When Eagles head coach Andy Reid stood in front of his shell-shocked football team late Sunday afternoon, he told them to never forget the way it felt to allow 27 consecutive fourth-quarter points. To never forget the way it felt to give away a game that was right there in their grasp. To never forget the hurt.
This one hurt as much as any regular-season loss in recent memory because the Eagles just handed a game to the Titans, a game they were on the brink of turning into a blowout.
Instead of finding their way to 5-2, the Eagles now go into their bye week just a game over .500 at 4-3 with a brutal portion of the season coming up.
Reid knows how fragile a team’s confidence can be, especially a team like this with a roster stocked with rookies. The Eagles were sky-high coming into Nashville, riding four wins in their last five games. They were sky-high midway through the third quarter, when they were a couple yards from taking a 16-point lead on one of the AFC’s best teams. Then the wheels fell off and it all fell apart in a historic collapse that saw a near 16-point lead turn into an 18-point deficit in a blink. Which brings up the question, “Now what?”
“There are some great things that we can learn from this game as a young football team,” Reid said Monday in the wake up Sunday’s 37-19 embarrassment at LP Field in Nashville.
“It’s easy to see that one or two plays against a good football team can swing the momentum of a game, and you have to be able to overcome that. We can learn from that, and we will. For three quarters, we had just a phenomenal game plan by the coaches, and the players executed like crazy and they were aggressive and fighting their tail off, and then that’s where that learning experience comes in. You have to be able to finish that off. … And again, I take full responsibility for that. That’s a reflection, that last quarter and a half, a reflection of me as a head football coach.”
If the Eagles had hung on and won Sunday? If they had converted that first-and-goal on the three-yard-line into seven points and a 23-7 lead? The Titans were done. All those Kenny Britt yards and touchdowns wouldn’t have mattered.
Had the Eagles won? Nobody in the NFL would have had more wins. The Eagles could have been 5-1 with Michael Vick ready to return.
Instead, Reid found himself meeting with his team Monday afternoon trying hammering home a lesson that should be obvious.
You can’t squander opportunities like this one. You just can’t.
“When you have an opportunity here, you have to take advantage of it,” Reid said. “We had a great opportunity right there at the [three-yard line] to put an end to that game – for the most part – and we didn’t do that.
“It’s just you need to make that one play. You make that one play and you change that thing around, and we didn’t do that, and I think that’s the bottom line there.”
Safety Quintin Mikell, who had an interception and forced a fumble early in the game, was at the NovaCare Complex Monday still reeling from Sunday’s devastation. Mikell, one of the Eagles’ few veteran leaders, said all three of the Eagles’ losses could have been wins. Should have been wins.
If Vick got that first down on fourth-and-one against the Packers? If Jason Avant had hung onto Kevin Kolb’s last-second desperation heave against the Redskins? If Kolb had been able to execute a handoff to LeSean McCoy Sunday? Things would be a lot different.
“The games that we lost, really, we beat ourselves,” Mikell said. “Even the Packers game, we had an opportunity to finish that game out, but defensively giving stuff up. The Redskins game, giving things up. That’s the most frustrating thing. … When you’re giving games away. It’s tough in this league to win and when you’re giving games away like that, it’s tough. So I don’t find any solace in the fact that we’re a young team. We’re a talented team and we should be winning these games.”
Are they a legitimate playoff contender? Are they just another .500 team in a peculiar NFC? Are they in for a rough second half? Who knows? Nobody knows what the Eagles are right now. Nobody knows what anybody is anymore in the NFL. It’s a crazy league right now, and the Eagles are 4-3, but are still right there in the hunt. This can be a good football team. Now they have a bye week and will come back to face the Indianapolis Colts. That will be a litmus test as the Colts are one of the better teams in the NFL but chaos and mayhem seem to rule the NFC.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org