A despondent Brandon Boykin sat hunched over, facing his locker.
The Eagles had suffered a season-ending, 26-24 loss to the Saints in Saturday night’s wild-card playoff.
When a reporter approached Boykin and asked about how it ended, he barely turned around.
“Just sit there and watch,” said the second-year cornerback, who just a week earlier at Dallas had gotten the Eagles into the playoffs with a victory-sealing interception. “Try to block the field goal. I mean, that’s the worst way to lose. And it happened.”
It wasn’t as bad as the way his former coach’s team lost (see story), but it was pretty bad.
Because once Drew Brees had the ball at midfield so late in the fourth quarter of a one-point game, he wasn’t giving it back. Or better yet, the Eagles were helpless to get it back.
Darren Sproles’ 39-yard kickoff return.
Cary Williams’ 15-yard horse-collar penalty (see story).
The Saints took over on the Eagles’ 48 with 4:44 left, and the feeling of optimism generated by Zach Ertz’s go-ahead touchdown only moments earlier disappeared faster than DeSean Jackson did once the clock hit 0:00 (Jackson wasn’t around in the locker room postgame).
The Eagles held a one-point lead, but it wasn't a matter of if they would lose it; it was a matter of when.
“That penalty hurt us, killed us a little bit. You can’t give Brees that field position,” linebacker Brandon Graham said. “And then just for them to run too, it hurt a little more to. We just had to make a stop.”
Ah, the run.
“Yeah, that was the story of the game,” linebacker Connor Barwin said (see story).
The Eagles’ inexplicable inability to stop it -- despite the fact that the Saints were without leading rusher Pierre Thomas (chest injury) -- will eat at this defense for a while.
The Eagles actually stuffed Mark Ingram for a 1-yard loss on first down, but on second down Khiry Robinson -- a rookie out of West Texas A&M -- burst up the middle for 13 yards.
After completing a 6-yard pass to Marques Colston -- just Colston's second catch of the game and the only pass of the drive -- Brees trudged for three more yards on 3rd-and-1 to give the Saints a first down at the 24 at the two-minute warning.
Usually if you have the lead at that point, you're feeling pretty good. The Eagles weren't. Robinson ran for nine more yards, and the Eagles could only wait for their fate.
“We’re going into the mindset, we need to make a play,” Graham said. “A fumble or something. Something quick. Man I wish they would have dropped a snap.”
Maybe the Eagles could have let them score a TD? At least they would have gotten the ball back.
“If we try to let them score, they run, they fall to the ground, then we feel bad because we got them closer [to the field goal],” Graham said. “We did all we could do try to keep them as far back as we could, so there would be better chances for us on the field goal.”
The defense was helpless against the run, and the offense was helpless to do anything but watch the season tick away.
“There’s nothing to do,” guard Evan Mathis said. “As a player, we hate -- everybody that’s on the sideline wants to be able to help, wants to be able to do something. It’s just out of your control at that time. It’s really hard.”
Especially because the Eagles’ offense had finally kicked into gear (see story), having scored on three consecutive possessions.
“Yeah that was tough man. That was tough,” receiver Riley Cooper said. “If we would have stopped them, we were all confident we were going to go down and score.”
But they never got the chance.