A month ago the talk was rampant throughout Philadelphia that the Eagles were headed to the Super Bowl. A month ago Michael Vick was doing the impossible, confounding defenses and performing miraculous comebacks. A month ago a shaky, unstable defense seemed to be able to find a way to make the big play at the right time. A month ago the “weak” NFC was wide open and the Eagles had their eye on the #2 seed and a bye week to await their next victim.
That was a month ago. Somehow it feels like that was more than a month ago, but a lot can happen in a month. On any given Sunday any team can win. In any given season, a thousand unexpected occurrences can alter a franchise’s course. In just one month, a team that began the season with low expectations went from Super Bowl Fever to Wildcard Whiplash.
The team that began the season celebrating 50 years since it last won a championship can tack on another year—losing to the very team the Eagles beat in the 1960 NFL championship game – and the very team that defeated them in Week One this season. There was no title magic floating in the air Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field. There was no magic of any kind. Just disappointment.
The Green Bay Packers ended the Eagles season on a 21-16 loss in the NFC playoffs on Sunday, enabling Green Bay to advance and play the Atlanta Falcons while the (7-9) Seattle Seahawks will travel to Chicago to play the Bears.
That 21-16 score does not tell the story of this game. The Eagles never led, missed two FG under 40 yards, missed a crucial 2-point conversion by inches but still managed to fiught back from a 14-0 hole and 21-10 deficit. Green Bay rushed for 138 yards and showed great balance with 32 rushing plays and 27 passing (ANDY REID, GO BACK AND READ THAT LAST SENTENCE… BALANCE). Those 138 yards rushing came from a Packers team that averaged nearly 100 yards rushing a game.
Many of the same problems that plagued the Eagles during the regular season resurfaced. The senseless penalties. Inability to stop Green Bay in the red zone. The Packers have one of the league’s best red zone offenses, scoring TD on 32 of 52 possessions inside the opponent’s 20-yard line over the regular season. The Eagles’ red zone defense is the worst in the NFL, allowing 33 TD in 43 possessions this season. Inability to stop Green Bay’s pass rush. Too much reliance on the pass. Constantly playing catch-up. When some of this surprises anyone, just let me know and I’ll stop explaining the obvious.
Green Bay had a 21-10 lead with less than six minutes to play. Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers was 5-for-5 in the red zone and Green Bay was 3-for-3 on red zone TD. Offensively, Packers’ rookie tailback James Starks ripped through the Eagles for a Green Bay post-season rookie rushing record 123 yards on 23 carries, including a 27-yard run and a 5.3-yard average per carry.
The Packers completely took out Eagles’ deep threat DeSean Jackson (missed much of the second quarter after an ankle injury), who didn’t catch his first pass until there was 8:40 left to play. Vick hit Jackson for a promising 19-yard reception. Jackson made a big catch later, for a 28-yard play on the Eagles’ last drive but it was too little too late. The Packers were just teeing off on Vick and the aerial attack because the Eagles couldn’t establish a ground game. Even playing from behind, Philadelphia did little more than perform a cursory inside handoff from the shotgun formation as if to signal to fans and Packers alike “look at us, we’re running the ball, see?” This was about as effective as Wile E. Coyote’s efforts to nab the Road Runner over the years.
With 4:08 to play and the clock winding down, it seemed like the Eagles would be in a position to pull out yet another marvel. Eagles’ coach Andy Reid opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the one. Vick’s one-yard sneak pulled the Eagles to within 21-16, but Vick’s completion to Brent Celek on the two-point conversion was nullified when Celek’s right heel stepped over the end line (by inches), causing flags to fly for an illegal touch penalty. The repeat of the two-point conversion at the seven was much worse. Vick had no chance. He was slammed to the ground and got up limping, grabbing his left ankle.
The Eagles had one more chance, thanks to rookie linebacker Keenan Clayton, who could have been a hero. Clayton came up with a big sack at the two-minute warning at the Packers’ 37, giving the Eagles a last shot. Two minutes on the clock, offense has the ball, 40 yards to paydirt. If you listened closely, you could almost hear the legendary voices of John Facenda or Harry Kalas narrating the NFL Films package (…on the frozen tundra of Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles garnered new life…with ball in hand and fans behind them, the warriors steeled themselves for the final drive… it would lead to sweet, delectable victory or utterly desperate disappointment … as it had been on St. Crispin’s Day for Henry V and his army -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cGWtOmErpM - their fate and very future within their grasp).
The Eagles reached the Green Bay 27. Vick had protection, rolled left, stepped right and looked toward the end zone. Riley Cooper (Philadelphia’s tallest and most physical WR) was headed for the left corner of the end zone. Green Bay’s Tramon Williams had great position on the pass and Cooper had no real estate. Both went for the jump ball and it was Williams who intercepted Vick, finishing the Eagles’ hopes. It was the first time Reid lost a NFC wildcard playoff game at home—and it marked the third-straight home game the Eagles lost (finishing the season with losses to Minnesota and Dallas). Fans left the stadium in stunned silence but not en masse because some already departed in the third quarter.
“We had four verticals and I just took a shot at the end zone, and I felt like I got greedy and I didn’t throw the kind of ball that I wanted to throw,” said Vick, who completed 20 of 36 for 292 yards and a TD.”Spiking the ball to reset was an option, but I wanted to keep attacking. I tried to do too much and I got greedy. It’s hindsight and something that I have to learn from.” Vick tried to fall on his sword and blame himself but this was a team effort, right down to coaching, gameplan and execution.
“This one hurt more than any of the other playoff losses I had. It hurts more because I expected so much more out of myself. I was able to do so much with offense and it’s disappointing that we could have done more with this offense than we did. It was a great season and the ultimate goal was to win the Super Bowl. We didn’t do that. We had a great season and that’s not enough,” said Vick postgame. The media pressed Vick to comment on his contract and status for 2011 but he wisely declined to respond.
“They gave us different looks and we didn’t adjust, and they kept exposing us, big play after big play,” Eagles’ linebacker Ernie Sims said. “We couldn’t get off the field on third down and we didn’t give our offense much of a chance. We knew about Starks and we knew he would expose us. I’m angry.”
Rodgers, on the other hand, finished completing 18 of 27 for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Green Bay adjusted their gameplan to attack their opponent’s weakness. The Eagles this season allowed 31 TD passes, the most in team history. The Packers’ defense puts a lot of heat on the QB. The Eagles patchwork offensive line allowed 50 sacks, the most in the Andy Reid era.
The game-winning series came on an 11-play, 80-yard drive in the third quarter, when Rodgers converted two third downs and resulted in Rodgers’ third TD pass of the game, a 16-yard score to Brandon Jackson, giving Green Bay a 21-10 lead.
Eagles’ All-Pro kicker David Akers didn’t exactly help, either, missing a pair of field goals, from 41 and 34 yards. The latter of these came with 13:05 left to play. These proved to be the difference in the final score, but the loss cannot be completely heaped on Akers shoulders – or leg as the case may be. “We had to do a better job on third down, that one down in particular hurt us,” Reid said. “Our kicking game had a lot to be desired there. That hurt us. We can all count and those points would have helped.”
Better luck next year Eagles. Andy Reid will be back because he has a contract through 2012. Lots of uncertainly regarding who else will come back as well as whether or not there will be a work stoppage as a result of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Will DeSean Jackson hold out for a new contract? Will Michael Vick get a franchise tag preventing him from hitting the free agent market? Will there even be a free agent market in deference to the CBA fallout? Will there be a 2011 season? Will the Eagles EVER find themselves an effective run/pass balance while Big Red is at the helm? These discussions must be saved for the offseason but they will be debated. For now, the Eagles will no longer fly on the road to “vick-tory” they will merely clean out their lockers and head home to ponder their 2010 season.
Buck Rogers serial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I61CZ7Uq67o
William Shakespeare, 1599
- WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
- WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
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