|by Ryan Messick
For a fleeting moment, as Michael Vick’s pass sailed toward the end zone, it looked like he had done it again. Down 21-10 with 8:50 left, Vick was in the midst of orchestrating what would have been the Eagles’ eighth come from behind win of the season. Instead, his pass for Riley Cooper fell into the hands of Tramon Williams with 33 seconds left, ending the Eagles season.
“I could have checked it down to the back and I feel like I got greedy and took a shot at the end zone and didn’t throw the right ball I wanted to throw and then it got picked off,” Vick said. “It’s a bad way to go out, but hey, I went out swinging.”
After David Akers missed a 41-yard field goal early in the first quarter, the Eagles fell behind the Packers 14-0 on short touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers to Tom Crabtree and James Jones. The Eagles came away with a 29-yard field goal with 1:15 left in the half after an 8-play, 63-yard drive stalled out after a critical second-down drop by DeSean Jackson.
Still, they were down 14-3 and reeling from the Packers aggressive defense, which gave up just 125 first half yards while holding the Eagles to 2-for-7 on third down tries in the first 30 minutes.
“They blitzed quite a little bit,” said head coach Andy Reid. “They started off the game that way and they kept it going.”
Safety Quintin Mikell, who has spoken off and on this year about the team’s slow starts, was upset again by the way the Eagles came out of the gates.
“It is frustrating, it seems like it’s been that way all year,” Mikell said. “There was a time there where we had a three or four game stretch where it was like that for four quarters, but I can’t really put a finger on what the problem is there. I just feel like we cut it loose in the second half and in the first half we didn’t.”
Philadelphia did open the second half with a bang, as Darryl Tapp sacked Aaron Rodgers at the Packers’ 19-yardline and knocked the ball loose. Juqua Parker recovered at the Green Bay 24. Two plays later, Vick threaded a beautiful pass to Jason Avant for a 24-yard touchdown. Avant finished with seven catches for 93 yards and the score.
The Packers didn’t let the Eagles build any momentum, running the ball effectively with James Starks, who gouged Philadelphia for 123 yards on 23 carries. The back racked up 32 yards on five carries on the next drive. The key play of the drive, and one of the biggest of the game, came on third-and-10 from the Packers’ 31. Rodgers hit Donald Drive for 20 huge yards, stopping the Eagles from making their second defensive stop in a row. The Packers quarterback later found Brandon Jackson for a 16-yard score on a screen play, putting the Packers on top 21-10 with 7:33 left in the third quarter. Rodgers finished the game 18-27 for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Philadelphia moved all the way to the Green Bay 35 before two incomplete passes set up a punt, and after another good series by the defense the Birds got the ball back at their own 46. Vick hit Avant for gains of 11 and 21 yards, setting up a 34-yard field goal try by Akers on fourth-and-1, which he pushed wide right.
“You kick it and it’s an eight point game,” Reid said after the game. “The right thing to do is to kick it. The guy is a Pro Bowl kicker, so I’m thinking he’s going to make it.”
“We can all count; those points would have helped,” Reid later added about the five-point loss.
Akers, who becomes a free agent this offseason, called it the worst moment of his football career.
“Sure, football-wise, yes,” Akers said. “It’s the playoffs and you’ve got to do your job to keep things going. It’s a tough day.”