A (32-yard) Kick In The Gut

Posted: January 5, 2014 in Eagles
Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal as time expired sent the Saints on their way to the Divisional Round and ended a promising Eagles Season (Photo / AP)

Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal as time expired sent the Saints on their way to the Divisional Round and ended a promising Eagles Season (Photo / AP)

This one hurt…a lot.

A week after a thrilling win that secured their 12th NFC East Championship, the Eagles saw their 2013 season come to an abrupt and disappointing end courtesy of a 32-yard field goal from Shayne Graham as time expired in the fourth quarter to give the Saints a 26-24 win.

Simply put it was a frustrating end to a great season.

The second the ball sailed through the goal post, the blame game began as to why the game ended the way it did. While the finger was pointed in many directions, there are three particular things that stuck out to me as I watched with thousands of fellow Eagles fans at Xfinity Live across from Lincoln Financial Field.

1) The Eagles Defense Had Three Main Jobs And Only Did One of Them.

There were three key things the Eagles defense had to do in order to beat the Saints: Get to Drew Brees and keep him out of any kind of rhythm, Contain tight end Jimmy Graham and contain the Saints running game.

They were sometimes able to keep Drew Brees out of a consistent rhythm, intercepting him twice in the process. However, when Brees did get into a groove, he, along with receivers Kenny Stills and Lance Moore, made the Eagles pay.

They also held Jimmy Graham in check, limiting him to just three catches for 44 yards (though one was a 21-yard catch) and 0 touchdowns.

The one thing the defense struggled to do the most was containing the run game. The Eagles mostly lined up in a nickel defense, a defense typically used against the pass, in anticipation of the Saints passing attack. However, the Saints managed to use a trio of running backs, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson, to run over the Eagles. The three combined for 185 yards and a touchdown (from Mark Ingram).

2) The Offense Did Not Do Enough To Help The Defense

The high-scoring Eagles offense was held to a combined 256 yards, with their high-powered rushing game limited to just 80 yards and 1 touchdown from LeSean McCoy.

Simply put, they had their chances and failed to capitalize. Whether it was Nick Foles taking a sack when he should have thrown the ball away, leaving Alex Henery to attempt a 48 yard field goal that he would wind up missing, or Riley Cooper dropping a ball that landed right in his hands, they let several huge opportunities to put points on the board slip away.

Oh, and by the way, the irony that Alex Henery missed that aforementioned field goal and the Eagles went on to lose by 2 is not lost on me.

3) Cary Williams

Prior to this season, the Eagles signed veteran safety Cary Williams to a 3-year, $17 million deal (with $5.75 guaranteed). Many hoped that he would not only be a threat at safety, but also provide some leadership.

I wouldn’t call him a bust by any means, but there have been times where he has left people scratching their heads.

One such instance was late in the fourth quarter when Darren Sproles was fielding a punt. Sproles turned a quarter and headed up field for about 10 yards when Cary Williams, perhaps in desperation, brought Sproles down with a horse collar tackle, which added an additional 15 yards to the return, giving the Saints a short field to work with.

Long story short, the Saints drove down and kicked a game-winning 32 yard field goal, ending the Eagles’ season. Now that one play is not the sole reason for the loss, and Cary Williams explained after the game that he will do everything he can to make the tackle.

I’m all for the “give it everything I have” mentality, but someone with Williams’ experience should know better than to take a 15 yard penalty that late in the game, especially when there were other ways to stop him (like pushing him out of bounds).

Success Nonetheless

Bottom line is that this is about as disappointing of an end of a season as there is. Despite the disappointment, I would give the season a solid “B”. There were plenty of positives to take away from the season, but they also left a lot to be desired.

They went into this season with a new coach and almost entirely new coaching staff as well as new offensive and defensive systems and came out with a 10-6 record and the NFC East Championship.

One thing is for sure, this team has a huge upside to them as they enter next season.

We’ll see what 2014 has in store for the Birds.

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