This was supposed to be the year that all the pieces were finally put in place for a championship run. In fact, one minor slip of the tongue by a newly acquired Vince Young coined the Birds as 'the dream team' with the public, media, and the rest of the league. In reality, this one little phrase proved to be the kiss of death on this season as the bar was raised way to high for a bunch of talented athletes that did not have the opportunity to come together as a team.
Just because your offense and defense is loaded with Pro Bowl-caliber players does not mean they will be able to harness all that talent into an unstoppable force that can go out and win games week after week. The Eagles never really had a chance this year after a good majority of their starting defensive lineup and offensive line had to be slapped together in the first few weeks of August with the start of the regular season just a month away.
The end result should have been predictable, but we as fans remained blind to the reality that there were major cracks in the foundation of this year’s team. These cracks were quickly exposed in a 1-4 start that festered into a 4-8 record after the first 12 games that pretty much ended the dream for this team. In a classic case of too little, too late, the Eagles rallied for four straight dominating victories to salvage an 8-8 record overall and were actually primed to do some serious damage in the playoffs if they would have snuck their way in. The Eagles that walked off the field after a season-ending 34-10 win over Washington is hopefully the real dream team that walks onto the field on opening day in 2012.
As a team, the highlights other than its strong finish would have to be a 5-1 record in the division that included two highly enjoyable spankings of the Cowboys and a hard-fought 17-10 victory over New York in Week 11 on the road. Even the sweep of the Redskins was impressive considering the trouble the Birds have had beating that team in the past. The offense finished the season ranked fourth in the NFL in total yards and the much-maligned defense was actually ranked eighth in total yards allowed.
As individual players, the primary highlight was running back LeSean McCoy. The third-year back established himself as the best all-around player in the league with 1,309 yards rushing on 273 carries and another 315 yards receiving on 48 catches. He led the team in scoring with 17 touchdowns on the ground and three through the air. A pair of Jason’s also proved themselves worthy of Pro Bowl recognition with Jason Peters anchoring the Eagles’ offensive line and Jason Babin wreaking havoc on the defensive side of the ball with 18 sacks and three forced fumbles.
The biggest lowlight of this season, other than the humiliating 31-14 loss to Seattle in front of a prime-time audience, was the fourth-quarter meltdowns against the Falcons, the Giants, the 49ers, the Bears, and the Cardinals. I am not saying they should have won every one of those games, but just one victory would have been enough to win the division this year. The second biggest lowlight was a -14 turnover ratio that was tied for second worst in the NFL. These are the type of mistakes that cause teams to lose games and have them at home watching the playoffs with the rest of us.
It appears that this whole bunch including its beloved leader Andy Reid will be back for an encore performance in 2012. Expect this team to stay pretty much intact heading into next season with hopefully a few more additions to plug any remaining holes that still exist. You might see Philly’s front office bring in a veteran defensive coordinator once all the smoke clears from all the other firings in the league, but the majority of the high-priced free agents that were brought in signed multi-year contracts. It remains to be seen what the Birds will do with DeSean Jackson, but my guess is that he will be back next season after getting his act together over the last few weeks of the season. That being said, if the Eagles’ offensive line can find a way to keep Michael Vick healthy, and Reid finally addresses the team’s major issues at linebacker, the championship dream should be able to rise from the ashes and make a serious run at becoming reality in 2012.
Just as a side note, I was never really thrilled with the idea of going to Indianapolis in the winter, but I am already packing my best drinking shoes and beads for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.