For one fleeting moment in the fourth quarter of Wild Card Saturday, it felt like the Philadelphia Eagles found solid footing. Chip Kelly’s squad just finished chipping away at a 13-point second-half deficit with Nick Foles’ three-yard touchdown to tight end Zach Ertz to pull the Birds ahead by one over the visiting New Orleans Saints.
That ground gave way quickly when Darren Sproles took the ensuing kickoff back 39 yards, plus 15 more tacked on by officials for Cary Williams’ horse-collar tackle. The Saints offense started in Philadelphia territory, where Drew Brees engineered a conservative drive that bled the remaining 4:54 off the clock and ended with Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal as time expired.
No last possession, not even a chance for a Hail Mary. The Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs just like that, 26-24.
Nothing lessens the blow of a season coming to an end, but at least there’s some tiny shred of hope when the offense has the ball and goes down swinging. Waiting for the Saints to set up a game-winning field goal was such a helpless feeling.
Kelly reflected on how the short field that resulted from that kickoff took the game out of his defense's hands at his postgame news conference broadcast on Eagles Postgame Live on Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia.
I thought our defense did a really good job in the second half. The kickoff obviously hurt ... it made it a short field, you're just trying 15, 20 yards to put yourself into field-goal range. I thought after we scored, if we pin them down deep and could get a start, we'd have a shot at it.
Kickoff aside, plenty else had to go wrong for the Eagles for it to end that way. One last time this season, let's dissect what happened.