By Sally Fahey
When the Eagles blew yet another double-digit, second-half lead, it did seem that their quixotic playoffs quest was cooked.
But only a week after upsetting the mighty Rams, they outlasted the undermanned Texans to demonstrate they still possess the heart of a champion.
“I told you,” Eagles defensive end Chris Long repeated afterward, “we don’t quit.”
With Nick Foles breaking his franchise record by throwing for 471 yards, with four touchdowns, the Eagles treated their faithful to one more (and perhaps final) reminder of what was the glory of last season’s Super Bowl run.
But even if the Eagles (8-7) win at Washington on Sunday, there’s a strong chance that they will become the fifth defending champion over the past decade to not even qualify for the postseason.
Two of the losses from earlier this season come to mind especially. They blew a 10-point lead at Tennessee before falling in overtime in Week 4. Three weeks later, they allowed Carolina to rally from 14-down to win at The Linc. Those are ghosts of missed opportunity that haunt the Eagles about now.
“All of the games count,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “The ones you should’ve won all of a sudden mean everything.”
For the longshot chance of winning the NFC East again, the Eagles needed a Dallas collapse in the final two games. The Cowboys beat Tampa Bay to win the East. So that’s that. To claim a wild-card slot, the Eagles need the Vikings to lose one of their final two games. Minnesota trailed early at Detroit, but ultimately steamrolled the Leos. So that’s that. The Eagles chances now hinge on Minnesota losing against a Bears team that will have nothing to play for next weekend.
As Brandon Graham, one of the Super Bowl heroes, put it: “We need help!”
The Eagles did everything possible to help themselves, while in the process providing a farewell performance. The powerful D-line didn’t always capture Watson but did make him sweat. Elliott didn’t always make his kicks (see the failed PAT in the fourth quarter) but did make the one that mattered most. The offense had huge moments from a wide cast of characters, including Ertz (12 catches, 110 yards, 2 TDs) and Darren Sproles (108 yards from scrimmage).
And they had the ultimate faith, especially with Foles at the control, as he was during the Super Bowl run while subbing, like now, for an injured Carson Wentz.
“That last drive, in the huddle, everybody was so calm,” Sproles said. “But we all knew what was at stake. It was like a playoff game for us.”
And it may be the closest thing to the playoffs for the Eagles, reduced to what might have been.
When someone asked Jenkins if the Eagles, would feel like a dangerous team in the playoffs if they somehow manage to get in, he essentially rolled his eyes.
“That’s not a feeling,” Jenkins said. “That’s something we know.”
Yes, they’ll still have swagger and faith in Foles to the last drop of the season.
But now they need some sort of holiday miracle to keep the Magic of St. Nick flowing for another playoff run.