On Jan. 13 the Louisiana Superdome was jammed with screaming fans wearing their emotions on their sleeves for the only thing that meant anything to them: getting one step closer to the Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles traveled to New Orleans to take on the Saints in the divisional round playoff game of the National Football Conference.
After many punches were given and taken, the game ended in the Saints favor, the score 27-24. Now, all the Eagles’ fans could do is chant, E-A-G-L-E-S, O-U-T.
The city of Philadelphia did not see victory since the Philadelphia 76ers won the National Basketball Association title in 1983. So when star quarterback Donovan McNabb tore his ACL in his right knee in week 11, it didn’t give Philly fans much to look forward to. After Donovan left the field, in stepped backup quarterback Jeff Garcia to take on the leadership position. When Garcia couldn’t bring his team to beat the Tennessee Titans and then the next week suffered a loss to the Indianapolis Colts, it seemed as if it were safe to say the season was down the drains. That is where many people were wrong.
Garcia and his teammates rallied for five straight wins, clinching the NFC East championship for the fifth time in six years. After a turnaround season, the Eagles gained home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The New York Giants came to Lincoln Financial Field with hopes to take out the red-hot birds, but came up short. After this win, the Eagles would now face the Saints in the deep south.
The Eagles were butting heads with the top-ranked offense in the NFL and without McNabb, their best pass rusher Jevon Kearse and cornerback Lito Sheppard, chances looked slim for Philly. After a back-and-forth rally put on by both teams, the game came down to the final minutes when Eagles head coach Andy Reid decided to punt on 4th and 15. With two timeouts left and 1:56 left on the clock, he thought his team had enough time to get the ball back. Reid trusted his team as he had all season, but that was the last time the Eagles would possess the football. This call by Reid is now one of the most questioned and ridiculed call in recent Philadelphia sports history, according to ESPN.
After the game was in the books, the Eagles tandem of Jeff Garcia and Villanova graduate Brian Westbrook were very successful. Garcia went 15 for 30 and threw for 240 yards with one touchdown. Running back Westbrook had 13 carries for 116 yards with two touchdowns. For the winning team, the numbers of quarterback Drew Brees and running back Deuce McAllister were nearly the same as their opponents’. Brees completed 20 out of 32 passes for 243 yards with one touchdown and McAllister had 21 carries for 143 yards with one touchdown. McAllister was one of the deciding factors though, bringing the Saints back from a 21-13 deficit with a five-yard touchdown run.
After a rollercoaster year for the Eagles with top players dropping out of the line-up due to injuries and coming up short in the playoffs, this year has proved to be an accomplishment. Being 6-10 last season and pulling off a 10-6 regular season record shows great improvement. For next season with all projected starters under contract except for wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth things can only get better. Now that Philadelphia saw what Garcia can do under pressure, there is even more faith put into the non-starters on the sideline. Garcia also shows great devotion to his team by willing to return in a back-up role to McNabb.
This year showed off talents of many new players within the organization, but the Eagles know that they need even more determined players added to the roster that will allow them to have a better record and get further into the playoffs. The fans from the City of Brotherly Love will not have a problem watching their team reach the top as they yell their chants louder than ever before from Lincoln Financial Field.