By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
PHILADELPHIA–The last time the Eagles played the New York Giants back on Sept. 30, the Birds came away with a 19-17 victory to give them a 3-1 record and had fans excited about a possible run for the postseason.
Even Giants players thought the Eagles were going to win the NFC East.
“At that point in time, I thought they were definitely going to be the team to beat,” said Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. “They had everything going and they were on a nice winning streak. They were doing some good things. I was definitely thinking, in my mind, that they were going to be the team to beat.”
Unfortunately, that turned out to be the last game the Eagles would win before an eight-game losing streak destroyed the Birds season and perhaps signaled the end of the Andy Reid era in the City of Brotherly Love.
“We finished the game,” Reid said about the Eagles win over Giants in September. “We finished it with a win and we’ve had a couple since then that we haven’t quite finished in the fourth quarter or the other team started fast and we’ve been playing a catch up game. We just didn’t take care of business in the end there.”
This Sunday’s matchup with their bitter archrivals from North Jersey will close a bad season for the Eagles and possibly put an end to the Giants slim playoff hopes. When you’re coming into the game with a 4-11 record and facing an off-season filled with questions, spoiling your division rival’s postseason chances is the only joy you can get.
Everyone from fans to media folk is trying to figure out how a season with that kind of promise could deteriorate into the nightmare of a year that will end with double-digit losses.
Was it a couple games here or there? How much did injuries to the offensive line hurt the offense? Was it a defense that got torched badly in that eight-game losing streak? Was it the firing of former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo?
“We’ve had chance after chance to win games and we shot ourselves in the foot whether it be turnovers, big plays on defense, special teams—not making plays consistently,” said Eagles safety Kurt Coleman. “It hasn’t been all-round great year for us as a team.”
You could get a variety of different answers and they would probably all be right in some way.
Perhaps it was the first two games during that losing streak—losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions—that sent the Eagles spiraling into the abyss.
When you look back at the 16-14 loss to the Steelers, the Eagles had several chances to win that game only to have something go wrong. On their second drive of that game, the Eagles drove to the Steelers three-yard line, but quarterback Michael Vick fumbled the ball at the one.
But the Eagles eventually rallied to take a 14-13 lead with a little over six minutes left. But the Steelers went on a 14-play, 64-yard drive to Shaun Suisman’s game-winning field goal. The key play on that drive was a conversion on third and 12 by the Steelers.
“To me, that was a game we should have won and we didn’t get it done,” Coleman said. “We had them third and 12 and had them backed up. It was inexcusable for them to get that first down, they did and they ended up getting the field goal to beat us. That would have put us at 4-1.”
Perhaps the most painful loss of the Eagles losing streak was when they blew a 10-point lead to the Lions in the last 5:18 of regulation and eventually lost in overtime. It was a winnable game that ultimately led to the firing of Castillo as defensive coordinator. The Eagles season took a nose-dive of biblical proportions as losses blowout to the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins put the Birds into a deep hole.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said it was the 31-6 loss to the Redskins (Nov.18) where he figured that things had spiraled to the point of no return.
“The bleeding didn’t stop,” Asomugha said. “When we played Washington that’s when it hit up front when it was like what? Really?”