Years past, Eagles seasons ended with the fan base yowling, with me hurling beer cans at the TV, and with my radio audience demanding someone’s head – whether it be the coach, the quarterback or the leader of the pep band.
But not this time. As our Super Bowl hopes drowned down a well of disappointment on Sunday with the ball slipping through Alshon Jeffery’s hands for an interception, most Eagles fans found an emotion far away from furious.
Oh, we were crushed. At least at that moment. Because in our hearts we believed we’d be rewarded by one more miracle from St. Nick Foles. The plotline was perfect – down six points, marching through Saints territory as the two-minute warning approached.
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And then . . . ah, hell, you know the ending.
But even as disappointment set in, there was a strange feeling of pride in this team. They had blown a 14-point lead. They had lost the game by giving up a 92-yard drive (really a 117-yard drive when you add in penalties against the Saints). But somehow, they still earned our respect.
Maybe we’re still blinded from the confetti floating down on Broad Street last February. Maybe after breaking a 58-year dry spell, it’s going to take us a while to build back that flow of burning anger.
Honestly, I can’t recall admiring a local also-ran this much since the baby Flyers fought Edmonton to Game 7 of the 1987 Cup Finals.
We had all left these Eagles for carrion eight weeks earlier. They were 4-6 then, humiliated by the Saints, 48-7, and certainly done for the season. It was the bottom.
And then, suddenly, those birds rose from the mat swinging. They were battered by injuries but played stronger for it. Foles stepped in for Carson Wentz and became legend yet again. Doug Pederson reminded us why a calm and steady coach is always better than a raving lunatic.
They won five of six to sneak into the playoffs and then survived another week on what we will always know as the Double Doink Game. My God, it was all so much fun to watch.
I won’t argue this season is a success because the first two months placed the Eagles in a hole that eventually forced them to take on a rested No. 1 seed – probably the NFL’s top team – in that raucous dome Sunday. Putting themselves in that spot was their own fault.
But I can still admire how they rose like Lazarus to make it a season – and even bring us optimism about 2019. Foles will be gone, that’s almost certain. So Wentz must heal, improve his game and – hopefully – not feel barbs from fans the first time he turns one over.
I’d be remiss here if I didn’t extend all best wishes to Brandon Brooks. The Pro Bowl guard tore his Achilles Sunday and faces an arduous recovery. Brooks is a great player, teammate and (as I know from personal experience) radio co-host. Godspeed, big guy.
So here’s my advice to fans. Sulk for a few days. Mutter to yourself about lost opportunities early in the season. Dream what would have followed if Jeffery’s usually sure hands had snagged that ball. Be a little mad if you must.
But then take the long view. The season didn’t collapse. The Eagles showed valor. The future still looks pretty damned bright with a solid core.
If that advice doesn’t work, we can all look for a distraction. Hey, Phillies . . . got any good news for us?