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Eagles face the man in the mirror after thrashing Redskins, 34-10…

Brizer’s final thought on the Eagles’ 2011 season’s finale victory over the Redskins: “Now the quest for the title in 2012 begins…” Meanwhile, Bruzer 9.5’s prediction from last September rings in my ears: “8-8…book it…”

These are two separate guys, Brizer and Bruzer, yet somehow their thoughts are related in the sense that someday we may see the 2011 season as a developmental prelude to something special in 2012.

Maybe the best way to view 2011 for the Eagles is to see it as a shakedown cruise… the boat is built, and after a few rough outings, repairs have been made… and she’s ready to take to the open seas in 2012.

The Eagles won their final four games of the season to finish at 8-8 and avoid what could have been Andy Reid’s third losing season in 13 years as their head coach. The Redskins lost their final two and finish at 5-11, one game worse than they were last year in Mike Shanahan’s first season as their coach.

But in a game the Eagles won going away, they were extremely fortunate to even have a lead entering the fourth quarter.

“I’m proud of the guys and the effort that they put into the game,” Reid said. “… Right now, it feels like it’s over. But it’s a good way to start off the New Year.”

By sitting out the last game of the season with an ankle injury, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy might have made an even stronger case for a contract extension than his brilliant first 15 games of the season made. The Eagles just didn’t have anything much in the run game without him. Ronnie Brown offered one final bit of proof for why he didn’t get any better offers, and Dion Lewis looks like he has work to do to learn the playbook… although Dion eventually got going nicely in the final minutes of the game.

DeSean Jackson’s up-and-down season might have eliminated his chance to get the extension he wanted, and you wonder if the Eagles will look to lock up McCoy long-term instead. But DJax had a very nice game in this season-ending finale, including a game-turning TD reception from Vick.

Washington quarterback Rex Grossman threw his 20th interception of the season in just his 13th game, stretching his streak to 12 games in a row with at least one. He won’t lead the league, though, because Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four of them  on Sunday to get to 23 for the season. Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick also threw an interception — giving him 14 in his 13 games — and lost a fumble. Vick also threw three touchdown passes, including that 62-yarder to DeSean Jackson — but the sack-fumble turnover and INT Vick gave up were a reminder of the problems that really sank the Eagles early in the season when they were outplaying teams but finding ways to lose.

The Eagles defense had some trouble containing Redskins’ rookie running back Evan Royster, who surpassed 100 yards rushing for the second week in a row, getting the bulk of the carries ahead of Roy Helu, who was suffering from foot and leg cramps. But Helu did catch a 47-yard touchdown pass, and it seems clear that, especially if Tim Hightower can come back from his ACL injury, the Redskins will be extremely strong at running back in 2012.

But the Eagles’ pass rush destroyed Rex Grossman all day long, and the Eagles will end the season as statistically one of the best defenses in the league. Between the defense and Jeremy Maclin‘s excellent routes and pass-catching on Sunday, and Jackson’s clutch catches,  the promise of McCoy and the way Vick finished the season, I imagine many Eagles fans might be feeling very optimistic about next season…

Michael Vick threw for 335 yards and three touchdown passes. Vick’s 7-yard TD pass to Chad Hall in the second quarter gave Philadelphia a 10-0 lead after Derek Landri blocked Graham Gano’s 36-yard field-goal attempt.

Vick connected with Jackson to make it 20-10 in the fourth quarter. It could’ve been Jackson’s last game with the Eagles. The two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver played the final year of his rookie contract and never got the extension he wanted after holding out in training camp.

A 4-yard TD toss from Vick to Brent Celek made it 27-10.

Roy Helu turned a screen pass into a 47-yard TD to get Washington within 10-7 on the opening drive of the second half.

The Redskins turned the ball over on downs at the Eagles 35 in the final minute of the second quarter. They got the ball back when Brian Orakpo sacked Vick and forced a fumble. Perry Riley recovered at the 17, but the Redskins wasted the field position.

An unsportsmanlike penalty on Santana Moss for taking off his helmet and arguing a non-call for pass interference pushed the ball back, and the clock expired before Gano could attempt a field goal after Jabar Gaffney was tackled at the Eagles 7. Long snapper Nick Sundberg wasn’t on the field as players scurried to the line of scrimmage.

“A little mix-up there relative to communication, coupled with not getting the play,” Shanahan said, explaining that the headsets weren’t working at the time.

But the Eagles are going home despite the strong finish after failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and just the fourth time in coach Andy Reid’s 13 seasons. They can’t be satisfied after entering the year with Super Bowl aspirations

“That’s the unfortunate part,” Vick said. “Everybody’s jelling together, our team is getting closer as a unit, everybody’s understanding their coaches and what they’re trying to do and their philosophy. We know what needs to be done. We’ll fly under the radar and try to shock people next year. Next year will be totally different. I promise you.”

Reid refused to discuss anything about the future, including whether he wants to return or if defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will be back. Reid took plenty of criticism this season, and heard “Fire Andy!” chants during a loss to New England in November. Castillo was intensely scrutinized in his first season after serving as an offensive line coach for 13 years.

“We’ve got to get better all the way around, starting with me,” Reid said. “This wasn’t good enough.”

“You have to analyze everything that happened and figure out how not to let it happen again,” Vick said. “We’ve got a lot of soul-searching to do, a lot of thinking to do. I think our opportunities will arise.”

“Yeah, you just think about the games that we could have won, the games we had a chance to win and the positions we were in,” Vick said, “but you can’t cry over spilled milk. What’s done is done and we can’t change the past. We just have to look forward to the future.

“Like I said, every guy has to look in the mirror and figure out what he didn’t do so well and what he did do that was beneficial for the team. I have to do it as well. We all do. We just have to make sure we do the right things and take the right steps to put this organization in the position to compete for a championship. I think we all know what we need to do.”

Notes: The Eagles set a franchise record for total yards with 6,386. … Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin had eight catches for 105 yards. … Eagles rookie K Alex Henery finished the season 24 of 27 on field goals for the best percentage (88.9) in team history. … Jackson became the fifth player in NFL history to have 900 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons. 

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.

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