Wow. I haven’t felt this sinking-in-my-gut pain in a while. I haven’t missed it, that’s for sure. And as has been their fashion all season long, the Eagles appeared to be finished, and managed to come back once again. For the briefest of moments, they took control of the game, and had the lead. But they just couldn’t finish. It reminded me of that old saying – it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
Clearly, whoever came up with that wasn’t an Eagles fan.
Because I loved this team. And I despised this team. Sometimes, as was the case today, during the same game. This game almost seemed like a microcosm of our season – when the Cardinals were leading 24-6, all hope seemed lost. Kind of like after the Ravens game. Hell, I even proclaimed the game over, both because I didn’t think the Eagles could stop the Cardinals, and because I was hoping the Eagles would give us a Rocky Moment.
And they did. They fought back. Shoot, they took the lead.
But then, the Cardinals marched down the field and scored with just under three minutes to go. And you know what? I really thought that was going to be like the Redskins game during the season. Where, after everything seemed lost once again, the universe came together and gave us one more miracle. I really thought the Eagles would march down the field and score once again. After all, they had been coming back all season.
Why couldn’t they do it one last time?
And damnit, why couldn’t McNabb lead the late-game drive that all of his doubters constantly say he can’t engineer? For the team’s sake, and for the sake of his legacy, why couldn’t he take care of business today? And why, oh why, did we blow so many opportunities?
Because, honestly, that’s what this game came down to. Simply put, the Cardinals took advantage of their opportunities. The Cardinals scored touchdowns, not field goals. And they certainly didn’t miss a field goal or an extra-point. They didn’t drop passes, and Warner only missed one or two. With the exception of the third-quarter, they handled our blitz and executed the hot routes to near perfection.
They were better. Or, the Eagles were worse. You be the judge.
Surely, the Eagles had heroes. Brent Celek played the game of his career. Westbrook battled for every yard, and Buckhalter looked good when he got the ball. DeSean Jackson made the biggest play of the day for the Eagles, and Jason Avant had several nice catches. McNabb was the man in the third-quarter.
But it wasn’t enough.
The defense couldn’t come up with a stop early, and the Eagles couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. You can’t get behind a team with the Cardinals offense 24-6 and expect that they won’t score again in the game. Early, they had everything going; they ran the ball at will, and they threw the ball with ease.
And Larry Fitzgerald was absolutely spectacular. I mean, this guy, right now, is the best wide receiver in football. Maybe Randy Moss will have something to say when Brady comes back next year, but today, Larry Fitz is the best.
Plus, we couldn’t stop their screen game, which is an irony in a way because of the history of success our Eagles have with their own screen game. It was only fitting, than, that Hightower should score the game-winning TD on a third-down screen pass in the fourth quarter.
In a way, it would have been easier if the Eagles hadn’t made the playoffs, or if they hadn’t beat the Vikings or Giants. In the same way, it would have been easier if they hadn’t come back after trailing 24-6 at halftime. Somehow, they managed to give us the most painful possible scenario.
But only thinking in those terms is to ignore the whole picture. Truthfully, in the tumultous season that we’ve already had, to be in the position that this team found themselves in was a blessing in itself. And, for them to have battled back after playing as poor of a first half as they did showed their true colors.
Today, I am extremely disappointed. Hell, I’m a little mad. But I am also proud of what this team accomplished, and I have to thank them for providing their fans one hell of a ride. I’ll try to provide more analysis in the next day or so; for now, an emotional response is all I’m really capable of.
Damn, I haven’t missed this pit in the center of my stomach. But screw it – let’s go Flyers and Sixers!