When we last left our beloved Birds, the football was seen glancing off the hands of one Alshon Jeffery and into the hands of Saints cornerback Marcus Lattimore, effectively ending the Eagles hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions.
As Lattimore raced down the field, a dejected Jeffery lay on the ground, looking at his hands as if they had deceived him at the most inopportune time. But blaming the usually sure-handed receiver, who has been an important cog in the Eagles receiving corps since he arrived from Chicago two seasons ago, would surely be an injustice.
No, the Eagles lost that Sunday because all of the lucky breaks that had gone their way in the previous month or so finally ended. Their late-season surge to the playoffs almost made us forget that this was a team that stuttered through the gates, and were actually 4-6 at one point after a blowout 48-7 loss to the Saints in Week 11.
But the Birds managed to win five of their last six, including three in a row to end the season after quarterback Carson Wentz went down for the season. And with some luck from the Chicago Bears, who defeated the Minnesota Vikings on the last week of the season, the Eagles were in the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since the 2009-10 seasons.
A 9-7 record and a wildcard entrance, however, meant that the team would have to win three straight on the road to repeat as champs. But after a wildcard round victory over the Chicago Bears, the same team that had assisted the Birds to receive an invite to the playoff dance to begin with, many thought that destiny would once again be in the Eagles hands.
And why not? The “double doink” that gave the Eagles the victory only reiterated to the faithful that the good fortunes of this team would continue all the way to Atlanta (site of Super Bowl 53).
And when the team got off to a 14-0 lead in the Superdome against the same Saints team that had blown them out on that same field just two months prior, all the signs were looking toward Philadelphia advancing to the NFC Championship game once again.
But the Saints would not go easily into the night, especially with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees. And any chances the Eagles had of coming back from a 20-14 deficit were dashed as the ball caromed off Jeffery’s hands.
But a new season brings with it the promise of another Super Bowl run, especially with a healthy Carson Wentz under center. And the Eagles went out this past offseason to make sure that Wentz has enough ammunition to get this offense going, bringing in running back Jordan Howard from the Bears and bringing back an older (and hopefully, wiser) DeSean Jackson to play wide receiver.
DeSean may not be the young whipper snapper that the Birds drafted in 2008 under then head coach Andy Reid, but he still has the ability to stretch the field with his speed, something the Eagles sorely lacked last season after Mike Wallace was injured early in the year.
Gone though, is Nick Foles, who was the equivalent of Linus’ security blanket from the classic “Peanuts” comic strip (as far as Eagles fans were concerned). Foles could always be counted on to provide comfort (as well as some clutch wins) during a period of uncertainty, and his Super Bowl victory will be etched in this fan base’s memory for a lifetime.
Should Wentz, who’s injury plagued three seasons with the Eagles mask the fact that he’s a very good quarterback when healthy, suffer the same fate once again, the quarterback duties would fall on journeyman backup Josh McCown. And while McCown has bounced around the league more than your average “bounce house” has bounced around your neighbor’s backyard, he has had the misfortune of playing on a lot of bad teams, having never reached the postseason in his seventeen years in the NFL.
If McCown was called into duty on this team, I actually think he would surprise some people with his play, though whether he can replicate Foles’ success as a backup remains to be seen.
The Birds start off their season at home against a divisional foe in the Washington Redskins, the same team that they ended with in the regular season last year (winning 24-0).
The Redskins have been pretty much mediocre since owner Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999, and will probably continue to be until he decides to sell.
The team’s high point during Snyder’s 20-year tenure has been three 10-6 seasons (1999, 2005, & 2012) and only two playoff wins to show for it, with the last one coming in 2005.
In the same span, the Redskins have had eight head coaches. So to summarize – two playoff wins, eight head coaches. Not a stat that would go over well in the City of Brotherly Love.
Speaking of which, over that same span, the Eagles under owner Jeff Lurie have had eleven seasons of ten or more wins, 14 playoff victories, and two Superbowl appearances, including their Superbowl victory two seasons ago.
Redskins fans continue to remember fondly the days of John Riggins barreling through the Miami Dolphins defense en route to a Super Bowl XVII victory, or Doug Williams relishing his “15 minutes of fame” when he put up 35 points in one QUARTER against the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.
But as the years pass, those memories continue to fade, and ‘Skins fans are left with the bungling Dan Snyder in representing what this once storied franchise has now become.
That all bodes well for the Eagles, who will need a week 1 victory, especially considering that they have a murderous road schedule during the first half of the season. They are the only team in the NFL to have three straight road games this season, but should they get through that, they will only have to get on a plane once in the 2nd half of the season.
The Birds will struggle in the first half, as the rustiness from lack of playing during the preseason will show its effects. But the team will eventually put it together in the 2nd half, winning 27-14.
“As Broad & Pattison Turns” has returned. Let the NFL season begin and Go BIRDS!
Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless noted otherwise):
Colts at Chargers 4:05 PM CBS
Steelers at Patriots 8:20 PM NBC
Texans at Saints 7:10 PM ESPN (Mon)