It was an all too familiar scenario for the Eagles Sunday afternoon at the Linc. Sloppy play, bad turnovers and a 4th quarter collapse. But two things were different with Sunday’s loss. It was against a terrible team that almost made as many mistakes as the Birds. And most importantly, it cost the team any shot of making the playoffs, barring a complete miracle.
Things got off to a bad start for the Birds before the game even began. Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson was announced as inactive after he missed a team meeting on Saturday. Jackson, who turns 25 next month, is in his second season of dissatisfaction over a rookie contract that currently pays him $600,000.
Jackson’s presence was missed by the Eagles offense, which seemed shaky all game, especially Mike Vick. Vick struggled to stay in sync with receiver Steve Smith, overthrowing the ball on several plays. In all, Vick was 16 for 34 for 128 yard with 2 interceptions and 0 touchdowns. Yet as bad as the offense was, the Birds still had a fighting chance thanks to their opponent, the lowly Arizona Cardinals, who seemed to do everything in their power to help the Eagles during the first half.
Kicker Jay Feely missed a 35 and 43-yarder in the first quarter that could’ve given the Cards the lead as the Eagles were scoreless.
The Birds finally struck in the second quarter after Asante Samuel intercepted a pass from John Skelton, playing in place of injured QB and former Eagle Kevin Kolb. Samuel ran it back for a 20-yard touchdown.
The Cardinals tied things up after star receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught a 10-yard touchdown pass. But the Birds took control once again after LeSean McCoy rushed for a one yard touchdown. It was perhaps the lone bright spot of the day for the Birds. Shady has now scored at least one touchdown in nine straight games, a franchise record.
As has been the case for much of the season, the 2nd half is when things began to fall apart for the Eagles. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie injured his ankle at the start of the 3rd quarter. He was taken to the locker room for X-rays and never returned.
Vick then threw his first interception of the game with around 2 and a half minutes left in the third. Both teams failed to score going into the 4th quarter as the Eagles still had a 14-7 lead.
Things soon took a turn for the worse in the 4th. Fitzgerald made an incredible catch on a 29-yard pass from Skelton to bring the Cardinals into the red zone. But after that, the Eagles defense held strong, stopping the Cards on the next two plays to set up a 3rd down. That’s when prized cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha committed a critical offside. The penalty cost the Birds 5 yards, leading to a 7-yard TD pass to Fitzgerald which tied the game at 14.
After the Birds failed to score, Asomugha redeemed himself, picking off Shelton with 7 minutes left in the fourth. But all the offense could manage after that was a field goal from Alex Henery, putting the team up 17-14. The team also suffered another critical loss towards the end of the fourth. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin left the game with a hamstring injury. He had left the game earlier in the first quarter after injuring his shoulder before returning. The hamstring injury however took him out of the game for good.
The Cardinals got the ball back down three with five minutes left. The entire stadium seemed to hold its breath, anticipating another crunch time meltdown. Their fears were realized as Skelton drove his team down the field before throwing a short 5-yard pass to Early Doucet, giving the Cards their first lead of the game.
It was déjà vu for the Eagles after that as they failed to deliver on their final drive. Vick ended a frustrating day on a prayer intended for Steve Smith that was picked off, effectively ending the game, and more than likely the entire season.
Questions are still lingering regarding Jackson’s dispute with the team and injuries to Rodgers-Cromartie and Maclin. But none of those things seem to matter right now. What was supposed to be a dream season has officially become a nightmare.