Good morning, Eagles fans. The magical run has reached its end. The Eagles lost to the New Orleans Saints yesterday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome 20-14 in the NFC Divisional Round. It was a heartbreaking finish to a season that defied the odds and captured the hearts of the city in the process. The Eagles will be back at the NovaCare Complex one more time today to clean out their lockers and will speak to reporters at 11 a.m. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft leading off with a recap of the finish.
1. Heartbreaking End
The Eagles had this game in control. And then they didn't. A 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter slowly evaporated as the Saints gained momentum and began dominating the time of possession. In the third quarter, the Saints took a 20-14 lead.
A missed field goal gave the Eagles a chance will less than three minutes to play. A touchdown would have put them ahead and the Eagles quickly moved deep into New Orleans' territory. A second-and-10 pass with two minutes left then went through the hands of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and was intercepted by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. It was a catch Jeffery has made hundreds of times and his teammates assured him the loss was not on him.
In the end, the win was there for the taking but the Eagles didn't execute enough to take it. Nonetheless, the team's ability to get to this point despite a mountain of injuries and odds stacked against them is an accomplishment that will be remembered and built upon. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro broke down the gut-wrenching finish and why the Eagles left with a sense of pride amid the disappointment:
As the Eagles departed New Orleans, they did so with their heads held high. They battled New Orleans and they had the football and a chance to take the lead at the very end. They just came up short. It happens. It’s gone the Eagles’ way plenty of times since September 2017, and the success the Eagles have had since then, well, how can anyone complain? It’s been an incredible ride.
“We’ll be back,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “This one hurts. Every loss hurts, but this one is tough. I’m proud of the way we fought and how we hung in there, not just today but all season. We just came up a little bit short.”
2. Jeffery Puts Loss On Him
After the loss, Jeffery did was a role model to young players as he handled himself like a true professional. He answered every question about his rare and costly drop at the end of the game and took responsibility for the miscue. He made no excuses and also emphasized that he won't let one play define him.
Jeffery finished with 53 yards on five receptions despite playing with broken ribs, according to tackle Lane Johnson. Jeffery told reporters, "I take that loss on me" and apologized to Eagles fans. Dave Spadaro spoke with Jeffery in the locker room and has more on his reaction:
“It happens to the best of us,” Jeffery said. “We’ll move on. It hurts right now, but I guarantee we’ll be back next year for sure.”
3. Pederson Reflects On Wild Ride
Head coach Doug Pederson waited at the door of the locker room and appeared to hold back tears as he hugged each and every player coming off the field. It was just moments after he consoled Jeffery on the sideline following the interception and assured him the loss was not his fault. Pederson's press conference was equally as emotional as he spoke in a solemn tone and reflected on the wild journey the 2018 season was.
This was Pederson's first ever playoff loss as a head coach in the NFL. In uncharted territory, Pederson expressed his disappointment in the loss but his appreciation for his team and this season:
“I tell you, you've got to have a lot of confidence in the guys and the coaches to get to this position, to be in the Divisional Round, two games away from the Super Bowl again,” Pederson said. “It's tough in this league to win games.
“And even back when a lot of guys were counting us out back in midseason, after the Dallas game, things like that, it's why you play 16 games, to give yourself a shot to be in this position. Looking forward, it's a good football team. It's a good football team and we're going to learn from this. We'll be better from it.”
4. Injuries Strike Again
The Eagles suffered devastating setbacks throughout the game that made finding a rhythm and building on early momentum nearly impossible. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox played through incredible pain in his foot after being carted off the field. Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks was carted off as well and tweeted after the game that he tore his Achilles. Tackle Jason Peters left with a back injury. Cornerback Rasul Douglas missed significant time with an ankle injury. Defensive end Michael Bennett fought through a foot injury that kept him off the field for a play.
Dave Spadaro writes that through the pain, the Eagles showed toughness and battled through. But in the end, it wasn't enough:
“We’ve had a lot of players go down, but we also had guys step up and get their chances,” defensive end Chris Long said. “That’s the nature of this game. We showed a lot of resiliency all season. Today was no different.”
5. Foles Reflects On Finish
When a devastated Jeffery lay on the ground following the interception off his hands that ended the Eagles' season, quarterback Nick Foles immediately ran to his teammate and helped him up. There was no anger. There was no blame. Foles saw a teammate in need and went to console and encourage him. It was a sad but fitting ending to the season for a loving teammate.
Foles finished yet another season of incredible success in clutch moments yesterday. For the second straight year, Foles was asked to relieve injured quarterback Carson Wentz and found a way to string together wins for the underdog Eagles and make the most out of the season. In New Orleans on Sunday, his magic was not enough to move the team forward. However, it did not diminish Foles' historic accomplishments as an Eagle.
The Eagles have a decision to make about Foles' future, as he is currently scheduled to become a free agent unless the team picks up his option for 2019. With an uncertain future ahead, Vaughn Johnson writes that Foles was reflective on his time as Philadelphia's quarterback and the life-changing moments he helped to provide:
“We fought our way all season,” he said. “The guys are resilient. Our coaches are resilient. Everyone at the facility is resilient and they showed that, so everyone should be very proud of what they were able to accomplish.
“Ultimately, it wasn’t our end goal, but it’s like I said, everyone should keep their heads held high because we were able to pick it up the last four weeks or so and we were so close all throughout the year, and that’s a testament to the people that are in the facility, the guys in the locker room because most teams aren’t able to do that and fight like this team has.”
Eagles vs. Saints: January 13
Check out the best photos from the Eagles' game against the Saints in the Divisional Round.