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Fan-Demonium: Over Too Soon

Posted Jan 7, 2014

You can talk about Chip Kelly, Nick Foles, sports science, the up-tempo offense, game-winning interceptions or whatever you want in regard to 2013, but arguably the most important thing for me was being able to once again enjoy Eagles football every week. The previous two seasons featured long stretches of bad football. The team did dumb things that made it tough to even enjoy wins.

The 2013 season was fun.

Unfortunately, that made the end of the season that much more painful. I wanted to watch this team play three more games. I knew a Super Bowl run wasn't likely, but we all talk ourselves into just how it might happen. The Eagles beat the Saints and then go win in Carolina. Someone upsets the Seahawks and suddenly the NFC title game is in Philly. Once that happens, go ahead and punch the ticket for the Super Bowl. Dreaming is fun.

The Saints ended that dream by out-playing the Eagles. They won the battle on the line of scrimmage. They made more big plays.

The Eagles will be haunted all offseason by the mistakes they made and the chances they blew in this game. There was the huge drop that Riley Cooper had. That play would have gained at least 25 yards and might have gone for a touchdown. There was the missed field goal by Alex Henery. There was Nick Foles taking a sack that pushed the field goal spot substantially back. There was the shallow kickoff, poor coverage and penalty on the tackle that set up the final drive at midfield. There were missed blocks and missed tackles. It was just one of those games where the Eagles made too many mistakes.

While the loss definitely hurts, there are some silver linings. I think you have to be impressed with the fact that Foles didn't have his best game, but still played well enough to put his team on top late in the game. When Foles left the field, the Eagles had the lead. He didn't turn the ball over. He led the team to three red zone touchdowns. That's a good job by a young quarterback. Remember that Foles only has 16 starts under his belt. He's still got a lot of learning to do.

The Eagles didn't panic when they got down 20-7. That's a good sign from a young team with a new coach. The Eagles hadn't trailed for a single second in the previous two games (Bears, Cowboys). The Eagles hadn't trailed at all in six of the previous eight games. This team was used to getting a lead and then putting the opponent away. To suddenly be losing 20-7 late in the third quarter of a playoff game could have been overwhelming. Instead, the Eagles just kept working. They were able to make some plays and take the lead. That shows toughness and character.

There were some individual highlights. DeSean Jackson had a 29-yard punt return. He had a long one last week as well. It was good to see him come alive as a returner and would be great if that carried over to next year. Cooper had an impressive touchdown catch. He has really developed into a legitimate red zone threat this year. Zach Ertz had a nice touchdown grab. He's also becoming a red zone threat.

The defense had a strange night. They held the Saints to six points in the first half. The Saints still had 191 yards, though. They moved the ball, but couldn't capitalize on the yards. Drew Brees threw a pair of bad interceptions. He also made a poor throw when he had a player open downfield for a touchdown. Things got ugly in the second half. The Saints gained 243 yards and scored 20 points. The defense struggled to make stops.

Losing hurt. I wasn't ready for this season to end. Kelly and his players said the same thing. We all wanted more. The loss can be a good thing if the team learns from it and builds off it. The Saints were the more physical team on Saturday. The Eagles can't let that happen in future postseason games. Playoff football is a step up from the regular season. You have to raise your level of intensity. The Eagles didn't do that until they were down in the second half.

One thing that the Eagles had issues with all year was taking advantage of opportunities and putting teams away. They built a huge lead in the season opener, but let Washington cut that to a six-point deficit by the end of the game. The Eagles had a 19-7 lead on the Giants that turned into a 21-19 deficit. The Eagles built up a 24-0 lead in the rematch with Washington before needing an end zone interception to seal the game. The Cardinals trailed 24-7 and cut that to 24-21. The Eagles managed to win all those games.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

Just think back a week ago to the Cowboys game. The Eagles led that 17-7 and 24-16 before letting Dallas almost catch up. You can't do that against good teams and expect to beat them. The Eagles should have been up by more than a point at halftime against the Saints. They also needed to make clutch plays at the end of the game to preserve the lead.

Winning in the postseason is hard. That is sudden death football. Teams play with an edge because of that. Building a lead isn't good enough. You must keep going. Every play is crucial. Every point is crucial. You need to be mentally and emotionally tough. You need a killer instinct. The Eagles had the talent to get an early lead and then a late lead, but they couldn't take control of the game. They had chances, but sloppy play plagued them throughout the game.

You can sit back and reflect on the success the Eagles had this year. As Kelly likes to point out, the team came a long way in a short time. He hasn't even been on the job for a full calendar year and has only been coaching the players for about eight months. Kelly and the staff designed the systems and then did a great job of teaching them. The players bought in and worked very hard to make the X's and O's come to life successfully. An idea can look great on paper, but if the coaches can't teach it and the players can't execute it, the idea goes to waste. That wasn't a problem this year.

Kelly has mentioned how much he liked this team several times. This wasn't the most talented team in the league, but they had great chemistry and that goes a long way in football. How can you not love Jason Kelce and Jason Avant? Or Connor Barwin and Cedric Thornton? The players came together in a very real way. They played as a team. They were willing to do the dirty work and share the glory. That was great since recent teams were more individual or split into factions.

One of the things that drove the coaches and players this year is that they were hungry. The coaches wanted to prove they could have success in the NFL. The players were tired of losing and wanted to win. I'm sure that watching that kick go through the uprights on Saturday night left both groups hungrier than ever. That is the worst way to end a season, watching the other team's kicker line up for a chip shot field goal. You're just helpless and losing seems inevitable. Let that pain sink in and carry you through the offseason.

The Eagles will now go about the business of the offseason. The coaches will figure out how they can improve themselves and the scheme. The players will work tirelessly to get bigger, faster and stronger. Howie Roseman and the personnel department will bring in free agents and draft picks to upgrade the roster. One very important thing to keep in mind is that the Eagles are set where it counts. They have the right coach and the right quarterback. With Kelly and Foles in place, all other issues can be handled. You don't have a chance unless you've got the right quarterback and coach. It sure feels good to see the Eagles set at both spots.

The 2014 season can't get here fast enough.

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