Although it wasn’t as strong as they had hoped, the Philadelphia Eagles did finish the 2009 season strong.
For the second straight quarter the Birds went 3-1, but the only loss was a heartbreaking shutout in Dallas that earned the Cowboys the division title and the Birds the title of “road warriors.”
As the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs, they’ll have to win three games away from The Linc to make it to Miami.
But can they get there?
Let’s see how the Birds’ offense grades out for the final marking period of the 2009 campaign.
Previous Grades: A, B-plus, A-minus
Current Grade: B-plus
Overall GPA: 3.58
Well, Donovan McNabb led the Eagles to that 3-1 record in the fourth quarter, and carried much of the offense as he’s done all season.
Problem is, numerically, it was his “worst” quarter.
For one, his 58.6 completion percentage led to him having the lowest overall percentage in three seasons. Sure, it’s not JaMarcus Russell, but No. 5 is better than completing less than three out of every five.
The offense as a whole is to blame for that, as they’ve thrown less screens and “West Coast” passes and taken more shots at the home run ball as of late…but just imagine if he got up to 62 or 63 even?
The Dallas game is a microcosm of his up and down. It was only the second of 14 games where he didn’t throw a TD…yet, for the first time since thrashing Atlanta, he didn’t throw a pick either.
Good thing, because his 6 TD/4 INT ratio was his worst of the season in any quarter, he was sacked nine times, and the Dallas game also had his second lowest full-game yardage total of the season.
Not a banner quarter for McNabb, who alternated great game and dud over the last four weeks.
Previous Grades: B, B-minus, B-plus
Current Grade: C-plus
Overall GPA: 2.83
24 for 77, 33 for 117, 28 for 105, 10 for 37.
That’s not some bizarre supermarket sale, that’s the Eagles’ rushing totals for every game in the fourth quarter.
That’s awful, considering they ran the ball roughly 40 percent of the time.
336 yards total in four games on 96 carries, meaning they averaged a whopping 3.5 yards per carry—barely enough to gain a first down per possession.
Can you see why Donovan went for the home run so much this year? If you can’t break one now and then—and get stuffed more than not even if you do—chances are you’re in trouble.
And somehow they WON four games in December.
In a word, the run game was dismal this year. Brian Westbrook only ran for 933 yards total in 2008…and that was only 27 yards less than LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver got COMBINED in 2009.
McCoy will get better, and if he’s back in 2010, Westbrook will be healthy. But as good as Weaver was this year, when your fullback leads the team in rushing down the stretch, you’re in trouble. At least Weaver made the Pro Bowl for his efforts.
Dallas keyed the pass last weekend, and if Philly can’t at least temporarily fix their broken run game, it’ll be one and done.
Previous Grades: B-plus, B-minus, A-minus
Current Grade: A-minus
Overall GPA: 3.17
It was a two-man show in the final quarter.
Coming into 2009, the Eagles had only two 1000-yard receivers in the Andy Reid era—and in 2009, they were 29 Brent Celek yards away from doubling that.
That’s fairly impressive, even given how much Donovan threw the ball.
DeSean Jackson was the MVP of Weeks 14 and 15, hauling in 12 balls for 318 yards and a pair of scores. He ended up with 1176 yards, the league lead in led the league in yards per catch and a Pro Bowl berth when his breakout season concluded.
For Weeks 16 and 17 it was Celek who stepped up. He had nearly a third of his catches and more than a third of his yards in the final month, including a back-to-back 121 and 96 to close it out, and could’ve been a Pro Bowler if there weren’t five equally impressive tight ends in the NFC.
Beyond them, though, it was rough.
Jeremy Maclin missed two games in the quarter and only had nine catches in the two he played. Jason Avant played all four and only notched nine as well, while Kevin Curtis’ one game return yielded only one grab.
At least Reggie Brown had four catches for 51 yards—which was almost half his season total. What a great contract extension he was, huh?
Again, if they are to go deep in the playoffs, Maclin and Avant will have to step up and make some huge catches.
Previous Grades: B-plus, C-minus, B-minus
Current Grade: C-plus
Overall GPA: 2.5
Jason Peters made the Pro Bowl, and I have no idea how.
The line allowed 38 sacks this season, nearly 2.5 per game.
They certainly lived up to that rep in the final quarter, as D-Mac was dropped nine times—eight in the final two weeks.
Combine that with the dismal rushing game and the McNabb fumble last week that was totally Nick Cole’s fault, and they’re lucky they get a C-plus. It could be worse, but I gave them a pass for losing Jamaal Jackson.
They need to be better, period.
Man, it must have been a BAD year for tackles if the blind side protector of a guy who was on his back once every half-hour is starting in the All-Star Game.
Previous Grades: A-minus, B-minus, B-plus
Current Grade: B (2.91 total)
Overall GPA: 3.17
No running game, bad line…yet they were No. 11 in yardage and No. 5 in points scored.
What it all adds up to is an 11-5 season, including a 6-2 second half, that gives the Birds their best record since 2004.
Remember what happened that postseason?
They need to get the running game straightened out to repeat that. But more importantly, they’ll have to do three times something they failed to do in four tries in the regular season—namely beat a team with an equal or better record.
There are no Bucs, Chiefs or Niners in the postseason, and they’re 0-3 against the teams they would play in the first two rounds.
B to B-plus is above average, but the Eagles will have to be even better if they even want to repeat the 2008 postseason.