Plucky but unlucky in a second 17-9 Seahawk loss.
Josh McCown always wanted to play in the NFL postseason, but he didn’t want it to happen this way.
The 40-year-old McCown relieved franchise quarterback Carson Wentz late in the first quarter of Sunday’s 17-9 NFC wild-card round loss to the Seahawks at the Linc.
Wentz suffered a head injury from a helmet-to-helmet hit by Seattle defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on the first play of the Eagles’ second offensive possession. Wentz stayed on the field for the rest of the possession before heading to the locker room.
McCown did a credible job, completing 18 of 24 passes for 174 yards. He guided the Eagles to three scoring drives, though all three ended in Jake Elliott field goals.
McCown spread the ball around, but the lack of a reliable deep threat allowed the Seahawks to focus their defense on the area within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage.
McCown was only on one other team to make the playoffs in his previous 16 seasons, but didn’t take a snap as Jake Delhomme’s backup in the Panthers’ 2008 divisional-round home loss to the Cardinals.
That’s part of the reason why he became emotional on his way to the locker room afterward, dropping to one knee with his head in his hands before teammate Zach Ertz came by to console him.
“Just the finality of playoff football,” McCown said, “It just hurts when you don’t get it done.”
On McCown’s second series, he picked up a first down on an 11-yard option run and found tight end Dallas Goedert for 17 yards over the middle on the way to a 46-yard Elliott field goal.
McCown and the Eagles moved down the field on the initial possession of the second half, highlighted by a 32-yard completion to tight end Zach Ertz on the first play, but settled for a 26-yard Elliott field goal despite having first-and-goal at the 5-yard line. A delay-of-game penalty on first down didn’t help the Birds’ cause.
The Eagles again reached the red zone on their next possession, thanks primarily to a 21-yard catch-and-run by back Boston Scott and 14-yard completions to receiver Greg Ward and Goedert. Elliott’s third field goal — this one from 38 yards — closed the gap to 17-9.
After the defense managed to stop Russell Wilson and company, McCown took the Eagles into Seattle territory again.
Rather than attempt a fourth field goal to make it a 5-point game, coach Doug Pederson went for it on fourth-and-4 from the Seahawks’ 24 in an effort to tie the score via a touchdown and ensuing two-point conversion. Rookie back Miles Sanders dropped a swing pass that was thrown slightly behind him but he ran before securing the ball, resulting in an incompletion.
“I’ve got to make a better throw,” McCown said. “I’ve just got to give him a better ball.”
Following another defensive stop, McCown came up limping after hitting Goedert for 17 yards with 4½ minutes to go. Two plays later, another practice-squad call-up, receiver Shelton Gibson, drew a pass interference flag on Seattle cornerback Tre Flowers when McCown tried a long pass.
But the Eagles couldn’t keep the drive going on fourth-and-7 at the 10, as Clowney sacked McCown to turn it over on downs. McCown probably should have just thrown the ball into the end zone because there was no chance of getting a first down or TD by taking a sack.
“You feel like you let people down,” McCown said. “That’s a sick feeling.”
For his part, a teary-eyed Goedert thought McCown acquitted himself well.
“I think Josh came in there and did an excellent job,” Goedert said. “I was really impressed, pleased, proud of the way he played.”
It marked the third straight season that the Eagles ended the season with their backup quarterback playing. Nick Foles, now with the Jaguars, led the Birds to victory in Super Bowl 52 and nearly helped upset the Saints in the divisional round last year.
McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick are the only two QBs in league history to throw at least one pass for eight different teams.
McCown started crying when talking about how his family has supported him from city to city during his 17-year career. He’s not sure if he’ll play again — he had already decided to retire when the Eagles came calling — but gushed about how “I had the time of my life” in 2019.
“What an honor it was to be in that group,” he said. “I’ve chased this my whole career. I’ve learned so much from so many people.”
He just wishes he could’ve done a little bit more to help extend the Eagles’ season for another week.
Tom Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org; @TomMoorePhilly