There's no better illustration of the disappointment that ended this Eagles season than the muted, sullen post-game demeanor of the team's two most vocally brash players. Following the Eagles' season-ending 21-16 home loss to the Green Bay Packers, Pro Bowlers DeSean Jackson and Asante Samuel both wore destitute faces that simply don't become them.
"It was do or die and we died today," said Samuel.
It was, of course, the second straight season that the Eagles were eliminated in the Wild Card round after last season's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. But unlike last year, the Eagles, somewhat improbably, had a chance to pull this one out in the end. Trailing by five points, the Eagles got the ball at their 34-yard-line with 1:45 left. In four plays, they gained 39 yards, setting up a first down at the Packers' 27-yard-line with 44 seconds left. But Michael Vick tried to find Riley Cooper in the end zone with a one-on-one matchup against Packers cornerback Tramon Williams and Williams wound up with the football.
"I just felt that the last couple of plays, we kind of rushed it and we didn't really have to rush it," Jackson said. "We had 40 seconds left or whatever, we could have downed the ball and regrouped and just not rush it. So, I just think that last play was kind of rushed.
"It's very emotional for us right now. We're grown men and we'll be able to get through it. It's just frustrating."
Frustrating is a fair characterization of Jackson's evening. The star wide receiver who topped 1,000 yards for the second straight season was held without a catch until 8:42 left in the fourth quarter. He also missed a significant portion of the game after he left with a left knee injury in the first quarter before returning late in the second quarter.
The knee "was pretty close to being jacked all the way up, so I'm very fortunate and blessed for it be just a sprain," he said after the game. "When it happened, I was very scared. I didn't think I was going to be able to come back into the game. But I came into the locker room and got some treatment and sucked it up the best way possible."
Jackson finished with two catches for 47 yards. He acknowledged after the game that the offense didn't make some of the adjustments they needed to down the stretch. The last three games of the season, the Eagles scored, 14, 24 and 16 points. The three games prior? Thirty-four, 30 and 38.
"The dynamic of our offense and what we're capable of doing, we just haven't been able to put it together these past couple games," Jackson said. "As a professional team, we still have to figure out a way to make plays no matter what the defense is doing. And it's not just the offense, it's the defense and the special teams all across the board."
On the other side of the ball, Samuel was unable to come up with a signature big play. Late in the first half, he was beaten deep by James Jones for a potential touchdown, but Jones dropped the pass. And yet, because the defense only surrendered 21 points, they had a chance until the Williams interception. Watching from the sidelines, where he'd already seen plenty of late-game magic from Vick and the offense, Samuel could barely believe his eyes.
"You think you're going to win the game," Samuel said. "You think this is our year to make it. And to see him intercept that ball took all the breath out of you."
Both Jackson and Samuel said this loss stings just as much as last year's, though it's obviously fresher. But Samuel said part of the disappointment is that the team really believed they had what it took to make a run to Dallas, only to "fall up short." But, through all the bitterness of the loss in the post-game locker room, Jackson was able to come up one bit of his trademark bravado.
"We're going to do everything we can to keep plugging away, but you're not done hearing about the Philadelphia Eagles," he said. "We'll be back."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 10:00 p.m., January 8