Eagles History: The 25 Games That Defined The Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb Era
Labor Day Weekend is over, which means we are now less than one week away from the official start of a new decade of NFL football, and specifically in Philadelphia, the start of a new era for the Eagles.
But first, we need to pay tribute to the past...
So here they are: The 25 Games That Defined The Andy Reid-Donovan Mcnabb Era. We’ll revisit both the good moments and the bad (in chronological order) of the greatest decade of football in Eagles history.
Sit back and relax, please enjoy this slide show, and as always, GO BIRDS.
Nov. 14, 1999: vs. Washington
The Andy Reid Era officially began with a 2-7 start under Brett Favre’s former backup, Doug Pederson. Watching those nine games was painful.
But by mid-November, it was time to unleash DonnyMac and set into motion the career of perhaps the most controversial athlete in Philly sports history.
The Eagles used six Washington turnovers, 100 yards rushing from Duce Staley, and the improvisation of one Donovan McNabb to secure a 35-28 upset of the Redskins at Veterans Stadium. The Eagles finished 5-11 in ’99.
Sept. 3, 2000: at Dallas
The Eagles opened the new millennium with one of the most stunning victories in team history.
David Akers began the season with a perfectly executed onside kick, Duce Staley racked up 262 total yards, and the Philly defense knocked Troy Aikman out of the game in the first quarter as the Eagles demolished the Cowboys, 41-14, at Texas Stadium.
The convincing Opening Day win set the tone for the season, as the Eagles went 11-5 and earned a home playoff date against...
Dec. 31, 2000: vs. Tampa Bay
Tampa. The Eagles crushed the Buccaneers at the Vet, 21-3, on a frigid New Years Eve.
The Wild Card Playoff win was the culmination of a fantastic season for Donovan, who accounted for 75 percent of the Eagles offensive yards during 2000. Andy Reid also was named NFL Coach of the Year.
The Birds’ magical season came to an end in the Meadowlands the following week with a 20-10 loss to the eventual NFC Champion Giants.
But the Eagles would have their chance at revenge, and that chance came 10 months later back in the Meadowlands…
Oct. 22, 2001: at NY Giants
The Eagles rallied for a stunning win after trailing 9-0 at halftime of a Monday Nighter with the Giants, as McNabb hit James Thrash with an 18-yard TD pass with under two minutes left for a 10-9 win.
The huge victory ended Philly’s nine-game losing streak to the Giants.
The win kept the Eagles in first place for most of the season, but what could McNabb and company possibly do for an encore against New York in December? Well…
Dec. 29, 2001: vs. NY Giants
In a much-anticipated rematch against the Giants with the division title on the line, the Eagles overcame a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 24-21 and secure their first NFC East championship since 1988.
Again, McNabb was brilliant in engineering one of the classic victories in franchise history.
Of course, the win didn’t come easily. The Giants’ Ron Dixon took a screen pass 60 yards on the last play before being tackled at the Eagles’ five-yard line as time expired. The Eagles finished 11-5 for the second straight season.
Jan. 27, 2002: at St. Louis
After pounding Tampa Bay and Chicago in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Eagles reached the conference finals for the first time in 20 years.
The heavy underdog Eagles led “The Greatest Show on Turf” at halftime before St. Louis eventually won, 29-24. The Eagles had a chance to win it late, but McNabb’s pass was intercepted at the Rams’ 40-yard line to secure St. Louis’ victory.
The loss hurt. But not too much. The ’01 Eagles had shown their 2000 success was no fluke, and rest assured, they’d be back in the NFC Championship for years to come…
Nov. 25, 2002: at San Francisco
One week after McNabb threw for four TDs on a broken ankle in a 38-14 home route of Arizona, backup Koy Detmer and the resilient Eagles shredded the high-powered 49ers on Monday Night Football, 38-17.
Detmer totaled three TDs before suffering a season-ending injury. Third-stringer A.J. Feeley went on to guide the Eagles to four wins in his five starts, as the Eagles finished 12-4 and were the NFC’s top playoff seed for the first time in team history.
Andy Reid was named NFL Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons.
Entering the postseason, the Eagles were the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl. And they’d be getting DonnyMac back for the playoffs…what could possibly go wrong?
Jan. 19, 2003: vs. Tampa Bay
McNabb returned in the Divisional Playoffs and led the Eagles to a 20-6 victory over Atlanta.
However, the Eagles’ Super Bowl dreams went up in smoke in the NFC Championship Game, as the heavy road dog Buccaneers beat them, 27-10, in what was to be the final game ever played at Veterans Stadium.
The Eagles had all the momentum, all the history, and all the statistics on their side. And they blew it.
You all remember what happened. There’s no reason to go into any more detail than this. It’s just too painful.
The most devastating and embarrassing loss in Philadelphia sports history. Period.
Thankfully, there was always next year.
Sept. 8, 2003: vs. Tampa Bay
Next year began nine months later, as the Eagles opened up Lincoln Financial Field on Monday Night. Rocky Balboa (Sly Stallone) even showed up, but unfortunately the Eagles offense never did.
With the nightmares of the previous year’s NFC Championship loss still all too fresh, the reigning champion Buccaneers shut out the Birds, 17-0.
Things would have to improve in Week Two, right? Only they didn’t. The following Sunday, the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots slaughtered the Eagles at the Linc, 31-10. The Birds were 0-2, and their season was over before Autumn officially began, right?
Oct. 19, 2003: at NY Giants
The Eagles had fought their way back to a 2-3 record, but appeared headed for loss No. 4 before some guy named Brian Westbrook took a punt 84 yards with two minutes left for the game-winning score, 14-10 Birds! “Miracle at the Meadowlands II!”
The season-saving victory ignited a nine-game winning streak that carried the Eagles to 12-4 and the NFC’s top seed for the second straight year.
Jan. 11, 2004: vs. Green Bay
“Fourth and 26.” Enough said.
The 27-yard hook up between McNabb and Freddie Mitchell led to the tying field goal at the end of regulation. The Eagles won, 20-17 in OT, as Brett Favre’s bomb to Brian Dawkins set up the winning kick.
The NFL’s so-called team of destiny was no longer wearing green and gold, but green and white instead…or so it seemed.
One week later, the Eagles lost the NFC Championship game for a third straight year.
In the wake of the 14-3 home loss to Carolina, Philadelphia’s front office insisted it was content with the team’s current set of marginal wide receivers. But when the Eagles acquired Terrell Owens in a three-team trade just two months later, it became obvious that Philly’s management had changed its mind…
Sept. 12, 2004: vs. NY Giants
Philadelphia, meet Terrell Owens.
T.O. began his Eagle career catching three TDs in a 31-17 Opening Day home victory over the Giants. The rejuvenated Eagles eventually won their first seven games in '04.
Terrell went on to catch 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs in his first and only full season in Philly. Amidst all the controversy swirling around him the following year, Owens was still awesome on the field, catching 47 passes for 763 yards and six TDs in just seven games during the tumultuous ’05 season.
Dec. 5, 2004: vs. Green Bay
If any team in the NFC could challenge the 10-1 Eagles, it was supposed to be Brett Favre’s Packers. Green Bay came into Philly as winners of six straight, while looking to avenge its “Fourth and 26” playoff defeat from the previous year.
Even with the alleged strength of the opposition, the Eagles put together their finest performance of the year, racing to a 35-0 first-half lead on the strength of five McNabb TD passes in a dominant 47-17 win.
In the midst of his best season ever, McNabb had the greatest game of his career, throwing for 464 yards as the Eagles piled up 542 yards of offense.
The Eagles eventually clinched the NFC’s top seed once again, winning 13 of their first 14 games en route to a franchise record for victories. The Birds were better than ever…
Jan. 23, 2005: vs. Atlanta
After three straight NFC Championship losses, FINALLY REDEMPTION!
The fourth time was a charm, as the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl with a 27-10 win over Atlanta: the pinnacle of the Reid-McNabb era.
The only question left to answer was whether Terrell Owens, who had been out since mid-December with a severely sprained ankle, would play in Jacksonville’s Super Bowl XXXIX…
Feb. 6, 2005: vs. New England
The Bowl turned into a classic see-saw heavyweight battle, but in the end, the Pats prevailed, 24-21, winning their third Super Bowl title in four years.
The Eagles turned the ball over four times. Donovan hadn’t thrown a red zone INT all season, but two of McNabb’s three picks came when the Eagles were conceivably in position to get at least three points.
But overall McNabb played OK, which is more than we could say for the Eagles' offensive line and defense.
Of course, Terrell Owens returned: defying doctors' orders by playing with two screws in his ankle while catching nine passes for 122 yards, a warrior, even in defeat.
Oct. 23, 2005: vs. San Diego
Magic was still in the air as Matt Ware returned a blocked field goal 65 yards for the game-winning TD with three minutes left, turning an almost certain loss into a thrilling 20-17 win over San Diego at a frenzied Lincoln Financial Field.
Somehow, someway, amidst the months of all the endless scrutiny concerning “what went wrong” during the last five minutes of February’s Super Bowl XXXIX and why T.O. was doing crunches on his front lawn in August, the 2005 Eagles (4-2) still appeared on course to repeat as champions of the NFC.
That’s when the wheels fell off.
Nov. 14, 2005: vs. Dallas
One week after Terrell Owens was officially suspended from the team, the Eagles blew a 20-7 fourth-quarter lead at home on Monday Night to Dallas in a 21-20 defeat.
Roy Williams ran back a McNabb pick for the game-winning TD, and Donovan suffered a season-ending groin injury on the same play. Enter QB Mike McMahon. Season over.
By December, the Eagles active roster looked nothing like that from September. The result was a 6-10 season, and the Eagles’ first playoff-less year since 1999.
The curse of the “Reigning Super Bowl Loser” lived on…
Oct. 8, 2006: vs. Dallas
After months of anticipation, Terrell Owens returned to Philly…wearing the star on his helmet.
Owens caught just three passes. Still, the game turned into an instant classic and a 38-24 Eagles win, as Lito Sheppard’s 102-yard interception return for a TD sealed the victory in the final seconds.
Plus, the Eagles had seemingly recovered from 2005 and regained the swagger of a multi-time division champion…but it wouldn’t last.
Philly lost five of its next six games as McNabb suffered yet another severe injury. Beginning December with a 5-6 record, it was up to a seemingly “washed up” 36-year-old backup QB to save the Eagles’ once promising season…
Christmas Day, 2006: at Dallas
Enter Jeff Garcia.
The Eagles instantly began flying up the NFC standings while Garcia jerseys began flying off the shelves all over the city.
Garcia led the Eagles to six straight wins from December through the first round of the playoffs, a 10-6 record, and their fifth NFC East title in six seasons.
The most memorable of the wins came on Christmas Day in Dallas. With Tony Romo’s Cowboys favored by eight points in a battle for first place, Garcia and the Birds rolled to a 23-7 victory, ruining Christmas for Terrell Owens and the entire Cowboy Nation…BEAUTIFUL!!!!
Sept. 23, 2007: vs. Detroit
The Eagles (0-2) won, 56-21, over the helpless Lions at the Linc.
Kevin Curtis caught 11 passes for 221 yards and three TDs. The Birds piled up 42 first-half points, while the defense registered nine total sacks.
The Eagles haven’t worn their “UCLA look-alike” retro uniforms since. The Eagles haven’t scored 56 points in a game since. Maybe there’s something to that. Or maybe it’s just because the Eagles haven’t played the Lions since 2007, either.
Nov. 25, 2007: at New England
Best picture in the slideshow. Amazing.
Facing the Eagles for the first time since Super Bowl XXXIX, the Pats entered a perfect 10-0. Yet, the Eagles gave the Patriots an unprecedented challenge in a 31-28 loss. A.J. Feeley, playing for the injured McNabb, threw for 345 yards and three TDs but also three INTs.
Asante Samuel, who would sign with the Eagles after the season, made two interceptions: a pick-six to begin the game and another pick in the end zone late to secure the win. Still it was one hell of a game.
McNabb eventually returned, leading the Eagles to victories in their final three games, as Philly finished ’07 with an 8-8 record (what a year for B-West).
Nov. 23, 2008: at Baltimore
One week earlier, the Eagles tied the lowly Bengals, 13-13. McNabb had one of the worst games of his career and compounded the embarrassment by admitting postgame that he never new ties were possible in the NFL.
Somehow, things got even worse the following week. The Eagles trailed the Ravens by just three at halftime, but McNabb had played so poorly that coach Andy Reid benched him in favor of Kevin Kolb.
Reid turned to Kolb in search of a John Elway-esque comeback performance with the whole season on the line. Instead, Kolb played like Bobby Hoying.
A 10-7 deficit mutated into a 36-7 shellacking as Kolb bumbled his way through the first truly meaningful minutes of his pro career.
Despite the seemingly season-crushing defeat, McNabb returned as the Eagles starter and guided them to three straight wins. But would it be enough to make the playoffs?
Dec. 28, 2008: vs. Dallas
Beer was free at the Linc, Moses parted the Delaware River, and Ben Franklin rang the liberty bell at precisely 4:15 eastern time.
The Eagles, given up for dead, were eligible for the postseason.
Now all they had to do was win a season finale “play-in” game against the Cowboys….
Piece of cake.
The Eagles’ sensational defense forced five turnovers, and returned two fumbles for TDs in an unforgettable 44-6 route of Tony Romo, T.O., and Jerry Jones’ ball club. It was the ultimate belated holiday gift for the Eagle fan base.
At 9-6-1, the Eagles qualified for the playoffs over a bunch of 9-7 clubs, including Dallas. Could a season that entered Thanksgiving so tumultuously actually end with a Super Bowl trip? You bet…
Jan. 18, 2009: at Arizona
The Eagles had overcome too much and come too far to have a season end in bitter disappointment once again. Clearly this had to be their year, right?
WRONG. After road wins against the Vikings and Giants, the Eagles lost the NFC Championship in Arizona to a team they had obliterated by almost 30 points just seven weeks earlier.
A huge comeback by McNabb in the second half went for naught as the Eagles defense fell flat for the first time since early November.
The heartbreaking 32-25 defeat to the Cardinals marked the fourth time in the Reid-McNabb era that the team lost in the NFC Championship round…the third time as a FAVORITE.
The loss was especially tough for McNabb, who, with just two years left on his contract and a young Eagles’ QB (Kolb) waiting in the wings, had to know his time in Philly was running thin.
For Donovan, 2009 was going to be a make-or-break season…
(A forgettable final game in Philly for Jim Johnson (RIP) and Brian Dawkins, too).
Jan. 3, 2010: at Dallas
The Eagles' two pathetic losses in Dallas over a six-day span were just so bad that you had to try and keep a sense of humor about 'em.
The 24-0 loss in the season finale at Dallas cost the Eagles the NFC East title and the conference’s No. 2 playoff seed…and earned the Birds a repeat date in Big D just six days later.
Another once promising season came to a disastrous end in the playoffs, as the Eagles (11-5) lost to the Cowboys, 34-14. The only highlight came when Michael Vick hit Jeremy Maclin with a 76-yard TD pass in the second quarter, coming after McNabb had failed to generate a single point for five consecutive quarters against Dallas.
The loss marked the only time in the Reid-McNabb era that the Eagles had exited the postseason without winning at least one game, and ultimately, the loss brought the greatest era of Eagles football to a forgettable close.
Ironically, the Eagles had signed Andy Reid to a contract extension just three weeks before the first loss in Dallas. He's probably staying in Phily for the next four years...
And, well, thanks, DonnyMac, for the memories. We’ll see you again on October 3.