10 observations: Eagles-Cardinals

Star Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald set an NFC Championship Game record with three touchdown catches in the first half. (Eric Memcher/Staff Photographer)

Here are my 10 observations from the Eagles' 32-25 loss to the Cardinals:

1. Don't even know where to begin this week. I guess we should start where it always starts with this team -- Donovan McNabb. He didn't play as well as his numbers indicate (28-for-47 for 375 yards, three touchdowns and an interception). In a way, the game was a microcosm of his whole season. He started off erratic, which has been the case all year. In the third quarter, he made every throw, looking as good as any quarterback in the league. And in the end, it wasn't enough. With McNabb, it seems like fans feel the need to go to extremes. One side argues that he never comes through in the clutch. The other side spends their time defending him. We need to look at the whole picture on the clutch thing. In the second half, the Eagles scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, giving them a 25-24 lead. If the defense holds off Arizona, then aren't we talking about McNabb being clutch and leading the Eagles back from a 24-6 deficit? The point is it's almost never just one player. McNabb made mistakes. The receivers have seen better days. And even the offensive line had its share of lapses. And if I never hear another word about McNabb puking or smiling inappropriately, that'll be just fine with me. Some people need to get new material.

2. On Friday when I made my picks, I listed ways the Cardinals could win. But I really did not envision a scenario where the defense would give up 32 points. I thought the so-called resurgent running game of Arizona was a farce, but Edgerrin James carried for 73 yards. He had a 22-yard carry, which was his longest run of the postseason and was generally more effective than I thought he would be. And I don't know where to begin with Larry Fitzgerald. He gets open. He has great hands. He can outjump cornerbacks. And he's hard to bring down. In all, nine catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns. Add him to the list -- Ricky Manning, Joe Jurevicius, Ronde Barber, and now, Larry Fitzgerald.

3. So where does this rank among playoff losses of the McNabb/Andy Reid era? The Bucs loss at the Vet is still the worst. And I'd say the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots was worse. This probably ranks third, just ahead of the Panthers loss. What a roller coaster to get here. The season seemed over at so many different points during the last five months. Then all of a sudden, they got a chance to make up for all those missed opportunities, but it wasn't meant to be.

4. The optimist says...

Well, it was still a great season. Reid never lost the locker room. Just when it seemed like the season was over, we had that surreal Sunday in Week 17, which we'll never forget. The Bucs loss. The Bears loss. And the blowout against the Cowboys. The win at Minnesota in the wild-card round. And the upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Giants in the divisional round. This defense is still very young, and while they struggled today, the 'D' has carried them all season. The future is bright there. As for McNabb and Reid, what did we learn? We wanted them gone, but you could still do a whole lot worse. I'm willing to take my chances with them again next year and see what happens. I don't think this run is over quite yet.

5. The pessimist says...

You even shut ME up last week. But then we had to watch the same movie once again. Reid's team was unprepared. The defense, when it's facing a savvy vet, is not quite as impressive. And the quarterback failed to lead the team back with two minutes left and a chance to force overtime. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. Did anyone have faith in McNabb during that final drive? The answer is no. And if you don't have faith in your quarterback in a big spot, then what does that really say about your team? You can continue to go through this year after year, but the truth is that all this playoff run accomplished was further delaying change. This coach and quarterback cannot win the big one. And now we'll have to watch them try for another year at least.

6. DeSean Jackson really showed me something today. At times he's been criticized (letting go of the ball before getting into the end zone against the Cowboys; the big drop late against the Redskins), but this rookie season was an unquestioned success. As a receiver, he had six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown that gave the Eagles their biggest lead of the game. But there was more. When the Eagles were trailing and nothing was going right, the cameras caught Jackson on the sideline trying to encourage McNabb. And of course, the forced fumble after the McNabb interception, which gave the Eagles the ball back. Great hustle, great concentration. Something to look forward to next year I guess.

7. One thing I don't understand. When Warner has words with offensive coordinator Todd Haley on the sideline, he's just being a leader and should have input. When Anquan Boldin has words with Haley on the sidelines, he's a distraction and should just shut-up and play. Maybe the explanation is that Warner is a probable Hall of Famer and a veteran. But Haley didn't seem too pleased with either guys' comments. Shouldn't they both be criticized?

8. Some various texts and e-mails to share.

From philly.com's Mike Potter at 3:52: I'm gonna throw up.
From my buddy Jordan at 4:39: Out of gas.
From my buddy Jordan at 5:46: Or not.
E-mail from philly.com's Ellen Dunkel at 7:14:
Expecting a riot? There are about a zillion cops in riot gear around City Hall. No exaggeration.
E-mail from philly.com's Mike Potter at 7:26: They must have been there in case the Eagles won. Cause don't nobody have the energy to riot after that loss. I feel like somebody just punched me in the gut.

I imagine similar e-mails/texts/IMs were being exchanged throughout the Delaware Valley.

9. What was up with David Akers? Can't kill a guy for missing a 47-yarder, but the kickoff out of bounds? And the extra point? Should it really matter where the laces are facing on an extra point? He seemed like a rattled relief pitcher out there. And by the way, Quintin Demps, what the heck were you thinking on that hit of Warner? Still trying to figure that one out.

10. And lastly a thank you to all the Moving the Chains readers and chat participants. We had over 5,000 people join the chat at different times throughout the course of the game. Before kickoff, I did a role call. People were checking in from Korea, Tokyo, London, Salt Lake City and other places. Very cool for everyone to be able to converse together even if you weren't in Philadelphia. We just started the chats this season, but they were really a great success. Hopefully we can improve on them before the start of next season. And to the Moving the Chains readers, this will be the final 10 observations post of the season. But the point of the blog is to write about the NFL 365 days a year so stay tuned for offseason news, including full coverage of the draft. And as always, feel free to contact me if there's anything specific you'd like to see me cover on here.