By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
ABOVE PHOTO: Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (18) gets away from San Francisco 49ers free safety Dashon Goldson (38) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo/Michael Perez)
In every season, there’s always that one or two games that separates your favorite team from the playoffs.
In the bizarre case of your Philadelphia Eagles, there were four games that cost them a trip to the postseason. Had the Birds won even one of them, they would be practicing for a Wild Card weekend game this weekend. What makes matters worse is that in three of these games, the Eagles had a lead going into the fourth quarter.
Oct. 2, 2011- San Francisco 49ers 24, Eagles 23. Out of all the games the Philadelphia Eagles lost this season, this game probably epitomized the frustration fans felt with the Eagles defense under defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
The Eagles had a 23-3 lead in the third quarter and most of us in the pressbox that day thought it was over and in the win column for the Eagles at that point. But then the Niners stormed back on drives of 80, 77 and 77 yards to take a one-point lead. Along the way, Alex Henery missed a pair of field goals that could have put the game away for the Birds.
But the defense wasn’t the only one to blame for this game. After the 49ers had taken the lead, the Eagles drove the ball to the San Francisco 35, but wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who appeared to be headed for a big gain, fumbled the ball to end the game.
It was a game that elevated Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers to their outstanding season and another loss in the Eagles spiral downward.
Nov. 13, 2011-Arizona Cardinals 17, Eagles 14. Really! The Cardinals! If you can’t beat a team that was playing its backup quarterback, you don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. It was also the game in which the Eagles suspended DeSean Jackson for missing a special teams meeting, something that didn’t sit too well with Birds fans.
But this was a winnable game even without Jackson. On the Cardinals game-tying drive, the Eagles defense had a chance to get off the field and force a punt, but cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was called for an offside penalty and prolonged the Arizona drive.
The Eagles took a 17-14 lead with over five minutes to go, but backup quarterback John Skelton led the Cards on an 11-play, 87-yard drive, thanks to a 37-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald to the Birds one. Three plays later, Skelton hit Early Doucet for what turned out to be the winning score.
Meanwhile, Michael Vick, who had suffered a rib injury, had an off day, throwing a pair of interceptions including one on the final drive. The big question in this game was that LeSean McCoy ran the ball just 14 times and gained 81 yards. You wonder if the ball could have been in his hands a bit more.
Sept. 18, 2011-Atlanta Falcons 35, Eagles 31. In a game filled with ups and downs, the Falcons scored the game’s final 14 points after the Eagles had taken a 31-21 into the fourth quarter. Vick was out of the game by the fourth quarter with a concussion. Still, the Eagles had a shot to win the game and moved deep into Falcons territory at the 22. But on fourth down and four, backup Mike Kafa’s pass to Jeremy Maclin was dropped.
Oct. 9, 2011.-Buffalo Bills 31, Eagles 24. The Eagles gave this game away on both sides of the football. Vick had a career-high four interceptions including a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Nick Barnett. With the Eagles mounting a furious rally, the game turned on a pair of plays late. A Vick pass to Jason Avant in Bills territory was ripped away by Barnett.
The Birds had another chance to get the ball back late in the game. On their last possession of the game, the Bills had a fourth and one. Everybody who knows anything about football knew the Bills were not going to snap the football. Everyone except for Eagles defensive end Juqua Parker, who was flagged for encroachment.
Buffalo runs out the clock, game over. The Birds shoot themselves in the foot again and that was the story of their 2011 season.