Being a Philadelphia Eagles fan has been tough this season. They started out fast, dragged through the middle and finished strong. The fact is in most fans' minds the Eagles overachieved and yet Sunday's loss leaves a terrible taste in the mouths of fans. Not so much as we lost yet another NFC Championship game, but we lost the NFC Championship game to the Cardinals. The Lowly, haven't won a title since 1947 Cardinals. So what for the Eagles now? Where do you pick up the pieces? And how do you re-assemble them?
Like any illness let's go through the symptoms and make our diagnosis. McNabb's accuracy was a problem. He under threw, overthrew, and miss-read more than his fare share of passes. He threw behind Jason Avant on a play that could have gone for big yards, and similarly threw low to Hank Basket on what might have been 6 points, forcing him to dive just to make the catch. Still Donovan also made good passes to Greg Lewis who dropped what would have been a 40 yard gain in the 2nd quarter and similarly Desean Jackson and Kevin Curtis dropped passes in the late stages.
The Eagle defense couldn't stop, contain, or even slow Larry Fitzgerald. There is little excuse for a receiver going 200 yards with 3 td's in the first half, no excuse. That being said that same defense that looked putrid in the first half came out screaming in the second half, playing more like the unit who showed up in Minnesota and The Meadowlands the previous 2 weeks.
Special teams, oh special teams, kept us in the game early. Where Donovan couldn't get six at least Akers got 3. And yet he missed his third field goal attempt and blew a XP that proved to be the difference in the game.
The coaching was up and down. You can't blame Andy or Marty for our first half ineptness. However, in the second half I still question the timeout call around 3:00 minutes to go in the 4th. It spelled disastrous for a team that had already blown its first timeout with less than forty seconds left in the 3rd quarter. Even when Philly could stop the Cardinals' drive late in the 4th quarter, they had no way to stop the clock and get the ball back into the hands of the offense. And while we talk about coaching; it was a tough call not to go for the two points after the second touchdown in the 3rd and Andy Reid certainly couldn't predict Akers' shanking that one. I would have gone for the 2-point conversation, but that's why my coaching decisions are made to Playstation video games.
No, for all the disappoints of that game there is no one leak the Eagles can seal off and heal themselves. So where do they go from here? Team President, Joe Banner has stated both the incumbent coach and quarterback will see another term next year. The Eagles still need a healthy, reliable runningback to help out Brian Westbrook. The defense while porous in the first half, held firm and gave the birds a chance to win in the second half. Donovan should have made a few better plays, but so should've his receivers and O-line. The game was a microcosm of the Eagles' as a whole, it was inconsistent.
Around week 12 I mentioned to some friends that what the Philadelphia Phillies displayed in their run to a title is what the Eagles lack and that is, a consistent approach to the game. The approach that every game, every half, quarter, drive, and down need to be played the same way. I have a difficult time blaming one person and would rather use the excuse that on Sunday January 18th the Eagles (SEE me cringing) were beat by a better team. The Eagles who tend to take plays, drives and even quarters off, were beat by a Cards team that played every second like it was 2:00 left in the 4th. They didn't wait for the Eagles to show their game plan or make a mistake. The Cardinals simply forced their game plan.
For the Eagles to be successful, not to say a NFC Title game is not success, but in order to be ultimately successful the Eagles need to find their hunger, inspiration, their muse. They need to find an intangible pill that will allow them to play Week 1 of next season the same way they will play every week right up until Super Bowl 44.