Playoff Paradise Lost: Eagles Try to Salvage What’s Left of their Season

15 Dec

Eagles Running Back LeSean "Shady" McCoy has been one of the few bright spots in a tough year for the Eagles. Photo by Jake McDonald.

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report

Even with their playoff chances barely showing a pulse, the 5-8 Eagles are a better team than their record would indicate, according to New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

Despite the Birds lack of consistency on both sides of the football throughout the 2011 campaign, Ryan is not making any of those wild prognostications that he has been known to make from time to time.

With the 8-5 Jets in the running for a wildcard spot in the AFC, Ryan said his team will not overlook the “consistently” inconsistent Eagles when the two teams lock horns at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday (4:15 p.m.)

“I can tell you this, I’ve watched their talent and that doesn’t look like a 5-8 team,” Ryan said Wednesday during a conference call with the Philadelphia media. “They’re fourth in the league in offense and 11th in the league in defense. The numbers don’t make sense right there. They’ve had some struggles, whatever it is. I’ll tell you this that’s a dangerous team and they have as much talent as anyone around the league.”

In a season where they’ve lost games they should have won, that will be the final epitaph to their 2011 season unless the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants have a meltdown in the next three weeks. As of now, they are still mathematically alive, but need all kinds of help.

But the sobering reality for the Eagles is that they will playing the role of spoiler for these final weeks of the season even if they close out the season winning their last three games. That’s the Birds consolation prize for a season that began with huge expectations.

“You’re always trying to win each and every week,” said rookie center Jason Kelce. “If we finish off strong and we don’t make the playoffs, it will be something positive for the end of the season, but everybody’s still going to be upset that we’re not in it.”

What will haunt the Birds the most about the 2011 season is that they have played brilliantly enough to make you think they were going to be among the elite teams in the NFL, especially in wins over the first-place Giants and Cowboys.

But the Birds have blown games this season by shooting themselves in the foot and making that key mistake whether it was a turnover on offense or a blown assignment on defense. It was always something this season—Juqua Parker jumping offsides in the loss to Buffalo or Jeremy Maclin fumbling the ball on the Eagles final drive in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

“The frustrating thing is guys doing the right things and being in the right spot,” said Eagles defensive end Jason Babin. “We showed how lethal we can be when we do that. We just got to be consistent.”

On defense, the Eagles have had outstanding efforts like Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins in which they came up with nine sacks, forced three turnovers and allowed just 204 yards of total offense. But then they’ve had clunkers like their loss to the Seattle Seahawks, who gashed the Birds defense for 174 yards on the ground-including 148 from running back Marshawn Lynch.

Defensive end Trent Cole said having a new defensive coordinator in Juan Castillo and not having offseason camps has made it difficult for the defense with all the new personnel to gel into a unit.

“We’ve been through a lot,” Cole said. “We haven’t had no off-season. Everybody can’t expect the that y’all called the ‘Dream Team,’ and come out be a dream team when we haven’t been together..

“We come into camp and bam! We’re right into the season three weeks later. Some teams can adjust to it, but some teams just can’t. This is how it is. Some teams still had all their players. This team had all brand new players that had to gel together and learn how to work together. It just took some time. As a team, we’re all learning how to play together.”

Despite having the league’s fourth ranked offense and the NFC’s best rusher in LeSean McCoy, the Eagles propensity for turnovers has slowed the team considerably. They ranked 30th in turnovers with 31 turnovers. Quarterback Michael Vick has thrown 12 interceptions.

Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg said he has to keep trying to find ways to fix it.

“It’s not coming from one sort of thing,” Morhinweg said. “There’s been times in the past where we’ve had three balls tipped in and it all comes from one thing and you get that thing fixed real quick. So we’re working, we’re working hard.”

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