Just how bad were the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles? If a 4-12 record isn’t bad enough, they were actually just four plays away from going win-less the entire season.
In looking back at their four victories in 2012, we can point to a single play in each of those games where the Eagles got a “lucky break” at a crucial time that enabled them to win.
It’s true that all teams in the NFL benefit from these kinds of lucky breaks at one time or another. A timely penalty against your opponent, a dropped pass or a missed field goal are all part of the game.
But, when you are a bad team playing bad football for the majority of the year, this “luck” stands out because it was the difference between being just bad or historically bad.
The difference between 4-12 and 0-16 kind of luck…
It started in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. Michael Vick led the Eagles on a late 4th quarter game-winning 91-yard touchdown drive. Sounds like a huge positive, right?
However, after watching Vick throw four interceptions on the day, it was the fifth one that didn’t happen that enabled the dramatic comeback. On the play before the winning four-yard TD pass to Clay Harbor with under 90 seconds left in the game, a Cleveland defender dropped an easy interception in the end zone.
Vick threw a pass right to Browns defender L.J. Fort and it simply clanked off his hands. As you can see in the picture above, he had his hands on it for what could or should have been an easy catch.
If he just catches that ball, the Eagles lose that game.
In Week 2 against Baltimore, Vick again led a 4th quarter touchdown drive to take a late one-point lead in the game. However, the lucky break was on the previous drive by the Ravens.
With somewhere around five to six minutes left in the game, Jacoby Jones caught a 25-yard touchdown pass that was nullified due to a very questionable offensive pass interference call by the replacement refs.
At the time, the Ravens led 20-17 and should have gone-up 27-17 after that play. Baltimore ultimately had to settle for just a field goal to make it a six point game instead of a 10 point game.
That set the stage for the next drive by Vick. If that TD had stood, the Eagles would have needed two scores, with under five minutes to play, just to tie and chances are that would not have happened.
In Week 4 against New York, Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes missed a potential game-winning field goal not once, but twice. Andy Reid did the moronic ice-the-kicker timeout just before they snapped the ball, but the kick played out and Tynes missed it.
But, since it didn’t count, Tynes had a second shot and simply missed it again. Sure, it was a 54-yarder and a difficult kick, but not impossible.
Plus, if you remember, two plays before the field goal attempts, Giants receiver Ramses Barden was flagged for offensive pass interference that pushed them back 10 yards and turned what would have been a 44 yard FG attempt into a 54-yarder.
Therefore, the Eagles actually benefited from two lucky breaks there.
All of this happened in the first four weeks of the season and it allowed the Eagles to have a 3-1 record. Obviously, their luck ran out after that as they went on an eight-game losing streak.
Their fourth and final win of the season came in Week 14 against Tampa Bay. This is the game that inspired faith in Nick Foles as the possible future starter for the Eagles.
Down by five points, Foles led a dramatic fourth quarter drive that ended with a game-winning TD pass to Jeremy Maclin as time expired. The drive itself was a good one and included two critical fourth-down conversions.
However, the lucky break in this game happened on the previous drive by the Bucs.
Tampa was up 21-16 and took over on offense with 3:55 left in the game. Doug Martin was having a pretty good game and with the first carry on this drive, ran it for 11 yards. It was one of those “here we go” moments for Philly fans because we knew the defense needed a big stop.
Martin then carried for three yards on first down and three yards on second down which should have set up a third and four situation. However, there was a killer offensive holding call on Tampa on the second-down play that forced the Bucs back 10 yards and into a second and 17 situation.
Martin was averaging 4.6 yards per carry that day and even on that second and 17 play, he ran it again for nine yards. What’s to stop us from thinking that the Bucs would not have converted that third and four if the holding call didn’t happen?
Had they converted, they would have been able to at least take more time off the clock before the Eagles got the ball back and thus not allowed enough time for Foles and the offense to do what they did.
As it was, the offense needed every last second to pull it out.
I’m not trying to take away from the excitement of Foles’ game-winning drive, but it required a little luck to help set the stage for that. Offensive holding can be called on more plays than not, the Eagles were just fortunate that the refs decided to call one on a routine run-play where holding is less obvious than pass plays.
Yes, the Eagles were bad last year and it could have been even worse if not for these particular plays in each of their wins. It’s a good thing, though, because I would not have wanted them to join the 0-fer club along with the ’76 Bucs and ’08 Lions.
However, if this had happened one year earlier and it meant the different between getting Andrew Luck or RG3, I may have been resenting lady luck just a little bit.