Eagles Fan Reaction (EFR) WC Round: SEA 17, PHI 9 - VaLiant
The season should've been over right then and there.
It probably should've been over a while ago, to be honest. After all, this is an Eagles team that has been decimated by injuries all season long. The list of players inactive for Sunday's Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks was somewhere between comical and tragic. The top three wide receivers, the right side of the offensive line, a starting cornerback, multiple running backs were among those unable to play Sunday due to injury.
And then, Carson Wentz took a helmet-to-helmet hit as he was going down from Seahawks star Jadeveon Clowney. Personally, I don't believe the hit was dirty - dirty requires reckless intent to injure, which I don't believe Clowney had - but it definitely was illegal, and should've resulted in a penalty. But no penalty could have equaled the magnitude of losing a starting quarterback, a franchise quarterback at that (yes, I said franchise), which should have sunk them for good.
But as they have done all season, the Eagles continued to fight. After all, they were left for dead on the side of the road after an embarrassing Week 13 loss to the lowly Miami Dolphins. They were 5-7, trailing the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East lead, and many people though their season was over.
As it turned out, they needed to win each of their final four games to return to the playoffs for the third straight season. Somehow, someway, they did just that, highlighted by a dramatic Week 16 victory at the Linc over those hated Cowboys, who fired head coach Jason Garrett during Sunday's game. None of those victories were pretty; they nearly let the lowly Redskins beat them once and the equally atrocious Giants twice. And yet they found a way, despite dressing practically the entire practice squad, especially at wide out, where none of the receivers active today were on the Week 1 roster.
The Eagles were forced to rely on 40-year old Josh McCown, who had appeared for only about five minutes in the entire regular season back in Week 2. Most teams would have crumbled in that scenario. And yet Doug Pederson was able to keep the Seahawks on their toes, as the Eagles new-found dynamic backfield duo of Miles Sanders and Boston Scott controlled the ground. McCown was surprisingly solid, making some great throws and never once going 3-and-out. The defense, with only a couple exceptions, did their job, keeping the Eagles within striking distance the whole way.
It's never fun to lose. It's even harder when that loss comes in the playoffs, when it's win or go home. But the Eagles shouldn't be sad in how they played. They should be proud. Basically the only factor acting in their favor was having home-field, and even that was somewhat mitigated considering Seattle's stellar 7-1 regular season road record. And yet they fought to the bitter end, creating several opportunities to even the score despite trailing by 11 points in the 3rd quarter. They just couldn't finish the job, but that's understandable when you look at the personnel they were forced to execute with.
If you want to be all doom and gloom about the Eagles going forward, you can. But it's not reasonable. If the Birds were able to compete with a Seahawks team that came within a foot of winning the NFC West (and going 2-0 against the #1 seed 49ers) despite dealing with a body count rivaling the Spanish Flu, you can. But imagine how good this team could be next year if less than 2/3 of the roster is decimated by injury and Howie Roseman is able to make some additions over the off-season.
The only thing there really is to be disappointed about is how Carson Wentz's playoff debut panned out. Before anyone of the Wentz haters can say anything, it is in no way Went'z fault that he had to leave this game. The hit was 100% illegal and should have never happened. There is a difference between being injury prone and being injured. What happened to Wentz Sunday falls under the latter category. It's only disappointing because Wentz has waited so long for this moment, worked so hard to get here, only for it to end way earlier than it ever should have for something that wasn't his fault.
It stinks that the Eagles season is over, especially with the Sixers and Flyers holiday road trips somehow going even worse than usual. But this team deserves to be praised for the dedication, resolve, and grittiness they showed the last few weeks. Those are the same traits is known and love for, the same traits we always appreciate in our teams and players, no matter what the outcome. I wanted them to win another Super Bowl as much as you did. But if the Eagles play with half of the heart and twice as much health as this season next year, I have no doubt that they will fly again.