When Shane Graham’s game-winning kick sailed through the uprights Saturday night, fans of the Philadelphia Eagles were left cold and desolate, for reasons that had nothing to do with the weather.
The New Orelans Saints’ 26-24 win at Lincoln Financial Field brought down the curtain on a 2013 season that proved more rewarding than even diehard fans could have expected.
As we see it, the difference in the game was the Saints’ ability to dictate the flow of the running game on both sides of the ball. The visitors generated 185 rushing yards. Mark Ingram led the way with 97 rushing yards plus a touchdown on 18 carries.
Meantime, the Eagles were limited to just 80 yards on the ground; LeSean McCoy picked up just 77 rushing yards.
Nick Foles didn’t have his best game but he was far from terrible, going 23-for-33 for 195 yards and two scores.
At the start of the season there were few, if any expectations for this Eagle team. A 4-12 finish in 2012 left a bad taste.
But Chip Kelly has revitalized the franchise with an up-tempo offensive philosophy and a defensive unit that steadily improved over the course of the season.
The end result was impressive. Ten wins, an NFC East title and a playoff appearance.
There is every reason to believe the Eagles will be legitimate contenders for the foreseeable future. Here are some of the reasons why.
Nick Foles—Had an impressive regular season after taking over for Michael Vick. Threw for 2,891 yards in 13 regular-season games with 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Eagles don’t need to go looking for a franchise quarterback in next year’s draft. They already have him. And Foles will be just 25 when the 2014 season begins begins.
LeSean McCoy—His game is tailor made for today’s NFL. Won the rushing title after rushing for 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns. Also caught 52 passes for 539 yards and two scores.
His versatility makes him perhaps the most dangerous offensive player in the league.
Running backs tend to burn out more quickly than players at other positions but McCoy, who will be 26 when the 2014 season begins, would seem to have a couple more peak years left.
Connor Barwin—Signed as a free agent in March after spending his first four seasons in Houston, Barwin made an immediate impact. The 27-year old recorded five sacks this season while recovering a fumble and forcing two others.
The twin forces of free agency and the draft assure that the Eagles’ roster will look somewhat different net summer when training camp begins. There is need for improvement along the defensive line and certainly in the secondary.
Having a pure fullback type on hand wouldn’t hurt either.
But the key to any rebuilding project is having a vision of what the finished product looks like. The product isn’t complete as yet. But as the 2013 season fades to darkness the Eagles and their fans have a vision of the future.