PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—A month ago the talk was rampant throughout Philadelphia that the Eagles were headed to the Super Bowl. A month ago Michael Vick was doing the impossible, confounding defenses and performing miraculous comebacks. A month ago a shaky, unstable defense seemed to be able to find a way to make the big play at the right time.
That was a month ago.
The team that began the season celebrating 50 years since it last won a championship can tack on another year—losing to the very team the Eagles beat in the 1960 NFL championship game. There was no title magic floating in the air Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
VIEW PHOTOS: Eagles vs. Packers
The Green Bay Packers ended the Eagles season on a 21-16 loss in the NFC playoffs on Sunday, enabling Green Bay to advance and play the Atlanta Falcons while the Seattle Seahawks will travel to Chicago to play the Bears.
The Eagles never led, and fought back from a 14-0 hole and 21-10 deficit. Green Bay rushed for 138 yards and showed great balance with 32 rushing plays and 27 passing plays. And the 138 yards rushing came from a Packers team that averaged nearly 100 yards rushing a game.
Many of the same problems the Eagles had during the regular season resurfaced. The senseless penalties. Inability to stop Green Bay in the red zone. Inability to stop Green Bay’s pass rush. Too much reliance on the pass. Constantly playing catch-up.
Green Bay had a 21-10 lead with less than six minutes to play. Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 5-for-5 in the red zone and Green Bay was 3-for-3 for touchdowns in the red zone.
The Packers completely took out Eagles’ deep threat DeSean Jackson, who didn’t catch his first pass until there was 8:40 left to play, when Vick hit him for a 19-yard reception. Jackson made a big catch later, for a 28-yard reception on the Eagles’ last drive.
Offensively, Packers’ rookie tailback James Starks ripped through the Eagles for a Green Bay post-season rookie rushing record 123 yards on 23 carries, including a 27-yard run and a 5.3-yard average per carry.
But with 4:08 to play, it seemed like the Eagles would be in a position to pull out yet another marvel. Eagles’ coach Andy Reid opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the one. Vick’s one-yard sneak pulled the Eagles to within 21-16, but Vick’s completion to Brent Celek on the two-point conversion was nullified when Celek’s right heel stepped over the end line, causing flags to fly for an illegal touch penalty.
The repeat of the two-point conversion at the seven was much worse. Vick had no chance. He was slammed to the ground and got up limping, grabbing his left ankle.
The Eagles had one more chance, thanks to rookie linebacker Keenan Clayton, who could have been a hero, coming up with a big sack at the two-minute warning at the Packers’ 37, giving the Eagles a last shot.
The Eagles reached the Green Bay 27, when Vick was looking for Riley Cooper in the end zone. But Green Bay’s Tramon Williams had great position on the pass and intercepted Vick, finishing the Eagles’ hopes. It was the first time Reid lost a NFC wildcard playoff game at home—and it marked the third-straight home game the Eagles lost.
“We had four verticals and I just took a shot at the end zone, and I felt like I got greedy and I didn’t throw the kind of ball that I wanted to throw,” said Vick, who completed 20 of 36 for 292 yards and a touchdown.”Spiking the ball was an option, but I wanted to keep attacking. I tried to do too much and I got greedy. It’s hindsight and something that I have to learn from.
“This one hurt more than any of the other playoff losses I had. It hurts more because I expected so much more out of myself. I was able to do so much with offense and it’s disappointing that we could have done more with this offense than we did. It was a great season and the ultimate goal was to win the Super Bowl. We didn’t do that. We had a great season and that’s not enough.”
Rodgers finished completing 18 of 27 for 180 yards and three touchdowns.
A glaring stat that stung the Eagles all day was their inefficiency to convert on third down. The Packers were 8-of-13 on third down, while the Eagles were 5-fo-13 on third-down conversions.
“They gave us different looks and we didn’t adjust, and they kept exposing us, big play after big play,” Eagles’ linebacker Ernie Sims said. “We couldn’t off the field on third down, and we didn’t give our offense much of a chance. We knew about Starks and we knew he would expose us. I’m angry about this.”
The game-winning series came on an 11-play, 80-yard drive in the third quarter, when Rodgers converted two third downs and resulted in Rodgers’ third TD pass of the game, a 16-yard score to Brandon Jackson, giving Green Bay a 21-10 lead.
Eagles’ All-Pro kicker David Akers didn’t exactly help, either, missing a pair of field goals, from 41 and 34 yards, which came with 13:05 left to play.
“We had to do a better job on third down, that one down in particular hurt us,” Reid said. “Our kicking game had a lot to be desired there. That hurt us. We can all count and those points would have helped.”
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito