The biggest difference between football when compared to the other sports, like baseball, basketball, and hockey, is that in football, a team can miss the postseason because of one failed play by one player in one clutch situation.
When a team like the Eagles finishes 8-8 after entering the season with Super Bowl expectations, there are a bunch of plays scattered throughout the season that prevented the team from reaching the postseason.
And then there are the blown fourth quarter leads. All five of them.
The trouble started in week two when the Eagles coughed up a 31-21 fourth quarter lead against the Atlanta Falcons. It didn’t help that Michael Vick was knocked out of the game when his helmet collided with tackle Todd Herremans. Backup Mike Kafka, making his NFL debut, led the Eagles into Falcons’ territory late in the game but a dropped pass by Jeremy Maclin on fourth down sealed the deal.
Vick managed to play the next week against the Giants, but he was knocked out of the game again when his hand hit the helmet of Giants’ defensive linemen Chris Canty. He was originally diagnosed with a broken hand, but it was later revealed to be badly swollen. The Eagles took a 16-14 lead into the fourth quarter but lost when the Giants scored two late touchdowns behind Victor Cruz’s heroics to win 29-16.
The third fourth quarter blown lead came in week four when the Eagles coughed up a 23-3 lead to San Francisco. They lost 24-23, behind an embarrassing goal line fumble from Ronnie Brown, a pair of missed field goals by rookie Alex Henery, and a late game-clinching lost fumble by Maclin.
The Eagles lost to the Bears 30-24 in week nine after blowing a 24-20 lead in the final quarter. The key play was a failed fake punt pass by rookie Chas Henry.
And the final blown fourth quarter lead came in week 10 when the Eagles choked away a 17-7 fourth quarter lead against the pitiful Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals, led by backup quarterback John Skelton, marched down the field on two long fourth quarter touchdown drives. The key play was a 37-yard diving reception by Larry Fitzgerald down to the 1-yard line. The Eagles played almost the entire game with an injured Michael Vick.
The Eagles managed to not blown any fourth quarter leads in their final seven games, but they still tied an NFL record with four blown fourth quarter leads at home in a single season.
Had the Eagles managed to hold onto the lead in any of those five games, they would have reached the playoffs as NFC East champions. The Giants would have missed the playoffs and would not have been Super Bowl champions.