Sunday and after a bye week the Eagles are at home to the Dallas Cowboys and then host the Chicago Bears.
Those are tough games but the kind that a playoff-bound team should be winning. More defeats and the dream will surely become a nightmare for Reid.
(Writing by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Gene Cherry)