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January 10 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan:
“The ball was in the air. It carried the hopes of Eagles fans that this, finally and at last, would be the year it all came together for this team. It was thrown by Michael Vick, the man who, more than any other, inspired those hopes.
When the ball came down in the arms of Green Bay Packers defensive back Tramon Williams, those hopes were dead.
An Eagles season unlike any other had ended pretty much like all the others of the Andy Reid era. The mountaintop – a Super Bowl title – was in view, but not attainable. For the second year in a row, the Eagles were eliminated in the wild-card playoff round, 21-16.
The Packers came into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday and controlled the game from the very start. The Eagles‘ offense could not build any momentum. Their defense was helpless to stop star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and unknown running back James Starks. The Packers were sitting on a five-point lead when the Eagles got the ball back at their own 34-yard line.
The offense that had scored 59 points against Washington, that had come back from a 31-10 fourth-quarter deficit against the New York Giants last month, needed to score one more touchdown to extend the season. Vick opened the drive with a short pass that DeSean Jackson took for a 28-yard gain, down to the Green Bay 38.
The buzz in the stadium was palpable. Here it was, the come-from-behind drive that longtime franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb had failed to produce so many times. Vick had his chance.
“We were very confident,” Vick said. “We thought we were going to win the game. I thought we were going to win the game. I had an upbeat feeling about myself. I felt like I was in control.”
January 10 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
“It was a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse.
The Green Bay Packers’ defense blitzed and then backed off into Cover 2. It played coverage for several plays and then ramped up the aggression, bringing pressure from different positions and angles.
The whole idea was to confuse and contain Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in an NFC wild-card game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
The Packers accepted the fact that Vick was going to break containment from time to time. He was going to scramble. He was going to escape the pocket and complete passes downfield.
They just wanted to minimize the damage by Vick, whose ability to ad-lib into explosive plays is unparalleled in the NFL.
“We knew coming in you can’t stop him,” said Packers defensive end Ryan Pickett. “He was going to make plays. We said, ‘Make him earn every yard and every point they get.’ That was the theme coming into the game.”
The Packers played it to the hilt in a 21-16 victory. It was Green Bay’s first playoff victory on the road since Jan. 11, 1998. Now it’s on to Atlanta for an NFC divisional game against the No. 1-seeded Falcons.
“This is fantastic,” said linebacker Clay Matthews. “We’ve been doing this week in and week out and to hold a team like that, which has big playmakers all across the board, to (16) points is truly a testament to the players and coaches.”
“On the last play of the Eagles‘ offensive season, two of the team’s wide receivers – DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper – thought Michael Vick was going to spike the ball and stop the clock rather than call a play on the run that resulted in an end-zone interception.
Here was the situation: After converting a third-and-10 with an 11-yard completion to Cooper, the Eagles were on the Green Bay 27-yard line. There was just under a minute to go and the clock was running. The Eagles trailed by 21-16.
Rather than stop the clock with a spike, Vick called a play on the fly: “All go.” He ended up throwing to Cooper on the left side of the end zone, an ill-advised throw intercepted by the Packers’ Tramon Williams.
“I just felt, the last couple of plays, we just kind of rushed it,” Jackson said. “We didn’t really have to rush it. We had 40 seconds, or whatever. We could have downed the ball and regrouped and just come back and not rushed it.”
Cooper said it wasn’t a big deal, but that he also thought Vick would have chosen to spike the ball and call a play.
“There was no huddle,” Cooper said. “After I caught that slant, coming back, I thought he was going to spike the ball, stop the clock. But he didn’t – not a big deal. He called ‘all go’ and that’s what we ran. What happened, happened. It’s over.””
January 10 Camden Courier-Post:
“In the game’s final minutes, David Akers just kept kicking.
Over and over, the Eagles kicker would line up and boot another ball into the practice net along the sideline, one after the other. It was all he could do.
The Eagles trailed by five points, making his role in the remainder of the game a moot point. The two field goals he had missed earlier in the game, however — those meant everything.
“We can all count,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said after his team’s 21-16 loss to Green Bay in the wild-card round of the playoffs. “Those points would have helped.”
Akers will be the NFC’s kicker in the Pro Bowl this year, and he missed only two kicks in his last nine games. But Sunday, in what might have been the final game of his 12-year career with the Eagles, he looked lost.
After Philadelphia picked up a muffed punt in the first quarter, the drive stalled at the Green Bay 23. Reid called on Akers, who pushed a 41-yard kick wide right.
With 13:09 to play, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-1 at the Packers’ 16. Again, Reid went to his veteran kicker for what should have been a chip-shot 34-yard attempt. Again, Akers booted it wide right.
January 10 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Kevin Kolb isn’t one for ultimatums – he handled his demotion this season with class – but the backup quarterback wants out if the Eagles plan on bringing Michael Vick back as their starting quarterback, a source close to the situation said.
Kolb wants to start and whether that’s for the Eagles or not, he will let coach Andy Reid know that during a scheduled Monday meeting. The 26-year-old has been the Eagles‘ backup for most of four seasons.
Asked what would be a best-case scenario for next season, Kolb said, “To start.”
“I love it here, as everybody knows,” Kolb said after the Eagles‘ 21-16 playoff loss to the Packers. “My family’s settled in here. I would love to be starting here. But I want to be starting somewhere.”
Kolb was then asked if could take another season in Philadelphia as the backup.
“I can’t answer that question,” he said.
January 10 Camden Courier-Post:
“The Phillies were reminded in the playoffs how pitching wins in the postseason.
The Eagles were dealt a similar time-tested and proverbial postseason axiom Sunday to ponder in the offseason.
In playoff football, defense is king.
Sure, the first chatter you hear this offseason will be what to do with Michael Vick.
Really, though, the Eagles are either going to re-sign their quarterback to a long-term deal or tag him as their franchise player. Either way, No. 7 will be back.
The next order of business will be to take a page out of the Phillies’ offseason game plan.
The Phillies were beaten by better pitching, so they decided to fix the problem during the offseason. And they did.
The Eagles were ultimately beaten this year, once again, by their defense.
For the third straight season, coach Andy Reid’s offense set a franchise record for scoring points. But, for the second-straight season, the Eagles were bounced from the playoffs in the first round.
January 10 Philadelphia Daily News:
“It started off OK.
Right tackle Winston Justice handled the trickery and blitzes and generally kept the blind side of Michael Vick clean. Usually, Justice faced former USC teammate Clay Matthews. Usually, Justice did his job.
Then, the madness.
With 2 minutes, 52 seconds to play in the third quarter, on the first play of an Eagles‘ drive that began at their 46, Justice false-started.
On the next play, he lined up in the backfield, a penalty, and threw Matthews to the ground, an egregious holding penalty.
“I got two penalties in one play. That’s hard to do. I did it,” Justice said. “You can’t make mistakes like that. I made a big one.”
He cost his team 15 yards before they’d gained 1.
The Eagles overcame Justice’s errors and drove to the Packers’ 16, but Justice’s handlers had seen enough.
Brusquely, after the series, offensive line coach Juan Castillo told Justice he was out. Castillo told King Dunlap he was in.
Dunlap stymied Matthews, helped the Birds march for a touchdown and appeared to have won a job.
DeSean Jackson mulls his future
January 10 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“DeSean Jackson wants a new contract. This is no secret.
“Hopefully,” the wide receiver said after the Eagles‘ season-ending playoff loss to the Packers on Sunday. “But you can’t force it.”
Jackson spoke briefly about his contract situation long after a throng of reporters had left his stall. For eight minutes of that group interview, the explosive receiver tried to explain why the Eagles weren’t able to get their biggest playmaker involved in the offense yet again.
“It’s never about myself, there are still 11 guys out there on the field,” Jackson said. “At any given time somebody has to make a play, and if it’s not myself, you have other players that are paid and professionals like myself. It would be great to go out there to catch all the deep balls and keep scoring and scoring, but obviously teams are not going to let that happen.”
The knee sprain he suffered midway through the first quarter did not help matters. But that occurred during the Eagles‘ third possession of the game and they still had yet to target Jackson. So once again, for the third straight game, he did not record a reception in the first 15 minutes.
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