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By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The grand scheme had the last game of the season on New Year’s Day against the Washington Redskins marked as a rest game, since the Eagles, by now, were supposed to have locked up either the NFC East or a playoff berth. Not playing to go 8-8. Not deactivating LeSean McCoy for next season, rather than saving him for a Super Bowl run.
That was the plan.
Unfortunately, what this season turned into was a monumental disappointment, despite the Eagles’ season-closing 34-10 victory over woeful Washington before the audible diehards at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
Right after the game, there was substantial speculation about the future of Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid, whether he wants to come back, whether he thinks he’ll be back.
“I have no answer for you, I haven’t thought about all of that and I’m not going to start right now,” Reid responded to queries about his future. “I’ll think about it when I want to think about it. I haven’t gone there. I thought it was a heck of a game and I appreciate you asking. It was a good hard-fought NFC East game. I appreciate the way the guys battled throughout this season. I don’t want to get caught up in that. We didn’t win enough of them to keep moving on.
“We’re playing good football right now. That’s a high-and-tight thing, because we won’t be able to see against playoff teams. I think we can play anybody and win games. Right now we’re playing good football, good enough to play anybody. I think they all wanted to be in the playoffs. I think we all did, the whole organization did. Everyone has worked very hard for that, and to win a championship and so on. You have that part of it. I think the other part of that is finishing up positive, so you can utilize that and learn and grow that feeling so it comes into the following year. At the same time, you’re humbled, because you didn’t make the playoffs. This wasn’t good enough, but today it was, so we’re going to enjoy this a little bit.”
There were many positives to glean from the Eagles’ victory, like the way the defense played the second half of the season, the play of defensive tackle Derek Landri, rookie center Jason Kelce, the late-season play of tight end Brent Celek and the season-long play of McCoy, who snapped a number of franchise records and will be heading—deservedly so—to his first Pro Bowl (after posting a team-record 20 touchdowns and 17 rushing scores, joining the legendary Steve Van Buren (1945 and 1947) as the only other Eagle to ever finish the season as the league leader in touchdowns).
There were also many, many negatives to glean, too. First and foremost were the NFL-high 38 turnovers, including two on Sunday against the Redskins (29 turnovers came from the quarterback position). There were the resonating five blown fourth-quarter leads to the Falcons, 49ers, Giants, Bears and Cardinals in their eight losses. The dubious adjunct to that stain is that four came at home, establishing an NFL standard for most fourth-quarter leads lost at home in a season.
There was the erratic play of quarterback Michael Vick, who finished with 19 touchdowns and the turned the ball over 18 times. His 14 interceptions this year was a career high for picks thrown in a season.
“The majority of my interceptions came from tipped balls, and I take responsibility for that, it’s my responsibility for getting the ball up,” Vick said. “That’s never happened to me before. I’m not going to dwell on that. I don’t think our season was decided based on how many interceptions I threw.”
Vick ended his day completing 24 for 39 for 335 yards and three touchdowns, concluding this season with 18 touchdowns and throwing for 3,303 yards.
“You have to take all of the positives and take everything we did,” Vick said. “That’s the unfortunate part about this [four-game winning streak to close the season], it feels so right right now. Everybody’s gelling together right now, our team is getting closer as a unit. Everybody understands the coaches and what we’re trying to do and the philosophy. We’re talking about it, and it feels right. That’s going to be a direct carry over into next season. We’ve all talked about it as a team and we know what needs to be done. We’ll fly under the radar and definitely try to shock some people next year.”
Pounding Washington, a team the Eagles should have plowed, was a nice way to close. There was Vick’s play, and Chad Hall’s seven-yard, second-quarter touchdown, when the mighty-mite lowered his head and rammed through Redskin defenders DeAngelo Hall and Perry Riley.
Dion Lewis, playing for McCoy, showed some explosive speed and proved he could be a viable backup to Shady next season. He scored his first career NFL touchdown, rushing for 58 yards on 12 carries, including breaking off a 20-yard run.
Landri, playing for Mike Patterson, was a terror inside. He pressured Redskins’ quarterback Rex Grossman all afternoon, in his face and forcing Grossman into making more bad decisions than he usually makes. He also burrowed through the Washington front to use his considerable jumping ability to block a 36-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter.
It was all fine trimming on an 8-8 season—after going 5-1 in the NFC East. It was a rather down NFC East, won for the first time by a team that will have less than 10 victories this season.
But the NFC East champion will be heading to the playoffs. The Eagles will not.
“Next year will be totally different,” Vick vowed, “I promise.”
Andy Reid won his 136th career game, tying Hank Stram for 22nd place on the NFL’s all-time list (including playoffs)… The Eagles swept the Redskins for the seventh time under Reid …He is 27-12 against NFC East teams the second time he faces them in a season (3-0 this season) … The Eagles finished the season with a 5-1 record against NFC East opponents, their best divisional record since 2006, and the sixth time Reid has held a 5-1 record or better against divisional foes … The Eagles set team records this season with 356 first downs and 6,386 total net yards. The previous records were 332 first downs (1981) and 6,230 yards (2010). The top five net yardage totals in team history have occurred in the last six seasons … They also racked up 4,276 gross passing yards, which is the third-highest total in franchise history … Prior to this season (Jackson – 961, Maclin – 859, Celek – 811), no Eagles team had ever featured three receivers with over 800 receiving yards apiece … K Alex Henery connected on his final 16 consecutive field goal attempts, which is the third-longest streak in team history … Henery set a team record for field goal percentage (88.9%) in a single season, connecting on 24 of his 27 tries … Henery’s 118 points were the most ever by an Eagles rookie kicker, surpassing Paul McFadden’s 116 in 1984… Prior to this season, the highest field goal percentage in a season by a rookie with at least 20 attempts was 86.2% by Kris Brown (1999) and Ryan Succop (2009), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Henery and Cowboys rookie kicker Dan Bailey (32-for-36, 88.9%) are both currently ahead of that record. Bailey plays tonight against the Giants … RB LeSean McCoy finished the season with a team record 20 touchdowns and 17 rushing scores. He can join Steve Van Buren (1945 and 1947) as the only Eagles ever to finish the season as the league leader in touchdowns … McCoy’s 120 points led the team and were the seventh-highest total in franchise history. The last non-kicker to lead the Eagles in scoring was Calvin Williams in 1993 (10 touchdowns, 60 points). In fact, this is the first Eagles team ever to have two players with 100-plus points (McCoy, Henery) … McCoy’s 1,309 yards this season were the fifth on the Eagles single-season rushing list … QB Michael Vick threw for 335 yards and a season-high three touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 104.1, marking the second time in his career that Vick has posted a rating of 100-or-better in three straight games. It was Vick’s eighth 300-yard game and his third of the year … Vick set career highs with 423 pass attempts, 253 completions and 3,303 yards in 2011. He became the second player in NFL history to have 3,000 passing and 500 rushing yards in two seasons (Randall Cunningham – 3 in a row from 1990-92) … WR DeSean Jackson became the fifth player in NFL history to eclipse 900 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons, joining Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Bob Hayes and Joey Galloway … Jackson scored on a 62-yard touchdown reception, which was the Eagles longest of the season. 22 of Jackson’s 30 career scores have covered 30-plus yards … In eight games against the Redskins, Jackson is averaging 62.8 yards on six touchdowns (four receiving, one rushing, one punt return) … In their last four games (all wins), the Eagles defense has held opponents to 11.5 points and 265.0 total net yards per game, while allowing 18 of 61 (29.5%) third down opportunities and 1-8 on fourth down. Opponents scored just four touchdowns on their last 13 red zone possessions during that span… Over the last 11 games, the Eagles held opponents to just 17.8 points per game while forcing 19 takeaways … S Nate Allen recorded his second interception of the season. Three of his five career interceptions, and both this season, have come against the Redskins. He has had a pick in all three of his career games against Washington … DT Derek Landri blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt, the first of his career and the second by an Eagle this season … The defense held Washington without a touchdown in three red zone opportunities … WR Chad Hall caught his second-career touchdown. Both of his scores have come in season finales … WR Jeremy Maclin tallied his seventh-career 100-yard receiving game after leading the team with eight receptions and 105 yards … WR Jason Avant finished the season with a career-high 52 receptions. His reception total has increased in each of his six NFL seasons … TE Brent Celek has 2,789 career receiving yards, surpassing Keith Jackson (2,757) for the third-highest total ever by an Eagles tight end. Celek scored a touchdown in three straight games for the second time in his career… The only duo in team history that combined for more sacks than DEs Trent Cole (11) and Jason Babin (18) was Clyde Simmons (19) and Reggie White (14), who combined for 33 in 1992 … The Eagles 50 sacks this season tied for the ninth-best total in team history and the most since amassing 56 in 2002.