- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Well, that'll do it for the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles. Another blown fourth-quarter lead at home to a team they should have beaten. Sunday's loss to the John Skelton Arizona Cardinals was their worst yet, and it dropped their record to 3-6. You don't fall apart and lose to the Cardinals at home and rebound to make the playoffs. Not when so much has already gone wrong and you arrived at the must-win-every-game portion of your season three weeks ago. The Eagles are going to have to win every one of their remaining seven games just to have a chance to make the postseason, and the problem with that is that they're just not very good at winning games.
No team loses games the way the Eagles do. In some ways, no team ever has. Shortly after the game ended, Reuben Frank of CSN Philadelphia tweeted that the Eagles had just become the first team in NFL history to blow four fourth-quarter leads at home in a single season. And if that sounds incredible on its own, add in the fact that Sunday's was just the Eagles' fifth home game of the year. They've led in the fourth quarter of every home game they've played this year and are 1-4 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Nine games into a season that packed so much promise, the thing at which the Eagles seem best -- the one thing at which they truly seem to excel, on a historic level -- is losing. For all of the glittering resumes, big contracts and loud fanfare that accompanied the very good-looking pieces of this roster into town, the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles are going to go down in history as a bunch of losers.
You want to talk about the particulars of this latest rotten day? OK. It started before most of us were awake with the news that wide receiver DeSean Jackson would miss the game because he missed a Saturday team meeting. Jackson was ruled inactive for the game and, according to his spokesman, ordered to stay home, which apparently aggravated him. The statement Jackson's spokesman released during the game called the stay-home order "totally inappropriate" and labeled it part of the team's ongoing contract dispute with Jackson. Maybe true, but the core issue is that Jackson missed a meeting at a critical time of the season, and winners don't do that.
So that's what was going on before Michael Vick even took the field for one of the worst games of his career. With Jackson watching on TV at home, Vick threw two interceptions, had one overturned on replay and another called back for holding. He averaged 3.8 yards per pass attempt and never looked right. It's entirely possible he was affected by Jackson's absence and the in-game injuries that limited Jeremy Maclin. But if that's the case, it's an indictment of Vick himself. The Eagles have plenty of offensive weapons -- certainly enough with which to beat the Cardinals -- and even if it meant constant dump-offs to LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek, Vick should have been able to make it work.
In the end, he didn't. Not when it counted. Not in the fourth quarter, when games are won and lost and quarterbacks forge their legacies. Not once this year has Vick led the Eagles to a fourth-quarter comeback. Not once has he toughened up when it mattered most and delivered the kind of clutch plays or throws that Eli Manning or even Tony Romo have in their teams' big wins. Vick has been handed the keys to this franchise, and he keeps finding ways to stall out on the final lap while the John Skeltons of the world drive right past him.
And he's not alone. The same thing can be said of the Eagles' defense. Not once this year has the Eagles' defense made a big stop on an opponent's would-be game-winning fourth-quarter drive. The receiver always gets behind the cornerback -- or is given too much room to make the catch. The Eagles never snag the key turnover the way their opponents always seem to. I and others wrote last week that the Eagles aren't tough enough, on either side of the ball. They snapped back, vigorously denying accusations that they were "soft." But then, provided with a perfect opportunity to prove themselves right and all of the rest of us wrong, they failed again. As they always do.
People want heads to roll, and maybe some will. Maybe Juan Castillo can't survive as defensive coordinator. Maybe Jackson's out the door after this year. (Maybe he was anyway.) But the wholesale changes for which the fans clamor remain unlikely. Andy Reid isn't going anywhere. Vick isn't going anywhere. The so-far-disappointing Nnamdi Asomugha isn't going anywhere. The only good news for all of these guys is that it appears their offseason is going to be very long, and offer them ample time to reflect on the many, many things they did wrong to cost themselves their dream season.
When the Eagles look back on this season, they're going to see a lot of opportunities to make the big play, to prove their toughness, to establish themselves as winners and not losers. And in nearly every single case, they're going to see that they let those opportunities slip away. That will be their punishment for this inexcusable mess of a season, and it will have been well earned.