Interception! Only now, weeks later, am I recovering from the finality of that last play. Seemingly rushed and unnecessary though it was, it actually could've worked, but destiny and the waiting hands of Marshon Lattimore had a different take. That the Eagles were driving to take the lead and possibly win in the waning minutes of this game was nothing short of a miracle given the rash of sudden injuries and enormity of the moment. Outmanned and outgunned, the team gave everything and nearly came away with victory and for that, we're grateful. On to the takeaways:
1. The season was a success. You can't take anything away from this team despite the fact that the season ended without another Broad Street parade. Last season's championship team endured serious injury losses and came out on top but even those losses paled in comparison to what happened this year. Important pieces like Carson Wentz, Timmy Jernigan and Alshon Jefferey began the year on the PUP (Physically Unable to Play) list, the wide receiving crew that was supposed to be a strength this year took a hit when free agent field stretcher Mike Wallace went down (and stayed out) early and Mack Hollins never saw the field, as well. The offensive line jelled late in time to rescue the season but were on and off the field with various injuries early on. Then the defensive backfield was completely decimated with Malcolm Jenkins the only remaining starter to play a full season. Fourth and fifth rounders were forced into play with mixed results. Despite all of this, the team rallied behind St. Nick late and made the playoffs. Most teams crater and look forward to a high draft pick with an injury list like this. Look at Green Bay whenever Aaron Rodgers isn't 100%. This team made the playoffs (and won a game in Chicago against the best defense in the league!). No other way to categorize this season as anything but a success.
2. Nick Foles will always be a Philadelphia legend. Naturally, anyone who brought Philly it's first Super Bowl Championship was always going to reach sainthood. Yet what he accomplished this season was nearly as remarkable. The season was officially dead after a demoralizing defeat to the Dallas Cowboys in over time due to a fluke deflection that allowed wide receiver Amari Cooper to waltz into the end zone. Shortly thereafter, we learned that struggling quarterback Carson Wentz was out for the next game and possibly the rest of the season. The team would then go on the road to face one of the best teams in the league in the Los Angeles Rams (who also happens to be playing in the upcoming Super Bowl) fresh off a bad defeat of their own. In order to have a slim chance at the playoffs, the Eagles would have to defeat the high-powered Rams, face off against a formidable AFC team in the Houston Texans at home and then travel to Washington to finish off the division rival itching at playing spoiler. No one gave them a chance in hell to rattle off those three wins, especially without Wentz. It would be impossible that Foles could work his magic once again and save the season but that's exactly what he did. The team seemed rejuvenated with Foles at the helm and rallied around him to deliver a playoff berth to this city which had mostly given up the season. A small miracle, cementing Nick Foles to legendary Philly status. However…
3. Carson Wentz should be the starter going forward. For everything Foles accomplished, it is absolutely the correct call to continue with Wentz as the guy. Drama aside, Foles has always been a streaky QB, as was evidenced by the last three quarters of that Saints playoff game, the up and down performance to end the regular season last year and to begin the regular season this year. Wentz is among the best quarterbacks in the league in touchdown to interception ratio, completion percentage and overall QB rating, is still young and will be fully healthy for the offseason program. The feeling here is that he rushed himself to get back this year and was never completely healthy and so was not himself. 2017 Wentz pre-knee injury is what we can and should expect in 2020, coupled with a deep playoff run. With a bit more stability at the offensive skill positions, maybe a new running back and better luck in the injury department, this offense should round back into form to elite status.
4. Upgrades. Le'Veon Bell is too costly. Let the usual suspects (Washington, Oakland) sink into that money pit. Not to say he wouldn't be a worthwhile player, but an upgrade on either side of the lines would be far more valuable. This O-Line made Josh Adams seem like Barry Sanders for a while this season. A better example of a great free agent pick up would be someone like Brandon Brooks. His signing in 2017 did not make waves but helped solidify one of the best lines in football. Notice the difference in the Saints game once he was done? I'd look into the second tier of free agent running backs and bring them in to compete with a hopefully recharged Cory Clement and a newly drafted (2nd round?) back. Bringing back Jason Peters is a risk I think this team has to take, but they ought to look to draft a tackle early, as well. As far as the first round goes, I think you need to continue to build that defensive line into a force, as they were the a huge factor behind the late playoff run and will have some upheaval this offseason. Brandon Graham will likely be paid elsewhere and Tim Jernigan might not return to the player he was. Jeffery Simmons from Mississippi State or Christian Wilkins from Clemson may still be available at 25.
5. Nowadays, you have to do a trilogy. Year one, Cinderella story season ends with a Super Bowl win and a parade down Broad Street, finally feeding a ravenous fan base. End Credits. Year two, a wild ride, drama filled season that ends in heart break and the likely exit of one of the most popular and heroic Eagles' players ever. The Underdog finally lies down. Year three: The Return of the King. Wentz will ride in with something to prove in 2019. I would be shocked if he doesn't become the league MVP we all expected him to be this year. What a redemption story if he can bring this team all the way back to the Super Bowl. Count on it.