First of all, I was extremely disappointed after the Eagles lost to the Saints in the Wildcard round on Saturday night. The game was there for the taking but they just couldn’t quite get it done.
Nick Foles and the offense couldn’t capitalize early while the defense was shutting down Drew Brees and the Saints. The defense couldn’t stop a weak Saints run game when it counted most and the special teams, along with a dumb penalty, helped kill them late.
And if Riley Cooper catches that pass, who knows what might have happened.
After the game, I was pissed off and miserable. I couldn’t easily transform into a “hey, our future is bright” frame of mind like some folks could. I didn’t want to hear any of that. What I saw was a game the Eagles could have won and they didn’t.
And that frustrates the living crap out of me. It’s disappointing. There are no moral victories in football. Just because the Eagles exceeded expectations this year doesn’t erase the fact they lost a game they could have won.
However, as always, I eventually calm down and start to look at the broader picture and try to place my feet back on the ground of rationality. Yes, the Eagles did, in fact, exceed expectations this season and made the playoffs.
That was like an “added bonus” to a much-needed season of change in this organization. Chip Kelly is changing the culture of this team and has been spraying perfume on the pile of horse manure Andy Reid left behind.
That’s why the Eagles weren’t supposed to make the playoffs this year. Most folks had them pegged as going 8-8 at best and almost everyone had them missing the playoffs. We were supposed to see improvement and signs that they were headed in the right direction.
A funny thing happened though. The NFC East was downright brutal and left a carrot dangling all season long for anyone who could muster the ability to grab it.
Then came quite a series of fortunate events for the Eagles…
They were sitting at 4-5 and about to start a rough patch on their schedule. Up next was a trip to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the potent Packer offense. However, Rodgers missed the game due to injury, then the Packers’ backup was injured early in the game. Green Bay ended up having to play their practice squad guy (Scott Tolzein).
If Rodgers played that game, it’s very possible if not likely the Eagles would have lost.
The following week, the Eagles had to withstand a comeback by RG3 and the Redskins in a game that came down to the end where, if not for a simply bad decision by Griffin (threw a bad interception in the end zone), Washington had a shot to tie that game and who knows what may have happened if they did.
The next week against Arizona, the Eagles were the beneficiary of one highly questionable penalty and one highly questionable non-penalty.
Flashback to December 1st: Eagles lead 24-21 and the offense took over with under five minutes to play. Three plays later, Foles threw a really bad looking interception that would have put Arizona in immediate field goal range.
However, a highly questionable defensive holding call on the play negated the interception and the Eagles retained possession. They would ultimately punt it back to the Cards who then took over with enough time and a final chance to at least tie the game.
On this drive came the big fourth-down non-pass interference call on Bradley Fletcher. Replays showed contact and referees had certainly called penalties on lesser contact. But, no call, pass was incomplete, Eagles take over on downs and win the game.
Then came the “snow bowl” against Detroit. At that time, Detroit was still very much alive in the playoff hunt and had just come off an impressive win over the Packers. Reggie Bush was injured during pre-game warm-ups and would miss the game.
The snow had an obvious impact on the game. The Eagles ended up taking over in the second half and they were the ones who rose to the occasion in the weather conditions. However, any team can beat any other team in conditions like that.
Games in that kind of snow become like backyard kids football. Everything becomes equalized and game plans go out the window. It was literally a free-for-all and the Eagles seized the moment.
After the Eagles fell for the “trap game” against Minnesota, they dominated the Bears in a Sunday Night game. As well as the Eagles played that game, this is the spin I put on it then, and still believe now…
All leading up to that game was the question of whether it would have any meaning because there were scenarios that could play out that would render the contest meaningless as far as making the playoffs were concerned.
The scenario that came to be was that, for the Eagles, the only thing that mattered was potential playoff seeding. For the Bears, they could have clinched the division with a win. Therefore, all the pressure shifted to Chicago.
The Eagles were loose and the Bears looked tight and things snowballed from there. Chip Kelly had said all along the starters were playing regardless and the Bears coach stated he would consider sitting the starters if the game meant nothing.
It’s possible that the Bears’ starters weren’t mentally prepared because all week they thought they might sit. When that changed at the last minute, they did not look ready to play and came out flat.
Chicago has a pretty damn good offense but they were really “off” that night.
Then came the big one…Tony Romo getting injured and missing the big showdown in Dallas. Yes, Kyle Orton played as well as you could expect, but still, Dallas lost their starting QB heading into a game for all the marbles.
So there you have it. The Eagles benefitted from a disaster of a division, timely injuries to opponents’ key players, key calls by the refs at crucial times, crazy weather, and a team that had a seriously off night.
Let’s not forget too that during the season, the Eagles were pretty fortunate on the injury front. Yes, they had a few injuries to the quarterbacks and Earl Wolff, but for the most part they were one of the healthier teams all season (and Vick shouldn’t count, he always gets injured).
You can’t tell me that things didn’t fall almost damn near perfect for the Eagles this year. Yes, the Eagles had to be good enough to capitalize on those situations, and they were.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to minimize what the Eagles accomplished this season. They did a lot of good things this year. Nick Foles really stepped up, LeSean McCoy is a star, Chip Kelly looks like the real deal and Bill Davis was a magician.
The question I ask to Eagles fans now is whether or not their expectations are now higher for next season.
If they had gone 7-9 or 8-8 and missed the playoffs this year, I think most people would be happy with merely a playoff berth next season. However, now that they’ve won the division and made the playoffs, anything less than that next season will be considered a step back and disappointment, right?
If you expect the Eagles to improve upon this year, then you have to expect them to win the division again and play in at least the divisional round of the playoffs next year. Whether that’s via getting a bye week or winning a wildcard game, anything less than that and there’d be no improvement.
So, what say you Eagles fans…what do you expect next year now?
(For the record, I do think the Eagles have plenty of positives to take from this season to build upon for next year. I will cover that going forward. Right now, this is more of a reflection on the outcome of this year)