NEW ORLEANS — Standing in front of his locker in the visitor’s locker room at the Superdome, Alshon Jeffery finished getting dressed in a black hoodie and pulled a black beanie onto his head before he turned to face the hoard of reporters who had gathered behind him.
You had to feel for him.
I gotta catch that ball,” he said, point-blank. “That’s on me. I’ll take that loss. I let all my teammates down. To the City of Philadelphia, that’s on me. I’ll take that.
The Eagles, of course, didn’t lose because of one play Sunday in New Orleans. But it’s the one play that is going to haunt Jeffery for the entire offseason. With just over two minutes left in the game, the Eagles were driving down the field with a chance to sneak out of NOLA with a win.
But Nick Foles’ pass whizzed right through Jeffery’s hands and was picked off by Marshon Lattimore, basically ending the game. They lost 20-14. The Eagles’ season is over, while the Saints will host the NFC title game next Sunday.
We’ll never know what would have happened if Jeffery catches that ball.
After the pick, Jeffery laid face down on the turf of the Superdome with his hands covering his eyes. After he made it to the sideline and was consoled by head coach Doug Pederson, he stood in a state of bewilderment with his hands rested atop his helmet.
After the play was over, Foles immediately rushed to help Jeffery to his feet and away from despair.
“Dude, just tell him you love him,” Foles said. “That’s what it’s about. This game is tough. Just tell him ‘I love you, just keep going,’ amongst other things that I’ll keep to myself, but that’s the general message."
It was nice to see his Eagles teammates console Jeffery, but it probably didn’t take much of the pain away. At least not now. It’s going to be a long flight back to Philadelphia.
“I mean, it hurts right now,” Jeffery said, “but I guarantee we’ll be back next year, for sure.”
It was clear to see how much respect Jeffery has among his teammates and coaches. Pederson wasn’t the only member of the team to console him. Foles did immediately after the play. Several other players took their turns telling Jeffery that they would have never been in this position without him, they would have never been Super Bowl champions last season without him.
“He should know that play didn’t decide this game,” Zach Ertz said.
Jeffery caught five passes for 63 yards Sunday and has gone over 60 yards in all five of his playoff games with the Eagles. His contributions to the Eagles are unquestionable.
So is his toughness. Jeffery played all last season with a torn rotator cuff and Lane Johnson on Sunday night said Jeffery has been playing recently with broken ribs.
Jeffery will be back next season, but no one knows what the rest of the team will look like around him. There are several key players whose futures are in the air, including Foles. That’s the toughest thing about the 2018 season coming to a close; these guys will never be a team again.
Normally, when a football player makes a mistake, they can forget about it and line up for the next play. But this was the final play of Jeffery’s season, so it won’t be easy to erase from his memory.
“It’ll be with me the whole offseason when I’m training and grinding because I know each guy in this locker room, we want the same thing,” Jeffery said. “We hate this feeling right now.”
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