No more miracles as Eagles lose to Packers, 21-16

Pending free agent Michael Vick, sacked by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, said after the game: "As of right now, I'm not even thinking about a contract situation."
Pending free agent Michael Vick, sacked by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, said after the game: "As of right now, I'm not even thinking about a contract situation."
Posted: January 10, 2011

The Eagles' magic ran out Sunday.

After living on fourth-quarter comebacks in the second half of the season - including a memorable 21-point rally to beat the New York Giants in what proved to be the high point and final victory of the campaign - the Eagles came up short in a final come-from-behind bid, ending their season with a 21-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"We lost a playoff game. Do or die, and we died today," cornerback Asante Samuel said after the first-round NFC playoff loss. "When you see them intercept the ball, it's just like it took all the breath out of you."

Several Eagles said they had believed they had one more last-ditch play in them, especially when their final drive moved to the Packers' 27. But Michael Vick tried to hit Riley Cooper in the end zone, and cornerback Tramon Williams made a leaping interception and returned the ball to the 4-yard line with 33 seconds left in the game.

"As soon as I saw him come down with it, I said, 'That's game over. That's season over. That's it. Done for the rest of the year.' Bad feeling," Cooper said.

For the second consecutive year, a season that showed much promise ended with an exit in the wild-card game and zero playoff wins.

On the final offensive play, Cooper said, he expected Vick to spike the ball, but added that it hadn't affected the play.

Vick, who turned his ankle on the previous series, blamed himself for the interception.

"I felt like I could have checked it down to the back, and I felt like I tried to do too much. I got greedy," he said. "I have to see it on film, but it's hindsight now, and it's just something I have to learn from."

Vick, who got his first playoff start since 2005, said this loss hurt worse than any of his previous postseason exits.

"It's just disappointing to myself and to my teammates that we didn't finish this year the way we wanted to, and I certainly feel like I could have done a lot of things better, and I didn't do it," Vick said. "I guess you just have to learn from it. That's life."

Vick finished 20 for 36 for 292 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. It was his seventh consecutive game with at least one turnover.

The Eagles needed a touchdown on the final drive because a two-point conversion a minute earlier failed when tight end Brent Celek stepped out of bounds in the end zone before coming back to make a catch.

The Eagles fell behind a talented, dangerous Packers team with a sluggish start that had the offense struggle to get moving and the defense again coming up painfully short in the red zone. The Packers were a perfect 3 for 3 inside the Eagles' 20, accounting for all of their points.

"It's just one of those things we just could not get corrected all year," said cornerback Dimitri Patterson. "It came back to bite us again."

The offense lacked the big plays that had fueled its scoring binges most of the year and for the third consecutive game scored fewer than 17 points, after averaging better than 27. Before that final drive, DeSean Jackson, who sprained his knee early in the game, had just one catch, and Pro Bowl kicker David Akers missed field-goal attempts of 34 and 41 yards, costing his team points it dearly needed.

"A lot of teams did a good job of seeing what we do and pinpointing it," said Jackson, who finished with just two catches and spent a long stretch of the first half having the knee treated.

The defense limited Rodgers to 180 yards passing and stopped the big plays - his longest completion went for 20 yards - but the difference came on third downs and in Green Bay's surprising running attack. The Packers were 8 for 13 on third down, sustaining drives, while the Eagles were 5 for 13.

"I told the team that I appreciate the fight that they gave," Reid said. "We just have to do a better job as coaches and players all the way around and on third down in particular."

The Packers' first two touchdowns came immediately after they converted third downs, with Rodgers escaping pressure to complete a pass the first time and running for a new set of downs the second. In both instances, the Packers took advantage by quickly getting seven points.

The defense was focused on stopping Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings, said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, and it worked. Jennings had one catch. But the Packers took advantage of the scheme by running rookie James Starks 23 times for 123 yards, churning up clock and keeping Vick off the field.

"I thought we did a good job of kind of handling, managing the big plays, and they got us in the run game," McDermott said. "But at the end of the day we were in the game."

But this time, even though they were within striking distance, the Eagles couldn't close the gap. They had a chance to pull to within eight points and one score early in the fourth quarter when Andy Reid opted to try a field goal from the Packers' 16. But Akers missed for the second time on the day, and the deficit remained 11. It was too much to overcome.

It was a disappointing finish to a season that had held so much promise. Just three weeks ago the Eagles looked capable of beating anyone.

"It hurts," said safety Quintin Mikell. "I felt like we would go much further than we did."


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JonathanTamari.

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