ANDY REID likes to claim the blame when the Eagles lose, deflecting responsibility from his players.
Well, last night's season-killing 30-24 loss to the Chicago Bears does belong primarily to the Eagles head coach.
It was a stunning act of desperation - a long-shot play that didn't make much sense at the time.
Yes, the Eagles trailed 27-24 and the Bears had just scored 10 straight points. But there were still about 9 1/2 minutes remaining in the game when Reid sent Chas Henry out to punt.
Henry could've pooch-punted into the coffin corner or drove the ball into the end zone. The only instruction he needed to be given was to not kick the ball to Bears return man Devin Hester.
But instead of trusting his defense to stop the Bears and give his offense a chance to drive into field-goal range to tie the score, Reid rolled the dice.
"We always try to stay aggressive," Reid explained.
Apparently it was an automatic call.
If Henry sees that no one is covering the gunner on a side, he is supposed to execute the fake. Colt Anderson was not covered.
But there is a time and place for such things. This was neither.
Given that the Eagles only trailed by 27-24 and only needed a field goal to tie, Reid or special-teams coach Bobby April should have told Henry to punt the ball, no fakes.
There were still those 9 1/2 minutes remaining. The Eagles had scored two touchdowns in the second half and had moved the ball against the Bears defense. The only thing not to do was give Chicago a short field to work with.
But that's what happened when Henry's pass skipped on the turf of Lincoln Financial Field in front of Anderson like one of those patented worm-killers from former quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Chicago took possession on a short field, drove 54 yards, grinded 5:27 worth of valuable time and got a 22-yard field goal from Robbie Gould to push the lead to 30-24.
That was it. That was the season.
This is probably how it was supposed to end.
The Eagles began this decline with a fourth-quarter collapse against the Atlanta Falcons in the second game of the season. Two more blown fourth-quarter leads followed in the next 2 weeks.
By the time the Eagles got their wits back, they were 1-4 and in a self-created hole so deep they could barely see a glimmer of sunlight.
It was just fitting that after teasing their fans with consecutive victories to raise hope, the Eagles would again rip hearts out by losing another fourth-quarter lead.
A team that had been far too imperfect needed to be flawless.
When Jeremy Maclin lost his balance and slipped down 2 yards short of a first down that would have kept the Eagles' last-minute drive for a tying touchdown alive, it was symbolic of all of the things that had happened to lead up to this situation.
The Eagles took a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter but got outscored 10-0 to lose for the fourth time after leading after three. In those four losses, the Eagles have been outscored 46-0 in the fourth quarter.
That's not going to get it done.
By rallying to beat the New England Patriots on Sunday, the New York Giants improved to 6-2 and hold a three-game lead over the Birds in the NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys are 4-4 while the Eagles sit at the bottom of the nest with the Washington Redskins. Barring a major miracle, the NFC East is out of reach.
Even if the Eagles go on a run that they have not shown they are capable of, the Giants would have to slump miserably at the same time and the Cowboys would have to lose stride.
With nine teams ahead of them, the Eagles' chance of gaining one of the two wild card spots into the playoffs are virtually nonexistent.
Maybe if the stakes hadn't been so high, Reid would've played things a little closer to the vest.
Reid gave a hint of what was going to happen in the fourth quarter on the first drive of the third. The Bears led 17-10, and the Eagles had a 4th-and-1 on the Chicago 19. Three points and momentum to start the second half were a chip-shot field goal away.
The Eagles would have still had nearly two full quarters to make up what would've been a four-point deficit. But everyone knew the Eagles' season was on the line.
Reid figured this was no time to be cautious. If the Eagles were going to pull themselves out of the abyss they had dug, they needed to be bold about going after things.
LeSean McCoy gained the first down. Four plays later Ronnie Brown scored and the Eagles tied the score at 17.
They would go up 24-17 on a touchdown by McCoy, but there was still the fourth quarter to play.
And once again, the final 15 minutes became the Eagles downfall.
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