Monday, January 05, 2015

Crystal Ballin' Part 3: An Anticlimactic Ending

by Hal Greenblatt
Phanatic Eagles Writer

Like Punxsutawney Phil hiding from his shadow, I have finally emerged from my shadow-cast dwelling to see another potentially exciting Eagles playoff run fall by the wayside.

When we last checked in on our beloved Eagles and assess my preseason prognosticating abilities, the Birds were flying high at 5-1 heading into their bye week, but faced a tough Arizona matchup following their league-mandated rest period.

Week 8: at Arizona Cardinals

With two weeks to prepare for a Cardinals team that teetered on good, but not great under Carson Palmer, the feeling was not strong for an Eagles win. Despite leading Arizona for most of the game – and dealing with one of the most one-sided officiating crews in any game this season -- a defensive miscue saw the Eagles turn a win into a loss. It did nothing to quell the questioning of starting quarterback Nick Foles, as the Eagles fell by a  24-20 score and sank to 5-2 on the season.

Week 9: at Houston Texans

The Texans entered the game with the best and most disruptive defensive player in the game, while the Eagles were reeling from injuries on the offensive line (Todd Herremans) and the fallout from yet another come-from-behind loss. Despite J.J. Watt’s dominance and the eventually loss of Herremans and Foles to season-ending injuries, the Eagles would persevere with a big road win behind Mark Sanchez to the tune of 31-21, and improved to 6-2 at the midway point.

Week 10: vs. Carolina Panthers

After two straight on the road and the loss of Foles, the Eagles returned home to the comfy confines of Lincoln Financial Field. Even with former USC product Sanchez at the helm, this game felt that it would be a blowout for the hosts. Carolina was a team in disarray that struggled to find their identity at that point even in a weak NFC South. Sanchez, fortunately, put together perhaps his best game as a professional in leading the Eagles to a 45-21 victory and a date with Green Bay.

Week 11: at Green Bay Packers

The only thing that can be said about the Eagles demoralizing 53-20 loss on the near-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field is this: Aaron Rodgers is damn good.

Week 12: vs. Tennessee Titans

In what could be perceived as a trap game against the Titans, the Eagles failed to trip and destroyed the faltering Tennesseans to the tune of 43-24. The Birds would head into their Thanksgiving matchup with the rival Dallas Cowboys standing at 8-3 and playing for first place in the NFC East.

Week 13: at Dallas Cowboys

A Thanksgiving basting of the Cowboys down in Texas provided the ultimate dessert for the Greenblatt family meal as well as for thousands of others across the Delaware Valley. The Birds attacked early and often and rode the fleet feet of Shady McCoy to the rousing 33-10 victory and first place in the NFC East. Following this game, the Eagles had a near iron-clad 89 percent chance of making the playoffs.

This is where our story turns sour…

Week 14: vs. Seattle Seahawks

Before the season, something just felt right for an Eagles win. Riding high off a victory over the rival Cowboys, the Eagles returned home to face the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks and there appeared to be nothing concrete standing in the way. Seattle, which struggled early in the season, had recently gotten its swag back. The Eagles would strike first, but that proved to be the only positive on the day. Pete Carroll’s squad imposed their will offensively and defensively to break the Eagles spirits and send their magical run into a tailspin, claiming a 24-14 decision and moving Chip Kelly’s team to 8-4.

Week 15: vs. Dallas Cowboys

A short opening kickoff by the Cowboys which was misplayed by Eagles’ returner Josh Huff set the tone for a demoralizing Dallas victory on our home turf. Despite being down 21 points and climbing back to take the lead in the third quarter, the Green Machine simply ran out of gas in the effort and fell 38-27 in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. Dallas now led the NFC East and the Eagles needed to rely on other teams to help get back in the playoff race.

Week 16: at Washington Redskins

My prediction in the preseason was that the Eagles would lose to the ‘Skins leading to a final-game showdown with the Giants for a playoff berth the line. Sadly, only half of that prediction came true. An ailing Cody Parkey would miss two field goals, Sanchez’ propensity for costly turnovers returned and the Eagles fell to Washington, giving the Cowboys the division and knocking the Eagles out of playoff contention.

Week 17: vs. New York Giants

With nothing to play for but pride (and my correct overall prediction on the season), the Eagles would end the season on a high note and topped the division rival Giants 34-26. The Birds finished Year 2 of the Kelly Era at 10-6, but missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. We couldn’t even have the satisfaction of sending Tom Coughlin into retirement, as Big Blue decided to reward his 10-loss season with another year on the sidelines.

Philadelphia undoubtedly took a step back this season. In the offseason, the focus will be to a) figure out who the quarterback of the future will be while b) addressing the issues surrounding the secondary, which routinely got shredded by opposing quarterbacks.

As we’ve already seen, Kelly has been given complete control over the roster in a front-office reconfiguration late last week, so as they say, “the ball is in his court,” and nothing short of the Philadelphia Eagles’ future success is at stake.
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