Long, strange season ends with weird win at Linc
Doug Pederson deserves coach of the year mention just for suggesting the Eagles finished the season “the right way” after beating up a Dallas Cowboys squad of second and third-stringers Sunday.
Though a loss would have triggered bedlam, the theatrics throughout the day ranked right up there with some of the strangest finales in franchise history.
There was more wrong than right with this finish. The Cowboys kept most of their top players out of the game including MVP candidate Zeke Elliott. If this is “kicking off the year the right way,” as Pederson indicated, please give us something tangible to compare it to.
What a long, strange Eagles season it’s been, the Grateful Dead would say. The flashbacks began at quarterback.
Mark Sanchez, who played for the Eagles the previous two seasons, finally gave them a chance to win.
Taking over for relic Tony Romo, who replaced starter Dak Prescott, Sanchez threw two interceptions to Jordan Hicks, the latter of which set up the touchdown enabling the Birds to tie the game. Just the sight of Sanchez brought back tough memories of the butt fumble and Chip Kelly, who signed him.
“Mark threw me a couple,” Hicks said. “I obviously said thank you after that game. We’re good buds.”
In essence the Cowboys were Sanchized.
Prescott led the Cowboys to a field goal. Romo, in his first action of the season, took the Eagles apart on an 81-yard march concluding with a TD pass giving the visitors a 10-3 lead. One series was all the Cowboys gave Romo, and for good reason.
“I haven’t seen him throw a football in a long time,” Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson said with a grin. “He looked decent there for a little bit. They took him out before Brandon Graham got to him because he was tearing up Doug Free pretty good.”
Whatever was in the air was contagious. Referee Walt Coleman reset the game clock to 2:02 in the first half after giving the two-minute warning. When play resumed, he announced “We will not have the 2-minute warning.” But we did, Walt.
There were a handful of head-scratching calls by Coleman’s crew including waving off one pass interference because the ball was tipped. It was tipped by the player who interfered. Thanks for stopping by, Walt.
The second half turned into a celebrity get-together after Carson Wentz threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Zach Ertz. Wentz took the ball from Ertz and presented it to their good buddy Mike Trout, the Major League Baseball MVP-Eagles fan from Millville, N.J.
“We talked about doing it before the game,” said Ertz, who had 13 receptions for 139 yards and two TDs. “I was going to give Mike the ball myself but I was too tired to run over there after that long drive, so Carson did it instead.”
The crowd loved it. So did Eagles players. It’s bound to end up on Entertainment Tonight. The rest of the day was just as festive.
Ertz had a monster game … and the Eagles prevailed. In the three games he’d had 10 or more receptions, including a club-record 15 for a tight end in 2014, the Eagles were beaten.
“You want to build that momentum going into the offseason,” Ertz said. “And it feels a lot better when you win and have a big game going into the offseason than if you lose and don’t really do anything. But ultimately the most important thing is to win. And the coaches trusted me a lot today to throw me the ball and Carson did a great job delivering it.”
Building on this game, or this season, is a reach on almost every level with the obvious exception of moving on and forward.
You can high-five Wentz for starting all 16 games and throwing 16 touchdown passes. You cannot hide those 14 interceptions and the 7-9 record.
After the game Pederson said he didn’t foresee any changes to his coaching staff at this time while adding that there would be evaluations. You remember what happened to kick returner Josh Huff the last time Pederson was cornered with a tough question.
Pederson said he hadn’t decided whether he would continue to call plays next season, and then confirmed he would, the news of which had been broken by Fox analyst John Lynch during the telecast.
For all practical purposes, there was very little to be gleaned from the way the Eagles completed this season, other than the fact that the Cleveland Browns would get only the 12th pick in the draft via the trade enabling the Birds to move up and select Wentz.
The Minnesota Vikings’ win Sunday means the Eagles must win a coin flip to get the 14th and not the 15th pick in the first round of the draft, the order to be decided by a coin flip with the Indianapolis Colts at the NFL scouting combine. The Birds get that from the Sam Bradford trade.