Eagles blew many chances this season

For all those super expectations, all the preseason hype, all

the big-name additions, the Philadelphia Eagles are left to ponder

all that went wrong.

Despite their late-season surge – a three-game winning streak –

the Eagles (7-8) aren’t going to the playoffs. That’s the reality

for this Dream Team.

So before they begin looking ahead to next season, they’re

thinking about the `what ifs?’ One play could be the difference in

several of the losses, especially because the Eagles blew five

fourth-quarter leads.

”If we would have gotten into the playoffs, I feel we would

have definitely done some damage,” quarterback Michael Vick said

after Saturday’s 20-7 win at Dallas. ”It’s unfortunate that we

didn’t and that’s the game of football. If you make some mistakes

early and you get behind in the count in the win/loss column, you

sell yourself short in the end and you’re in the position that we

are in. We’re just happy that we are finishing strong. We have one

more game to play and we’re going to give it everything we’ve

got.”

Vick and his teammates wasted an opportunity to repeat as

division champions in a mediocre NFC East that will crown a

champion – either the Cowboys or New York Giants – with no more

than nine wins.

The Eagles entered Saturday at 6-8 and still had a chance to win

the division, but were eliminated when the Giants beat the New York

Jets, rendering their game at Dallas meaningless.

”I’ve watched this team grow as the weeks have went on,” Vick

said. ”The last three or four weeks, we’ve come together as a

team. It’s a family environment, a family atmosphere and that

translates to winning. That’s why you see a different team. I think

we are well put together and well fit. We’re playing together and

that’s what it’s all about. But it takes time to build that

chemistry, build that unity, that togetherness. Doing it now, it’s

exciting for me and there’s not a place that I’d rather be each and

every day.”

When the Eagles went on a spending spree and brought in Nnamdi

Asomugha, Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins,

Steve Smith, Ronnie Brown and Vince Young to join a roster that

already had a talented core of star players, expectations were

elevated to perhaps unrealistic levels.

Even management declared this an all-or-nothing season in which

nothing less than a Super Bowl victory would be considered a

success. Now the Eagles are looking back and wondering how much

they really needed those offseason minicamps and a full training

camp.

”We are finishing strong, and are showing the fans and

everybody else what the true Eagles could have been, what we could

have been doing at the beginning of the season,” Rodgers-Cromartie

said. ”It just took a while to get there. We take that into the

offseason and don’t look back.”

It seemed the Eagles could be headed for major changes when they

were 4-8. Fans wanted coach Andy Reid fired and it appeared

offensive-line-coach-turned-defensive-coordinator Juan Castillo

would lose his job.

But a strong finish could keep this coaching staff together for

at least another season. Reid is missing the playoffs for just the

fourth time in 13 years, so this is new territory for many of his

players.

”This is an unfamiliar feeling, an unfamiliar sight,” wide

receiver DeSean Jackson said. ”I’ve never really witnessed this.

It’s a reality check. Look in the mirror. Everybody has to check

themselves. Hopefully, we can finish strong and come back in the

offseason or next year, whenever we are all together, and really

eliminate all the mistakes we had early on.”