I’m going to have a long time getting over the start of the 2011 season for the Philadelphia Eagles.
After an offseason that included the addition of six Pro Bowl players, the Eagles were pegged as Super Bowl favorites by many NFL expert. But they stumbled out of the gate at the start of the season, losing four of their first five games, three of them after a fourth quarter collapse.
They used their bye week for some much-needed rest and then edged out the Washington Redskins to improve to 2-4.
This set them up for a big Sunday Night Football battle against the hated Dallas Cowboys. It was a game so important that I dubbed it the biggest regular season game of Andy Reid’s 13-year career. Had the Eagles lost, they would have dropped to 2-5 and cut their slim postseason chances down to almost zero.
But a win would put the Eagles at 3-4. Throw in the Cowboys, who would also be 3-4, and the Eagles would actually be in fairly good shape in the surprisingly weak NFC East.
We all remember what happened.
The Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 after one quarter, 24-0 at halftime, and 34-0 midway through the fourth quarter. Only a late touchdown pass ruined what would have been the first shutout by an Andy Reid team in his career.
It was the most complete performance of the season (obviously), and it included dominant performances by Michael Vick (21-28 for 279 yards and two touchdowns, plus 50 rush yards) and LeSean McCoy (30 carries for a career-high 185 yards, plus two touchdowns). The Eagles sacked Tony Romo four times, including two by Jason Babin, and Nnamdi Asomugha intercepted a pass on a deflection.
After the win, the football world went nuts. The Eagles were everybody’s Super Bowl team again.
The official Las Vegas gambling odds gave the Eagles the sixth highest Super Bowl odds of any team, an unprecedented figure for a team which actually had a losing record.
Everybody thought the Eagles were back. Including the team itself.
Then they promptly lost back-to-back games at home, both again by blown fourth quarter leads, dropping them to 3-6 on the season, and virtually eliminating any chance at a postseason appearance.
The dominant victory over Dallas was just a glimpse of what the Eagles could become if they truly jelled together.
Unfortunately they failed to do so more times than not, and the result was a brutal 8-8 record.