Merritt, who had spent much of the season on the practice squad, spoke after the game about his first NFL score.
"I was open and I was ready" he said. "All I wanted was to get the ball. I wanted to play and to make a difference. It was great to be in a playoff game and I wanted to do my best for the team. I'm definitely disappointed that we didn't win, but the touchdown gives me something positive to build on for the coming year."
The Bears seemed to stand by almost helplessly during a game marred by injuries, miscues, and the spectacular play of Eagles quarter back Donovan McNabb. The loss of quarterback Jim Miller early in the second quarter with a separated right shoulder after a hard hit by Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas seemed to throw off the offensive rhythm for the remainder of the game.
"I never really saw Douglas coming" Miller says. "But I definitely knew he was there as soon as I hit the ground. I had dislocated my left shoulder before. The last thing I wanted to have that happen to my right shoulder. The timing couldn't have been worse. I tried to protect myself, but I fell hard directly on the shoulder. I knew right away that it would be bad. It's a third degree separation and I'm told that my recovery time will be about 2-3 months."
Shane Matthews took over for Miller but the offense never seemed to gel.
‘I came out ready to play but I didn't play well" Matthews said. "It was disappointing, I felt good coming in but I never felt that I found my rhythm. There's just no excuse for that. We've all worked so hard this season. After all of that, I definitely felt I let the team down."
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb proved to be problematic for the usually intimidating Bears defense.
"We knew that he could be the key to this game" said defensive tackle Keith Traylor. "McNabb is quick, strong and smart. It was no surprise We knew exactly what to expect. What we found, however was that when as soon as we would wrap up, he'd get loose then he'd be gone. McNabb is extremely mobile. He can do things that few quarterbacks in this league are able to do."
Jerry Azumah felt that the overall difference in the game hinged to a great extent on the Eagles prior playoff experience versus a young Bears squad.
"A lot of this game can be in your head" he said. They came out ready to win, definitely with more of a mental edge than we had today".
"Clearly, their experience made a huge difference" Azumah said. We felt prepared coming into this game but something just wasn't right. We didn't play at all the way that we had planned, the way we had played all season."
Azumah expressed the keen disappointment felt by the squad after the crushing loss.
" It‘s sad to go out like this after such a great season. People said that we were just lucky, but we knew all along that we were good. We felt that we deserved a lot of respect that just wasn't there. This leaves a sour taste that will take a while to get over. But next time, we're going to be a different team. Now we know exactly what to expect at this level of play."
But despite the overall glum mood in the locker room, quarterback Jim Miller expressed optimism for the coming season.
"We can all talk about cheap shots and rough play, but the reality is that this is a very good team," he said. "We were just outplayed by the Eagles today. We had an amazing season, doing so much better than anybody had anticipated. Hey, this is the first time the Bears have been in the playoffs for 11 years. Things didn't turn out the way we expected them to today but the pieces are still in place. We can come back next year and we can win this thing. We have the skill. We still have confidence in ourselves and in this team. Now we also have the experience."