Will Alex Henery return next season?
Alex Henery made one of his two field goals Saturday night, but it was his first-half miss from 48 yards that ended up being the difference by game's end. (USA Today Images)
The Saints’ last field goal attempt went through the uprights. The Eagles’ first field goal attempt didn’t.
That was the difference on the scoreboard. That is the hard truth.
The Eagles lost 26-24 to the Saints in the first round of the playoffs at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday (see Instant Replay). They lost for all sorts of reasons – because they didn’t stop the run and they didn’t get DeSean Jackson involved soon enough and on and on (see 10 observations). But they also scored two fewer points than the Saints. To borrow something Andy Reid once said after a similar situation involving David Akers, we can all count.
The Eagles intercepted Drew Brees with about five minutes left in the first quarter. The Birds’ subsequent drive stretched into the beginning of the second quarter. At one point, the Eagles reached the Saints’ 23-yard line, but Nick Foles took a costly sack that pushed them back 11 yards. After LeSean McCoy gained four yards on 3rd-and-29, the Eagles had fourth down around the Saints’ 30-yard line.
Alex Henery came out for the Eagles’ first field goal try of the evening -- officially listed as a 48-yard attempt. He went back to the sideline shortly after launching a wobbling kick that missed wide left. It wasn't an easy kick by any stretch. But it also didn't have a chance.
“The ball is not going to travel as far on a cold day,” said Henery, who later made a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. “There’s no excuse – just miss something like that. I have to be better there, help the team out. It just shows that every point matters in a game like this.”
About the cold: The game-time temperature was 25 degrees, with winds coming out of the south-southwest at five miles per hour. According to the official game summary, the wind chill dropped Saturday night to 19 degrees.
After the game, Chip Kelly mentioned the weather when asked about the Eagles’ final kickoff. Henery kicked it 67 yards to about two yards inside the Saints’ end zone. Darren Sproles then dashed 39 yards – and had 15 more yards added to the return on a horse-collar penalty by Cary Williams.
“We didn’t get a lot of depth on it,” Kelly said about the kick. “We didn’t hit the ball very well on kickoffs all day, so. The ball, in this weather, wasn’t going to travel very well.”
Henery seemed surprised by Kelly's comments.
“I thought I hit the last kickoff pretty good, actually, going into the wind there,” Henery said. “It’s just science. The ball doesn’t fly as well in cold weather. You could tell both kickers were going about goal line to the five-yard line [in the south end zone]. That’s kind of what you get. You have to work with it. I’m not sure. It just got outside of us. It got out, I guess you could say.”
Asked to evaluate his performance this year, Henery said he thought he "hit the ball better toward the end of the season.” The former fourth-round pick made 23 of 28 field goal attempts in 2013. He hit 7 of 10 attempts between 40-49 yards. While he was a perfect 6 for 6 in wins from that distance, he was 1 for 4 in losses – and 1 for 5 counting Saturday’s game. He also made one and missed one from 50 or more yards.
Henery’s overall field goal percentage during the regular season put him 22nd in the NFL. He was tied for 18th on kicks between 40-49 yards, and tied for 25th on kicks of 50 yards or more.
During the postgame press conference, Kelly was asked how much confidence he has in Henery.
“We’ll address that moving forward,” Kelly replied. “We’re not playing a game tomorrow.”