It's over! It's finally over! It ended right before halftime of the Jets-Giants game. The Jets led, 7-3, and Eli Manning and the Giants offense had looked pitiful - incapable of mounting any sustained drives. The Jets' offense had barely looked better, but they had the lead, and their Darrelle Revis-led defense was playing inspired football. Revis had responded to the Giants' weeklong trash talking by looking virtually unbeatable, knocking down everything thrown his way.
With the first half drawing to a close, the Jets' inept offense stalled again near midfield. The ensuing punt landed on the Giants' 1-yard line, and things were looking great for the Eagles, who needed a Jets win to stay alive for the playoffs. There was just enough time for the Jets to force a three-and-out and get the ball back in great field positions to at least kick a field goal and extend their lead.
Then, in an instant, disaster struck. Manning hit Victor Cruz with a quick slant and, after a few missed tackles, Cruz broke away, and the Giants shockingly had taken the lead on a 99-yard TD pass. Even though one half of football remained, we all knew the awful truth - the Eagles' season was over. The Jets weren't coming back and at 2:20 on Saturday afternoon of Week 16 - almost 2 hours before the Eagles would take the field - the Eagles' slim playoff hopes were finally put to rest.
It was truly an agonizing end to a season that started with so much promise. The array of signings almost took our breath away - big names of some of the game's most skilled players - that we forgot about the grunt positions of linebacker, safety, offensive line. A horrible end to a season that saw us lose a record-setting five fourth-quarter leads. A tragic end to a season that saw us lose to the Seahawks and the Cardinals - good grief, the Cardinals without Kevin Kolb!
The Birds went out and played a very good game, 20-7, crushing the talent-laden Dallas Cowboys for the second time this season, beating them by a combined 54-14 score. But it didn't matter, not one bit.
In fact, seeing the Birds play so well was very, very frustrating. Seeing Michael Vick look like the quarterback we thought he could be, seeing DeSean Jackson be a potent weapon and Brent Celek look like a Pro Bowl tight end, and seeing the defense look great only made you think of what might have been, and, perhaps, of what could be in the future.
I believe the biggest mistake the Eagles brass can make this offseason is to be deluded by our hot streak at the end (I'm assuming we'll beat the 5-10 Redskins) into thinking we that just jelled a little late and got some bad breaks, and that this team can be a serious Super Bowl contender next year.
The Eagles need help, serious help, to even dare to dream about a Super Bowl. We have talent (not as much as we think) and speed (enough to burn), but we need a whole lot more.
I'm sure you have your wish list for the Birds. Here's mine:
1. Sign DeSean Jackson. He's flawed, but think of our offense without him. A remotely good offer should get him, as his erratic play this season has decreased his value.
2. Sign LeSean McCoy. A no-brainer. Give him what he wants, even if that means Jeffrey and Christina Lurie's stadium box.
3. Draft or sign a quality quarterback. I believe Vick can take us all the way, but his style of play dictates that he will miss two to five games a season. We need a solid veteran not named Vince Young.
4. Get a kickoff and punt returner. Jackson can't return punts on a consistent basis, and we need someone who might not be a Devin Hester or Patrick Peterson, but who will give us decent field position.
5. Draft - once and for all - the best linebacker on the board.
6. Add depth at safety and offensive line. The o-line was the best surprise of the year, but is very thin. If we do all this - and with our stockpile of draft choices, it's very possible - we could turn things around and be playing football in February 2013 in New Orleans.