26 December 2005

2005 Week 16 Recap

Eagles at Chiefs, Saturday, December 24, 2005

One more game. One more game until this dismal season is over. And it can't come soon enough. With no hope of a post-season, or even finishing at .500, the only role left to us for New Year's Day is to play spoiler to the 'Skins' playoff hopes (assuming Dallas beats the Rams, which they should - c'mon, we beat the Rams). And frankly, the way we're playing now, that's not likely. I'll be at the game, but if you have a choice, I advise watching the Mummers' Parade instead - it will probably be a better show. Oh Dem Golden Slippers!

So we managed to lose a game to the previously 4-10 Arizona Cardinals, who've been wretched for their entire history. Not as wretched as us on Christmas Eve, but you get my point. We've come to the pass where we can't seem to get our shiz-nit together on either side of the ball. Our previously high-powered offense has turned completely inept.

Wait. That's not fair. I'm being insulting to inept people.

Our previously top-ranked defense has fallen to 27th in the NFL - as a reminder, that's out of 32 teams. Only the Chiefs (9-6), the Bills (5-10), the Rams (5-10), the 49ers (3-12), and the pathetic Texans (2-13) rank lower. Of course, our offense is so pitiful at this point that our D ends up on the field for 56 minutes and change of a 60 minute game, so it's no wonder they're a little inconsistent - they're exhausted.

Speaking of our D, only one Eagle, Jeremiah Trotter, was selected for the 2005 Pro Bowl. Last year 10, this year 1. That seems about right, since we’re about 1/10 as good this year as we were last year.

Was I the only one who panicked when McMahon went down, Detmer came in, and he decided to block on a play. Koy! You're not that big, you're not that young, and you're our last resort. You get hurt, and Brad Childress is going to have to suit up and get into the huddle. Well, at least he'd know the plays, unlike McMahon, who still seems vaguely confused most of the time. It's a complex offense, but you've had two months to get it together there, Sparky.

And is it even physically possible to amass more penalties than we have in the past two months? I know we have a lot of rookies playing, at least on offense, but shouldn't they be getting better by now? How many false starts can you have in one game anyway? (Wait - don't answer that.) What's the record? I'll bet we hold it at this point.

Frankly, the other games were a lot more exciting this week. Not that stomping, fuming, throwing things, and swearing at the Eagles aren’t exciting, but...Going into the last game of the season, two NFC divisions - South and East - still aren't decided. No team in the NFC South has even clinched a playoff spot yet. The Giants had the chance to wrap up East with a win over the Skins in Landover Saturday, and they just couldn't get it done. Yeah, I see them going down in the first round of the playoffs.

AFC divisions are all locked up at this point: Pats, Bengals, Colts, and Broncos, with the Colts holding dome field advantage and the Broncos with the other bye. Jaguars have a wildcard, and the Steelers are looking like the sixth AFC team. So not a lot at risk there on Sunday, particularly since Pittsburgh gets to end their season against the Lions.

NFC West is owned by the Seahawks, who also clinched home field with a win over the Colts Saturday afternoon. Preview of the Super Bowl? Nah - the Seahawks played like they had something on the line - which they did, home field - and the Colts played like they had it all wrapped up (which they do), taking starters out early in the game even though it led to a loss. And the Bears own NFC North. The six remaining teams in West and North are stinkin' up the joint. The only one that even has a winning record is the Vikings.

Sunday's games will decide the East and South. East could go to Giants with a win over the Raiders, which even they should be able to pull off, or with losses by the 'Skins to us (don't bet on it) and by Dallas to the Rams (likewise). I see all three teams winning, which means Giants will take East and the Redskins will take a wildcard spot. South is down to the Panthers and the Bucs, both teams at 10-5. The Bucs will definitely beat the Saints Sunday, and the Panthers should beat the Falcons, which would give the battered Bucs the division and the Panthers the other wildcard spot. But the Bucs are so beat down they're likely to go down in the first round of the playoffs as well.

New Year's Day will also witness the Bush Bowl: the 3-12 49ers and the 2-13 Texans will play for the right to draft Reggie Bush (the Saints, Packers, and Jets are all also 3-12 at this point). Which raises the question: once your season is that far in the toilet, do you lose on purpose to improve your draft standing? I think the Texans should seriously consider it, if they haven't already.

Hey - maybe that's been AR's secret strategy since D-Mac went down so spectacularly during week 10's Monday Night Football debacle....


19 December 2005

2005 Week 15 Recap

Eagles at Rams, Sunday, December 18, 2005

We won. We won ugly against a bad team (how many famous QBs do you know of out of Harvard? Thought so...), but we won.

Chef Spouse and I were in NYC celebrating our anniversary (lucky 13), so I only got home in time to see the very end of the game, for which I'm grateful, because reading the play by play recap at nfl.com, I think I would have blown an artery if I'd watched the whole mess live. There were two great plays: Moats' 59 yard run for the first Philly TD, and McMahon's short pass for the second TD. Dawk also came up with a few big defensive plays, including a very important interception late in the third quarter. But McMahon kept throwing to Rams, or getting taken down and dropping the ball, and our lack of ability to do much of anything on offense, on the ground or in the air, nearly gave the game to the Rams with 3 minutes to go. Fortunately, their offense is as inept as ours (low blow), and we hung on to our one point lead. Although we managed to screw up taking a knee at under a minute with a false start. Good lord! How do you screw up taking a knee? At least McMahon didn't fumble the ball again.

So far my predictions for the end of the season are coming right along: loss to the Seahawks, loss to the Giants, win against the Rams. Now if we can just beat the Cardinals and then the Redskins at home on New Years' Day (please, guys, I'm going to be at that game), I'll be at 1.000 for the last 1/3 of the season. Not bad. Maybe there's a career in sportscasting for me yet. Of course, the 'Skins are likely to be playing for a wildcard spot on New Year’s Day, which doesn't bode well...

Around the rest of the NFL, the 'Skins moved ahead of the Cowboys into the number 6 playoff spot in the NFC by TROUNCING them at home. Joe Gibbs managed to beat the 'Boys twice this year. I think even if the 'Skins lose their playoff spot to one of the NFC South teams, 'Skins fans will consider this a successful season.

Speaking of the NFC playoff picture, it remains interesting. Other than the division leaders (Seahawks at 12-2, and Giants, Panthers and Bears all at 10-4), one team (Bucs) is at 9-5, and FOUR teams are at 8-6 ('Skins, Cowboys, Falcons, and Vikings). With two games left, the NFC is still wide open. Seattle's the only NFC team that's even officially clinched a playoff spot, much less the division or a bye.

Contrast that with the AFC: all the division leaders have at least clinched a playoff spot (Broncos), with the Pats, Bengals, and Colts all wrapping up their divisions. And there are really only 3 other teams in contention for playoff spots: Steelers, Jaguars, and Chargers. (The Ravens are currently killing the Packers, 21 to 3, not that it matters in the least.)

Speaking of the AFC, the Colts' streak is over, dropped somewhat surprisingly to the Chargers. Even though they have LaDanian Tomlinson, the Chargers have been totally inconsistent this year, but their win over the Colts demonstrates that they're probably a better team than their 9-5 record would indicate. Peyton Manning may not be 100% though. He took a spill during the Colts' win against the Jaguars last week - didn't get hit, just tripped over his own feet and seems to have turned his ankle - but that does raise questions about the rest of the season. Super Bowl XL is the Colts' to lose, but if Manning's not 100%, they very well might lose it to the Seahawks. Saturday afternoon, Christmas Eve, the Colts are playing the Seahawks at the same time as we’re playing the Cardinals. I can't promise which I'll watch live and which I'll TiVo.


12 December 2005

2005 Week 14 Recap

Eagles v. Giants, Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ring...ring...

"Hello, Akers residence, David speaking...Oh, hey Coach Reid! Listen, I just wanted to say again how sorry I am about that missed field goal. How weird was that? And that thunk sound when the ball hit the crossbar was SO LOUD! But my leg's feeling 100% again, although you probably guessed that after I put that 50 yarder through...oh, that's not why you called? How's my arm feeling? Both of my arms are just fine...Well, that's a generous offer, Coach, but I don't really think I have the experience to QB against the Rams Sunday. Plus, have you seen how short I am? I'd just throw into the O-line's backs. You're such a kidder, Coach! Nobody ever believes me when I tell them about the time you glued Dawk's locker shut with his clothes inside while he was in the whirlpool...See you at practice tomorrow morning, Coach."

Ring...ring...

"Villanova University Athletic Department, Ben speaking...Hey guys, there's some joker on the phone pretending to be Andy Reid asking what our QB is doing Sunday and is he free to go to Missouri? Ha, ha very funny, buddy."

Ring...ring...

"Jaworski residence, Ron speaking..."

By now I assume everyone knows that you weren't hallucinating - McMahon really did pull up lame at the end of Sunday's OT loss to the Giants. And the injuries keep on rolling. "Go...you...wait, who the hell IS that guy?" I swear, I have no idea who half these guys are!

Despite the 3 point loss in overtime on the heels of our only turnover of the game (why did Jay Feeley have to pick this week to get over his performance anxiety?), Joe Buck's offensive game calling ("The officials gave Moats the touchdown! The officials gave the Eagles the first down after that 23 yard completion on 2nd and 3! The officials gave Akers the game-tying field goal!"), and the even more offensive officiating (how, pray tell, could it be DEFENSIVE pass interference, when Plaxico Burress had jumped on Sheldon Brown and was holding onto his helmet with both hands?), there was a lot of good news.

First of all, Ryan Moats is fast. He's like Road Runner fast. Paris Hilton fast (but with better fashion sense). He's not big - if we put him and Westy together, they might make one smallish power back - but he's damn zippy. More good news: Reggie Brown is living up to his promise, after the dropped pass against Dallas in week 10, to catch anything that comes anywhere near him. He's got decent hands, and as his instincts and feel for the pro game get better, he's just going to improve. Our D had some great moments, too, including some great interceptions that our inexperienced offense was sadly not able to capitalize on. But with the season officially blown - there is mathematically no possible way we'll be in the postseason - this game showed us some positives for the future of this team, most of all in spirit. It would have been easy to lie down and die after the humiliating loss to the Seahawks, particularly against the team that's leading the division, but our guys, who should have been woefully overmatched, pulled it together, played a great game, and would have won if not for an unlucky bounce on a very long field goal attempt.

Around the rest of the NFL, the Redskins squeaked a win over the awful Cardinals. Hey, we get to play the Cards in a few weeks! We might actually win that game! Woo-hoo! The Cowboys also squeaked a win over the pretty good Chiefs - sorry DVerm. The Minnesota streak under Brad Johnson continues, with a win over the Rams. Those guys might actually make the playoffs, which is shocking considering how badly their season started. It's not like there’s any contest from the Packers, who finally managed to win a game against the equally bad Lions. The Bucs whupped up on the Panthers, and the Falcons did the same to the poor homeless Saints. So the NFC playoff picture is starting to look like Giants, Bears, Seahawks, and - well, the South's still up in the air, although the Bucs lead at the moment. Cowboys, Vikings, Panthers, and Falcons all have a good shot at wildcard (actually, either the Panthers or the Falcons could still win the division). On the AFC side, the Pats are leading the pathetic AFC East, and the Bengals are a few games up on the Steelers, as are the Broncos over the Chargers. The Colts' winning streak continues, and I think Christmas Eve is going to give us a preview of the Super Bowl when the Colts play the Seahawks at 4 pm.


06 December 2005

2005 Week 13 Recap

Eagles v. Seahawks, Monday, December 5, 2005

When Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom was a kid, the local movie theater offered Saturday matinee Creature Double Features. Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom loved them, but they also scared the hoo-hahs out of her. So she'd watch the movies through her coat sleeve and close it off when it got too scary. Unfortunately, I watched Monday Night Football from Orlando, and it was too hot to watch through my coat sleeve. But I really could have used it, because that game was the scariest thing I've seen a LONG time.

I have a confession to make: I didn't watch the entire game. I know, bad fan, no Super Bowl (like that was even in question this year). But after the first half, I just couldn't bear it anymore.

...

OK, that's not entirely true. I did tune in again near the end of the third quarter. And things had only gotten worse. Then I really couldn't watch any more. My eyes were about to start bleeding.

I seriously don't even think I can review this mess. If you were lucky enough not to see it - you know, you had a date, you'd suffered blunt force head trauma and were were in a coma, you'd been arrested and couldn't make bail - I can sum it up in one word: sucktacular. McMahon threw interceptions. So AR pulled him out and put in Detmer. Who also threw interceptions. We were like the football equivalent of the Bad News Bears before Walter Matthau (or Billy Bob Thornton - take your pick) straightened them out.

Worse news: season-ending injury for yet another Pro Bowl Eagle, our leading rusher AND receiver, Mr. Villanova, Brian Westbrook. I'm guessing there won't be too many Eagles in the Pro Bowl this year.

Do I even have to recount the score? Yes, we were shut out, and Seattle scored 42 points. FORTY TWO POINTS (I had to write the whole thing out to fully capture the horror). I believe it was the most lopsided game ever in the history of Monday Night Football, and our worst loss ever under AR. The only reason it wasn't worse is that I think the Seahawks didn't even bother to take the field in the fourth quarter. Of course, since our offense couldn't find the endzone with both hands, a map, and a GPS, it didn't help. To quote the Philly sportswriters: "inept," "pitiful," "going nowhere fast," and "the biggest disappointment in the league." OK, that last one was excessively harsh - the Packers, my favorite 2005-2006 whipping boys, are in fact the biggest disappointment in the league. We're only the SECOND biggest disappointment in the league, thank YOU very much.

Unfortunately, as I was stuck in Orlando with no DirectTV Sunday package, I was forced to watch the Saints/Buccaneers game, rather than Bengals/Steelers or Giants/Cowboys, as I would have preferred. I did get to see the Chargers roll over the Raiders, though. I'm starting to feel bad for Randy Moss. No, really! Short version: Bucs, Bengals, and Giants won (and surprisingly, the Broncos lost - not breaking that Kansas City curse this year). The Steelers seem to be crumbling - not as dramatically as we are, but Roethlisberger has a busted thumb, and the rest of the team is, um, not taking it well. At 7-5, they have the same record as the AFC East weak-division-leading Patriots and are unlikely to make the playoffs. The Cowboys looked pathetic. Again, not as pathetic as we did, but it was not a good week for The Tuna. The only reason that game wasn't a blowout is because Eli Manning seems to be struggling again, too. The Vikings are on a roll with Brad Johnson at QB and, after a truly atrocious start, are starting to look like they could kick the 'Boys or the Bucs out of one of the NFC wildcard spots. And we're once again alone at the bottom of NFC East. And next week, we play the Giants. Lay in a good supply of your favorite pain killer - Excedrin, Aleve, bourbon, smack - you're gonna need it.


28 November 2005

2005 Week 12 Recap

Week 12: Eagles v. Packers, Sunday, November 27, 2005

Well, whatever happened to Akers last week seems fixed, since his leg won the game for us - 4 FGs, from 44, 38, 37, and 33, for 12 points. Our only other points came from a Westy rushing TD. Our offense is struggling along, and our D still gives up too many big plays. And before we all start talking about the playoffs again, remember, this was Green Bay, who has now fallen to 2-9. The only team in the NFL with a worse record is the possibly mythical Texans, and the only other teams with equally bad records are the Jets, who are playing the guy who normally distributes the Gatorade at QB, and the hapless 49ers. Hardly a stellar bunch.

We're finally tied, in the W-L column, with someone in our division, but sadly it's the Redskins, who still hold the tie-breaker over us and who, after a promising start, seem to have gone into their typical mid-season tailspin.

I just don't have that much to write about the game, other than the fact that a TERRIBLE personal foul call on Trent Cole cancelled an interception and could have cost us the game had Roderick Hood not picked off Favre in the endzone. Aren't the Philly officials supposed to make the terrible calls in our favor? We didn't screw anything up too badly and beat a team that's in even more trouble than we are. Woo.

Some quotes from the Inquirer are instructive:

Tight end Chad Lewis: "I'm used to seeing a very strong locker room. Very strong chemistry. Very strong team unity. [Sunday] was a big step because, obviously, we're trying to get back to playing as a team, relying on one another and believing in each other. We've definitely got a fight on our hands. It's the hardest thing we've ever had to do since I've been here."

Defensive end ND Kalu: "Somehow, we got away from the type of guys we used to bring in here, those blue-collar guys who were willing to work for everything and didn't care about the spotlight. We got away from that, and now we've got to get that back."

Fellas, couldn't have said it better myself.

At least we broke the 4 game losing streak, which I think was probably AR's longest in Philly. But I think talk about a postseason is wishful thinking. We play the 9-2 Seahawks next week, coming off a big win against the Giants, then the Giants themselves, who we *might* be able to beat at home if our D actually shows up for the whole game. The Rams and the Cardinals should be relatively easy (she says with trepidation), and then our final game is the 'Skins, who again we might be able to beat at home, particularly if they continue to play as they have the past few weeks. So we’re currently 5-6, and let's call it a likely loss to the Seahawks and either the Giants or 'Skins, which would leave us finishing at .500. Not enough. Even if we beat the Giants and the 'Skins, we’re not going to climb past both the Giants and Dallas unless Eli Manning, Tikki Barber, Drew Bledsoe, Keyshawn Johnson, and Terry Glenn all get hit by a bus. Today.

Around the rest of the NFL, the Cowboys lost to the Broncos on Thanksgiving, nanny-nanny-boo-boo! What was surprising to me was that the game was as close as it was, the AFC still being the stronger conference. Not a whole lot of other surprises, other than the Patriots losing to the Chiefs, whom we managed to beat in week 4 (of course, we still had McNabb then). The Bears' bus rolls on, with a win over Tampa Bay. The 'Skins lost to the Chargers and are entering their usual mid-season slump. Their D is still playing well - holding the Chargers to 17 in regulation is not easy - but their O just can’t seem to put points up, wasting great defensive stands, interceptions, and good field position. And the Colts rolled the Steelers last night to continue to 11-0. Damn.


21 November 2005

2005 Week 11 Recap

Week 11: Eagles at Giants, Sunday, November 20, 2005

I never thought I'd be writing the "They really tried hard!" post at this point in the season, but here I am, writing the "They really tried hard!" post. With McNabb out for the rest of the season finally getting his delayed hernia surgery, and cornerback Lito Sheppard, who's been one of the critical members of our D, out with a high ankle sprain (what is it with Eagles and high ankle sprains?), the constant (TO) outside (Rosenhaus) interference (TO) and distraction (TO), and the fact that we're 4-6 overall and (even worse) 0-4 in our division, the wheels, as The Editor so astutely observed earlier this week, have officially come off our season. So now we're into salvage mode, as in, what can we salvage for next year?

Here's one thing: McMahon, after a very rough start against the Giants Sunday, did a good job in the second half. Of course, the fact that every time the camera did a close up, he had this "how the hell did I get here and WHY IS THAT HUMUNGOUS MAN TRYING TO KILL ME?" expression on his face, was unintentionally hilarious. But he really did a decent job - he passed well enough to keep us in a game we definitely were predicted to lose, and he managed healthy-McNabb-like scrambles, both to avoid sacks and for some first downs. 17 points by a QB who's barely ever played in the NFL is not bad.

Here's another: Reggie Brown. OK, he's still dropping some passes he should catch. But he's also starting to pull down some good stuff. And he's learning how to get open, how to hang on to the ball, and how to get some yards after the catch. He's also learning to smell the endzone. With a little more experience, he could be very good, maybe even great. And, after the Mr. Whiny Pants mess, his attitude - apologizing to the team for the dropped pass against Dallas and promising that it won't happen again - has been refreshing.

Here's a third: we actually found a running game! Must've accidentally been stashed in the garage off season, and you know how hard it is to find stuff out there. Westy and Lamar Gordon (wearing Dorsey Levens' lucky 25) are getting some carries, getting some yards (now that our O line has re-learned how to block to create run lanes), and are finally balancing our offense. Hmmm - had AR tried this earlier, might McNabb NOT have gotten creamed? When you have one receiver and no running game, smart defensive coordinators send two guys to double team your wideout and send EVERYONE else after your QB on EVERY SINGLE play. And then your QB, no matter how big and strong he is, eventually gets leveled one too many times.

Here's one thing that's not salvageable: our inconsistent D. Remember back a few years when we lost BOTH McNabb and Detmer and were down to AJ Feeley? And he managed to pull us along into the playoffs, WITH THE HELP OF A GREAT D? This year, not so much. Had the D been able to hold it together, Dallas never would have gotten back in the game last week, and the Giants wouldn't have won this week. Sure, we have to put up enough points to win, too, but if the D would just do their jobs EVERY play, we'd likely have a winning record.

And what happened to Akers? That's probably the first (uninjured) time he's ever missed a FG under 40 yards. Should he not be playing yet? Not that it was a game winner or anything, but it would have been a psychological boost, not only providing an opportunity for the on-side kick (sure, they almost never work, but still...), but also even if the outcome of the game had been the same (and let's be honest, it probably would have), keeping us within 1 TD. The camera stayed on his face after the miss for a painfully long time, painful not only for the fans but also because he was clearly VERY upset. Has he lost his mojo? I sure hope not, but kicking is a funny business, a lot of it is a mind-game, and it's hard to say what a serious injury and time off might have done.

Around the rest of the NFL, the Redskins lost to the Raiders. At home. Yes, the Raiders who've been terrible even with the addition of Randy Moss. And yes, the Redskins who beat us on November 6. Yikes. Seems like they totally fell asleep at the wheel in the second half, particularly during that long Raiders drive that took 4 minutes off the clock AND gave them the go-ahead FG.

In other surprise losses, Chicago beat the Panthers old-school, in a major defensive battle, 13-3. The Vikings beat the equally poor Packers at Lambeau Field when the weather was below freezing. Apparently, stat-heads, Favre had never lost a game at Lambeau when the temp was below freezing at start time, and the Vikings are of course a dome team and are dealing with significant...distractions this year. If there was still any remaining doubt, let me spell it out: BRET FAVRE SHOULD HAVE RETIRED AT THE END OF LAST SEASON (see, I even used short words). The Ravens (who have an even worse record than the Raiders) beat the Steelers in OT that lasted almost another full quarter. Yes, Tommy Maddox is really THAT bad. Bet the Steelers can't wait to see Roethlisberger back next week! They're in a tough race with the Bengals for AFC North, but they're not going to get there with Maddox at the helm. Which brings us to...

The Colts. Man, are they seriously going to go undefeated? Seems unlikely, at the very least because you have to assume Tony Dungy's going to want to protect his starters once dome-field advantage is locked up for the playoffs. But with their starters playing, who can beat them? They won in Foxboro. FOXBORO. The Bengals were one of the few teams that seemed like they might have the chops to beat them. It was a total offensive shoot-out: 62 total points scored in the first half, both QBs passed for over 300 yards, the Colts scored on EACH of their first 5 possessions, the Bengals put up two TDs, two FGs, and a punt on their first 5 possessions and you had to wonder if they'd be able to hang in there. Did the respective defenses even take the field? Fun game to watch for sure. The Colts are looking like a juggernaut at this point.

Finally, my prediction from a few weeks back that Super Bowl XL would be Giants/Colts? My AFC money is still on the Colts, but I have NO clue who's going to rep the NFC. I'm not nearly so confident of the Giants anymore - they really should have stomped all over us - and the Panthers, an early sportscaster favorite pick, lost to the Bears, so it's probably not them, either, because Kyle Orton's just too green. Seahawks? Shawn Alexander is having a great year, but they almost went down to the 49ers this week. Of course, they are the only 8-2 team in the NFC at this point. Falcons are too inconsistent, and they totally rise and fall on Mike Vick. If it's Dallas, Chef Spouse'll be talking me down from the ledge.

15 November 2005

2005 Week 10 Recap

Eagles v. Cowboys, Monday, November 14, 2005

That was a great 56 minutes and 16 seconds of football, wasn't it? We rushed more yards in one game than we have all season. The D was pressuring Drew Bledsoe. He was looking mighty jumpy back there in the pocket. You would, too, if Jeremiah Trotter was about to take your head off. My boy D-Mac rushed for some first downs. The D shut down Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn, who'd been our bete noir in week 5. D-Mac ran one in. Westy ran one in. The D was keeping up the pressure so that when Dallas did have to punt it away, we ended up with decent field position. A healthy David Akers kicked two field goals, one from 20 yards out, one from 48.

That first drive! That was football poetry! And we were controlling the clock. See, that can happen when you're doing some rushing, mixing it up. And then the D's not so exhausted they can barely move by the half. Just great, great football. TO? Who needs him?

...

Do we really have to talk about the final 3:44? Really? Because I'd just as soon forget it happened. For those who foolishly went to bed, thinking at 20-7 we had it wrapped up, and have been living under a rock - or without access to ESPN or the Internet - Dallas took over at their own 28 yard line with 3:44 left in the 4th quarter. All of a sudden, our D rolled over and played dead. In 36 seconds and 4 plays, Dallas took the ball 72 yards for a TD. No biggie, though, right? All we have to do is rush some, keep it in bounds, keep the clock running, burn time, get a few first downs, maybe get close enough for another FG, put it at a two score game, it's all over, right?

Oh no, not this year. Even though our rushing had been going so well, on the second play after Dallas kicked off, McNabb made a huge mistake, throwing an INT right to Roy Williams with NO ONE with any chance of stopping him except our already-battered QB. Predictably, Donovan tried to make the tackle, took a hard block and went down. Williams trotted into the end zone, and it was 21-20 with D-Mac too hurt to continue and 2:43 left on the clock.

So what happened? Did the intended receiver - rookie Reggie Brown, who'd been having a great night - run the wrong route? Did D-Mac get confused by the amount of grass stain on Williams' uniform and think he was an Eagle? As has happened far too often this season, was #5 trying to force something to happen, resulting in a critical error? My money's on option 3.

Still, there's no way this was *all* Big D's fault. Was he responsible for the nearly 100 yards lost to penalties? No. He wasn't even on the field when the D rolled over on the previous drive. And he wasn't on the field when Reggie Brown dropped a beautiful Mike McMahon pass he ABSOLUTELY should have held onto with about 10 seconds left that would've allowed David Akers to make a game winning field goal from about the 25 yard line rather than missing a 60 yarder.

But the sad truth is that our season is pretty much over. At the bottom of our division now, it would take an act of God - as in, the Giants, Redskins, and Cowboys ALL get injured (and I mean every single player on their respective teams) - for us to make the playoffs. And Donovan is finally hurt so bad that it looks like he's out for the rest of the season. So let's just call this season a chance for our rookies to learn Brad and Jim's complex O and D schemes, and for Mike McMahon, who interestingly has won the starting QB position over 9 year veteran backup QB Koy Detmer, to get some experience.

The $64,000 (actually, multi-million dollar) question: was the team better without TO? Of course the numbnuts on ESPN came down to a man on the no side, arguing that he would've caught the pass Reggie Brown dropped. Sure, TO probably would have caught the pass Reggie Brown dropped. On the other hand, after our week 5 drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys when we had TO, can I get a show of hands: how many people think it would have been 20-21 with 10 seconds left had TO been playing? (insert image of tumbleweed rolling by and sound of coyotes howling in the distance) I thought so.

Around the rest of the NFL...awww...who cares? We're in the NFC East cellar, dude. We haven't been down so low since AR's first year in the City of Brotherly Love.

Sigh.

That's OK, I still bleed midnight green. I survived Super Bowl XV, the Buddy Ryan years and Ray Rhoades. I can take this.

Fly, Eagles, fly
On the road to victory
Fight, Eagles, fight
Score a touch down 1-2-3
Hit 'em low
Hit 'em high
And we;ll watch our Eagles fly
Fly, Eagles, fly
On the road to victory
E-A-G-L-E-S
EAGLES!


07 November 2005

2005 Week 9 Recap

Week 9: Eagles at Redskins, Sunday, November 6, 2005

OK, we lost to the Redskins, putting us dead last in the NFC East. This is not a good thing. But there is a LOT of good news for the Birds this week.

First of all, the BIG big news: TO is out. Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, GOOD-BYE - and don't let the door hit you in the a** on the way out. It's been so widely covered that Australian aborigines have heard. The only complaint I have is that they didn't do it three months ago. Michael Wilbon actually called TO a bum in the Post this morning. OOOO - Sean Salibury did *not* just call TO "the biggest joke in team sports" on ESPN's Monday Night Countdown! Oh snap! The only commentator I've heard take TO's side is Michael Irvin, and since the two of them are BFF, he's hardly a reliable narrator. And I think he's really shot himself in the foot. He's never going to get the big contract he's wanted, because no sane owner will want to risk that, and he missed a major opportunity with McNabb to go down as one of the great QB/WR combos. Now? Arena football? NFL Europe? Selling used cars?

Moving on...it was a very mixed game. We got on the scoreboard first for the first time this season. The team actually played like a team, like they were awake, and like they cared. D-Mac was a little more mobile. David Akers was back, and during warm-ups was putting FGs through from the 50 yard line. Not from 50 yards, from the 50 yard line. That's a long way, sports fans. There was some bad, bad officiating. When even the Post sportswriters are calling foul on that Clinton Portis "catch" and the BS interference call that gave the 'Skins their first TD, you know something's up. We left points on the field again at the end of the half due to some numbskull play that the Eagles couldn't seem to figure out but the 'Skins sure did. And for the second time in as many weeks, we gave up a big INT at a critical point in the game. Wilbon had it this morning: every break in that game went for the 'Skins and against us. There's good and there's luck and you really need both. Hopefully getting rid of He Who Shall Not Be Named (anymore) will turn our mojo around.

But there's more good news: our front office decided to show the right players the money - Westy and Akers both got big deals through 2010. Frankly, Westy deserves it, and Akers will probably end up the Hall of Fame, so we would've been stupid to let him walk. And our rookie, Reggie Brown, scored his first TD in the NFL. Go Reggie!

And the best part? We were at the game with amazing loge tickets on the club level, entry to the after party, and car service. I could get used to this. We had a fantastic time. Plenty of midnight green around us, wait service at the seats, carpet underfoot and leather chairs. Sweet! So this is how the other half lives.

Around the rest of the NFL, the Jets, who are now playing their equipment manager at QB, nearly took down the Chargers. They didn't quite pull it out, but either the Jets are better than they're credited or the Chargers are worse. Hm - the Chargers start strong and lose it in the end. We forget to show up until half time. Maybe we could merge into one team? They could play the first half, then we could take over. Oooo - and then we'd have a running game!

Chiefs/Raiders was a great game too - very gutsy call on Vermeil's part. First and goal on the Oakland 1, 5 seconds on the clock, down by 3, forget the tying FG, we'll just go for the win. And the pulled it off. Vermeil could just as easily have been the goat today, but it worked out for him. Not a whole lot of win/loss surprises, but some games were a lot closer than I thought they'd be (even without Big Ben, how did the Steelers only beat the Packers by 10?).

And the big one: Colts/Pats. When this game is over, I think we'll know who's going to win Super Bowl XL. The Pats are having as tough a season as we are - they've had so many injuries, they had to get their cart an oil change. But Peyton Manning has a mental block when it comes to the Pats, particularly in Foxboro, land of You Can't Win Here, Bub. If he can clear it, this could be the Colts' year. But frankly, they're never going all the way without homefield throughout the playoffs. They need that dome. Should be a great game. Are you ready for some football?


31 October 2005

2005 Week 8 Recap

Week 8: Eagles at Broncos, Sunday, October 30, 2005

Oh my. It took me 4 days to get over the hangover that resulted from Sunday. No, I don't mean the psychic hangover, I mean the bourbon hangover. No, I'm just kidding. I was over the bourbon hangover by Monday afternoon.

OK, so someone needs to mention this to the team: Guys, the game of football consists of four 15 minute quarters. See, that's why they're cleverly called QUARTERS. Because there are FOUR of them. See that? FOUR...QUARTERS. Also, that first 30 minutes? That's actually the GAME, not just more warm up. Those guys in the different colored jerseys? NOT the practice squad. That's the actual OTHER TEAM. That you're supposed to try to beat.

AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!

Never thought I'd say this, but I really miss Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell. I knew I'd be missing Dorsey Levens, just not this much. And Ike Reese? And Hugh Douglas? Damn. Of course, by now we all know that TO's out for a few weeks, so we're, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed - Akers is hurt, D-Mac is hurt and still playing, which week by week seems like more and more of a mistake, TO's now hurt, and apparently every single team in the NFL has AR's number.

Since the football was so bad on Sunday, let me do a menu review of what we ate. Being the first cool weekend of the fall, Chef Spouse and I were both in a cooking mood. On Saturday, Chef Spouse made a batch of veal stock and I made two loaves of honey whole wheat bread. We also made some vanilla ice cream. Sunday morning I made chocolate chip cream scones (to use up the extra heavy cream from the ice cream) and two apple pies (one with Winesaps and one with Courtlands) and then the lunch cookery started. Chef Spouse started us with a nice plate of chopped raw veggies. Then I browned up some brats and poached them in stout. Meanwhile, I chopped up some bacon and browned it, then cooked some chopped apples in the bacon fat and added some sauerkraut. Once everything was ready, I drained off the excess beer, then put the sauerkraut and brats in together. So they made a nice meal with the whole wheat bread. Then we had apple pie with vanilla ice cream and homemade bourbon sauce. Delicious. Almost good enough to make us forget the TRULY HORRIBLE game. Aw man, I almost got past it!

Our shellacking was slightly less painful than what the Redskins suffered at the hands of the Giants. At least we didn't get shut out. Ouch. The Giants are looking like the contender for NFC East. And we're playing the 'Skins on Sunday night. Talk about the battle of pee-wees! I'm starting to feel bad about making fun of the Packers and the Vikings all season. OK - not really.

So what else happened? Oy vey, I'm not even sure. OK, one of the NFC North teams is now above .500. The Bears. Who would've thought? A few other surprises: the 49ers beat the Bucs. The 49ers beating anyone is pretty surprising, particularly the previously 5-1 Bucs. And the Texans won a game - although I'm still not sure they're an actual team. And New England actually won by 5 rather than 3. And the Steelers barely snuck by the Ravens on Monday night - I expected the Steelers to KILL the Ravens. What happened there?

So we're going to the Eagles/'Skins game Sunday, thanks to Spouse's employer and the Fed Ex Field wireless network. We have car service, club level tickets, and entry to the after party. And it's going to be in the 70s in DC Sunday. So I'll wear my D-Mac jersey and have a good time no matter what happens. I just have to keep telling myself that since there are definitely no more guaranteed wins this year.


24 October 2005

2005 Week 7 Recap

Week 7: Eagles v. Chargers, Sunday, October 23. 2005

In the Eagles and Chargers versus the Officials, the Officials definitely lost. Given the blizzard of flags that flew, it's amazing the game's not still going on. The percentage of flags that had to be picked up on review hovered somewhere around 50, leading to the conclusion that at least a few of the refs need to lay off the caffeine or stuff their flags a little more securely into their pockets. C'mon, it wasn't THAT windy!

Once again, our offense could not get it together in the first quarter. Actually, it wasn't a great offensive game overall. Our formerly high-powered and high-scoring offense just can't seem to get clicking on all cylinders this year. Of course, if AR would stop talking about how he'd prefer to pass 100% of the time, it might help, since our complete lack of a running game lets defenses cheat their coverage. I can't believe I actually just wrote that Andy should share LESS information, but in this case, it's true. Also, 54 pass plays to 14 run on a week we were supposed to be running more? How is it possible to run less? Golf carts to and from the huddle? If this is all a plot to keep Westy's numbers low so he's not a hot property when he's a free agent next spring, so we can sign him to a long term deal more cheaply, we're cutting off our noses to spite our Super Bowl chances. And LJ, yes, I know that you took some monster hits, but once again, CATCHING the ball is only part of your job. You also need to hold onto it until you're on the ground. A little somethin-somethin on the run would be nice too, but let's focus on one thing at a time.

Fortunately, our defense was kicking a** and taking names. LaDainian Tomlinson was completely shut down, which NO team has managed to do this season. Eagles defenders ended his games-scoring-a-TD streak at 18 and almost managed to hold a back who regularly racks up over 100 yards per game to negative rushing yards. Jeremiah Trotter was all over the field. He was blitzing, he was blocking, he was shutting down the run lanes, breaking up big pass plays, and a few times almost picking Drew Brees off. If I didn't know better, I would've sworn they were actually playing two guys wearing number 54.

Once again, our D provided some critical points. Quintin Mikell managed to block a field goal, which almost NEVER happens, and then it took a lucky bounce right into Matt Ware's arms, who got some good blocking from the rest of the D and ran it back 65 yards for the go-ahead TD. This makes the third? fourth? week in a row our D has scored? We're in danger of turning into the Redskins at this rate, only without the coaching soap opera and the monomaniacal owner.

One area of our game that clearly did benefit from the bye week was our special teams. Although we're still unable to break the big runs on kick returns, we were at least able to break up any Chargers big runs on their returns. Now if we could just get a power back with some speed to break some big run backs for us, so we're not ALWAYS starting with lousy field position, and get Akers back at 100%, we'll be cookin'.

In the NFC North's battle of the pee-wees, the Vikings managed to be a little less pathetic than the Packers, pulling out a win with a 56 yard field goal as time ran out. It's entirely possible that the NFC North division winner will be at or under .500. Yikes. On a separate but related note, given the amount of 40 yard plus field goals this year, I think we're not too far from the time that they'll have to narrow the uprights. The kickers are just getting too good these days. Wonder what that would do to all the stats?

Are the Bengals a myth? Yes, I would say so, after the Steelers decisive 27-13 win. They're having a Cinderella season and will probably be contenders over the next few years, but for now, Blitzburgh still owns the AFC North. The Bengals might be ahead in the rankings, but come the postseason, if they're still in it, I don't see them getting past the Steel Curtain.

The Redskins trounced the hapless 49ers, who have at least realized that their season is over and are starting the top draft pick, Alex Smith, for the rest of the season. They have to - Rattay is GONE. I guess they figure that they're not going anywhere, so they might as well let the new kid cut his teeth on actual games and look towards the future. Perhaps the far, FAR future they way they played on Sunday. Scary. Hallowe'en's NEXT week.

On a happy note for 'Skins fans, LaVar Arrington actually got some playing time Sunday. They tagged him franchise only a year ago, and he's costing them a butt load of money, so even if he doesn't get along with Gibbs or Snyder or Tony Williams or whoever's the problem, the 'Skins have to figure out how to use him. Right now, he's just a drain on resources. And with their salary cap situation, they cannot afford that.

Around the rest of the NFC East, the Cowboys lost a tough one to the Seahawks, 10-13, dropping them to last in the division at 4-3. Bill Parcells, classy as always, shoved one of his coaching staff and cut the kicker who won the game against the Giants for them. Nice. The Seahawks are dominating a bad division, but Sunday's win demonstrates that Mike Holmgren might actually have something going on out there in Seattle.

The Giants squeaked out a 1 point win over the Broncos in a very exciting game. Broncos went out to an early lead, but then seemed to run out of steam after the half, when Eli Manning and the Giants came out and tore up, pulling off the tying TD and go-ahead extra point with 5 seconds left on the clock. The Broncos had the full lateral-lateral-lateral plan ready for the run back, but they only got to lateral-lateral before Giants strong safety James Butler slipped in and picked them off, ending a nail-biter in the Meadowlands. So will Jake Plummer cut his beard now? We'll find out next week, when the Eagles head to the Mile High city.

The Cowboys' loss to the Seahawks puts us, the Giants, and the 'Skins technically tied for first in the NFC East, but based on the arcane calculations of who's played who, we're second behind the Giants, who are, to be honest, having a hell of a year. Eli Manning's finally starting to look like he's related to Peyton - maybe not quite as good yet as brother, but certainly edging up into second cousin territory.

In the Jets/Falcons Monday night game, of course the Falcons won. Jets are still playing...wait for it...Vinny Testaverde. Who is almost 42 years old. And started his pro career when most of the guys he's playing with and against were in elementary school. Testaverde went out late in the game with a bum Achilles, leaving the Jets playing their FOURTH string QB. Herm Edwards did NOT look happy. The thing about the Falcons is Michael Vick RAN for 2 of their 3 of their TDs (the third was a defensive TD off a Testaverde fumble). He's exciting to watch, they win games, but you can't win championships with your QB providing that much of your offense. Also, he's a REALLY inaccurate passer - 3 interceptions last night. The Falcons are just lucky the decimated Jets offense couldn't capitalize on them.

Endzone celebrations: TO's maitre d' impersonation for his 100th career TD was fun. The Chargers Keenan McCardell aping it later was just stupid. Clinton Portis' Riverdance attempt was just sad, but his cartwheels were kind of funny, although he shouldn't give up football to start training for the Olympics. I think this is a trend whose Warhol-mandated 15 minutes have passed, though.


17 October 2005

2005 Week 6 Recap

Bye Week October 16, 2005

Bye week. Just in time. WHEW! Don't want to be seeing a repeat of last week any time soon. And everyone will get a little time to heal up and think about what he's done wrong. No Gameboy for a week, Mister, and Internet use only for your homework! After the abysmal performance against the Cowboys, one does have to wonder why AR decided to give everyone a week's vacation. Maybe he couldn't stand to look at them after that mess at Texas Stadium. Or he needed time to locate and travel to a voodooienne to get the curse the team seems to be operating under lifted.

It's been interesting to read all the "What's wrong with the Eagles?" coverage this week. One of the stupidest theories, propounded by a Philly sports writer whose name has been withheld to protect the morons, was that McNabb's afraid to throw into coverage because he doesn't want to risk his stellar interception percentage. I'm going to go with he won't throw into coverage because he's pretty damn sure his receivers aren't going to exert themselves to come down with the catch given their recent performance. Ocham's Razor and all that.

So anyway, I was able to enjoy the games in peace, comfort, homemade pizza, and root beer floats. How very 10 years old! And can I just say how much I'm enjoying Spouse’s new hobby: kicking Bobby Flay's culinary a**? (I know - everybody hates The Flay, so he probably has to get at the end of a VERY long line.)

Lots of heartbreaker games this week - and a LOT of sloppy playing. I chose the Cowboys/Giants game at 1 pm because they're both in my conference and it was likely to be a good game. It was definitely an exciting game, but "good" game would be stretching it. TONS of turnovers on both sides. Now admittedly, it was over 100 degrees on the field, but NO ONE could hang on the ball. Or concentrate. Or even pay attention. It was sad. Great plays on both sides - Shockey's tying TD with under a minute to go, Cortez' game winning 45-yard field goal - and terrible mistakes - Bledsoe's two fumbles, the Giants fumble on the Dallas 1 yard line that cost them a TD (and ultimately, the game), a critical pass interference call in OT against the Giants that set up the winning FG. Sloppy, sloppy game on both sides. This does give me confidence that, assuming we can get our stuff together, we maintain our chokehold on the NFC East.

The Falcons beat the Saints on a bad call and a last minute field goal. The Jaguars beat the embattled, Roethlisberger-less, Ward-less Steelers in OT. "Yeah, they were missing their starting QB and number-one receiver, but we kicked their asses (by one OT TD)! Woo-hoo!" The much-improved Redskins lost a tough game to the Chiefs, largely due to their own mistakes and turnovers. That game also featured a truly beautiful short catch and long run by the Chiefs' Priest Holmes that ended with him tap-dancing down the sideline into the end zone. Run, do not walk, to the nearest TV to see if they're still playing it on Sports Center.

The Pats/Broncos game was a nail-biter too. In the first half, the Pats looked, well, like the Eagles did last week. The Broncos totally had their number. It was like that scene in The Waterboy during the Bourbon Bowl where Brent Musberger and Dan Patrick comment that it's like Coach Red Beaulieu is in the huddle with the Muddogs as the camera pans to, sure enough, Red Beaulieu reading a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Coaching College Football and giggling. But Belichick must have given the Patriots one hell of a pep talk at the half - or threatened to trade a bunch of guys to the Texans - and they fought hard and got close, but couldn't quite pull off the win, due in part to a totally blown final possession with about 5 minutes left on the clock that burned time but got nowhere. Of course, the Pats may not care because the good news is that Tedy Bruschi has been cleared by every doctor in the world, including Dr. Spock, Dr. Who, and Dr. Feelgood, to resume play. Meanwhile, Jake Plummer's theory of not cutting his beard seems to be working. I thought it was baseball players who were supposed to be superstitious. The loss puts the Pats at a surprising .500 a little over 1/3 of the way into the season. The late game was Seahawks/Texans. Are the Texans even a real team, or is this just an elaborate practical joke?

I foolishly went to bed at half time Monday night, thus missing the Colts amazing comeback. Down 17-0 at the end of the first, with a Rams offense that seemed to be steamrolling their defenders and their own offense unable to get anything going, the Colts managed to turn it around, in part due to a poor call on possession of a fumble that set up their first touchdown and really seemed to swing the momentum of the game. At the half, the Rams were still up by 6 and seemed to be getting their mojo back after the disappointingly bad call. Or not. Colts completely dominated the second half, racking up 31 points to the Rams 8. Ouch.

Finally, I can't let week 6 go by without commenting on the Vikings "love boat" scandal. Now clearly the beleaguered Vikings were trying to console themselves over the loss of Randy Moss and the subsequent complete Daunte Culpepper meltdown. But I'm not sure booze, coke, and hookers were the best way to soothe their troubled souls. Couldn't they have adopted a team puppy or something? Puppies make much better pets than hookers, particularly once they're house broken (since you never can really house break the hookers), and they're much less likely to get you in trouble with Paul Tagliabue. Unless of course the puppy pees on his shoes.

And I would be remiss were I not to congratulate the Chicago White Sox on their first pennant since 1959. Go Sox!


10 October 2005

2005 Week 5 Recap

Week 5: Eagles at Cowboys, Sunday, October 9. 2005

Well, that was just pitiful. Offense, defense and special teams ALL forgot to show up for the game. Guys? The bye week is NEXT week. There is so much blame to go around, it's hard to know where to start.

Dear special teams: the guy's not tackled unless you actually STOP him. This is not touch or flag football. We had to rely on our replacement kicker, Todd France, and punter Dirk Johnson to stop some run backs. That's not right. Oh, and on our kick return team? Dear Rod Hood and Dexter Winn: run BEHIND your blockers, not AWAY from them. They're on your team and are trying to help you. And wedge guys? Might help if you waited a few seconds until the guy who received the kick was actually, you know, with you.

Dear receivers: McNabb is not always going to put the ball right on your numbers. You're being paid millions of dollars. Jump, reach, stretch, go back a step, speed up a little - SHOW SOME DAMN EFFORT! Oh - and when he does put the ball on your numbers, you need to actually, you know, hold on to it. Some extra yards might be nice, but at least catch the ball. Let's start with the basics and move on to the complicated stuff once you’ve mastered that. Dear TO: you want to go somewhere else for the 2006-2007 season? You might want to start dialing it up a notch, or no one is going to want your 32 year old, coming off injury, prima donna, whiny a** next year.

Dear o-line: our QB is playing injured. Y'all might want to try to provide a modicum of protection. At least try to keep him from being hurried, hit, or sacked on EVERY SINGLE PLAY, OK? What happened? You did great against the Chiefs, but Donovan didn't get all better in one week. You have to keep playing. Yes, every week.

Dear D: where were you guys? There was not ONE successful blitz the ENTIRE game. Drew Bledsoe was back there leaving the pocket, getting a hot dog, stopping in the stands to sign a few autographs, calling his agent, doing a quick sideline interview, and coming back to throw for major yardage TO WIDE OPEN RECIEVERS EVERY SINGLE PLAY.

Dear D-Mac: I love you, man, but if you can't play, you need to admit it and go do what you need to do to get healthy. Koy Detmer can handle things for a few weeks if he needs to.

Dear Andy Reid: you spoke of a need for some changes in your post-game press conference. May I suggest moving corner back Sheldon Brown to running back? He scored our first TD against the Chiefs and our ONLY TD against the Cowboys. He seems to have an eye for where the ball is, an ability to hang on to it, and he seems to be able to find the end zone. It's not like we have anyone else in the power back role. Oh - the officiating was terrible, too, but we played so badly we wouldn't have won anyway. So it didn't really matter.

AND it was DALLAS. Y'all lost to DALLAS. Why don't you just kill me now? Yes, it's only one game, but we haven't done well in our conference so far - one conference win against the 49ers (THE 49ERS!), and losses to the Falcons and Cowboys. Has all the "of course we’ll see the Eagles in the postseason" talk gone to everyone's heads? It's not a gimme here guys - you actually have to win some games. They aren't going to invite you to the postseason for your charming personalities. And our division is MUCH improved this year, as is NFC South. Keep playing like this, and you'll be damn lucky to see wildcard.

OK, so the game to watch was clearly Falcons/Patriots. GREAT game. Vick was out with a bad knee, and Atlanta was playing a guy who’d played precisely ONE pro football game before Sunday (and lost it), Matt Schraub. And he did GREAT. Patriots, as usual, won by 3 points on Vinatieri's leg (although to be fair, it wasn't a long field goal). But it was looking for a while like the Falcons might pull it off with their number 2. And those same Falcons were able to rack up a 58 yard field goal by letting their punter take a shot. Hmmm - seems to me I suggested that same thing against the Raiders when Akers went down and France was still on the practice squad. I’m just sayin'. But if the Pats get the ball back within the 2 minute warning in a close game, they are practically impossible to beat. Belichick actually has a two minute offense and understands how to make the clock his ****, rather than the other way around. See, the Patriots have something called a "running game," which allows something called "clock management," which means they get to kick game winning field goals with fewer than 30 seconds left in the game, rendering it nearly impossible for their opponents to tie or win. See how that works? Nifty, isn't it? AR might want to write that down.

In other news, there were a few surprises: Vinny "Van Winkle" Testaverde and the Jets beat the Bucs and the Jaguars beat the previously undefeated Bengals, leaving the Colts the only undefeated team in the NFL. Not that that seems to help Peyton Manning once he gets to the playoffs, but hey, there's a first time for everything. The Redskins lost a heart-breaker to the Broncos, very likely due to some bad officiating, and not only did the Packers win their first game, but they kicked the already down Saints in the process 52-3 and then gloated about it. This season, even when they win, they're a bunch of jerks. And the hapless 49ers: I have to give them credit. They seem to have realized early on that their season is looking hopeless, so they're going ahead and playing their rookie Alex Smith some. Wise move - get the kid some experience and look towards next year. I hope we're not saying the same thing in a few weeks.


03 October 2005

2005 Week 4 Recap

Week 4: Eagles at Chiefs, Sunday, October 2, 2005

Spouse and I were in Vegas last week, and I put $50 on the Eagles to win Super Bowl XL. At halftime on Sunday, that was starting to look like a REALLY stupid bet. France, our new kicker, had missed not only a makeable field goal but an EXTRA POINT. Mark Simoneau can miss an extra point, but c'mon, you're supposed to be an NFL kicker. Donovan couldn't connect with anyone, and TO couldn't hang on to anything. And Westy was too busy blocking for our injured QB to be much use running.

And then - 28 unanswered points. 28. TWENTY EIGHT. That's a lot, football fans.

As Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom observed, I don't know what Andy Reid said to those guys in the locker room at half time, but maybe he should've said it BEFORE the game started. The last few games have been running this way - we can't get anything to work in the first half, and then we come out of the locker room after the half and tear up. Not that being a strong second half team is bad - last year my worry was that we got so far ahead in the first half that we tended to phone it in for the second half, which bit us in the a** in the end of the season.

But it was good to see the boys come out after the half and start clicking. McNabb started completing passes to everyone - TO's still the dominant receiver (and why on earth did the Chiefs have him in single coverage so often? Are they nuts? Did the VCR they use to watch game footage break like 3 years ago and they keep meaning to replace it, but they just never manage to get across town to the Best Buy to pick one up?), but D-Mac's still spreading the love to everyone. France seemed to settle down - or somebody reminded Detmer that he's RIGHT footed - and everything just fell into place. D-Mac, a week after being visibly and obviously in serious pain against the Raiders, was playing pretty much like normal. With a sports hernia, a bruised breastbone, and a damaged shin. He's an iron man. Or crazy. Whichever, I'm glad we have him.

The Freak was finally a factor in a game - I was starting to worry that he'd forgotten to come back from wherever he spends the off season. Trotter and Dawk played their usual tough D, and our first points were provided by cornerback Sheldon Brown. The O line continues to do a great job protecting the injured QB in our pass-heavy offense (which is probably a result of lacking a power back who can push it through, no offense meant to Westy). A QB who's on track for a league MVP season even with the injuries. Fighting back from a deficit like this gives me a good feeling for the playoffs.

Around the rest of the NFL:

The normally terrible Redskins are 3-0. They haven't started a season 3-0 since the last time Gibbs was coaching. Admittedly, they haven't had a very tough start to the season - Bears, Cowboys (OK, that was a tough one, at least psychologically), and Seahawks. Their season's about to get a LOT harder over the next few weeks. But 'Skins fans haven't had much to cheer for in a while, so more power to them. Until they play us on November 6th.

The Pats dropped another game to the Chargers, who ANNIHILATED them. Ouch. Not pretty. The Pats seem to be struggling with major issues, ranging from new coaching staff to injuries to new players. Lots going wrong in Foxboro.

Meanwhile, the Bengals, Colts, and Bucs are all still undefeated. My pick of the Falcons for NFC South may have been a mistake, particularly given that Vick's hurt again - this time it's an ankle. Minnesota continues to SUCK royally. What is going on with Daunte Culpepper? He's better than this - or at least I would've argued that before this season. Yikes.

And apparently we're trying to generate interest in American football in Mexico by sending the two worst teams in the NFL? Of course, I may be speaking too soon on that - in the midst of Monday Night Football, Panthers versus Packers, we have two teams in the NFC North that are 1-2 (Lions and Bears), one that's 1-3 (Vikings), and one that's 0-3 (Packers). Of course, the result was that the Packers dropped another game to the Panthers, marking their worst start since...well, it's been a REALLY long time. Oh my. It's a race to the bottom in the NFC North.

Finally, the Saints went to .500 against the Bills in an actual "home" game. How does playing the Giants IN New York count as a SAINTS home game? Hello? Anyway, good to see them back in San Antonio and winning one.


26 September 2005

2005 Season Week 3 Recap

Week 3: Eagles v. Raiders, Sunday, September 25, 2005

Wow. What an amazing weekend of football. Salary caps and the construction of draft seeding works to ensure that the NFL isn't dominated by a handful of great teams, with tons of scab teams, unlike some other leagues (MLB, I'm looking at you.) As Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom says, "Any given team on any given day can beat any other team." Damn straight. Wise woman.

Let's start with the Eagles. David Akers has the heart of a warrior. He was quoted after the game as saying that he didn't want his teammates to think he was wimping out. Um, I don't think anyone will ever think that about him after Sunday. Watching him go down after the kickoff was truly horrible. (As a side note, I suspect the offsides penalties were a result of his timing being off.) But after he crumpled and they had to re-kick, I COULD NOT BELIEVE AR let him go out and kick again. My friend The Editor, who came over to watch the game with us, and I were speculating about how to keep him off the field. The Editor suggested that the trainers should take him to the locker room, forcibly remove his uniform and, if he still tried to get back on the field, have security escort him from the stadium (presumably after letting him put on something else). I was pulling for chaining him to a locker. Watching him kick the game-winning field goal, keel over, get up in tears, and practically be carried off the field by his long-time holder Koy Detmer was heart stopping. Another great moment: Donovan on the sidelines with his arms around a clearly in agony Akers after the game. High drama indeed.

HOWEVER, the rest of the team never should have put Akers in that position in the first place. We had some weak offense in the first half, with some blown opportunities. Dear LJ Smith: you have the potential to be a great receiver. And you clearly know the second rule of football, which is: try to get more yards. However, the FIRST rule of football is HANG ON TO THE DAMN BALL, 'kay? Dear TO: you are a great receiver. And I see you took my advice to get some gloves. Maybe you should look into some Velcro patches. Yeah, Donovan throws hard, and sometimes it's catch the ball, get out of the way, or get your head knocked off. I would recommend you think seriously about picking option number one.

D-Mac was clearly in pain, too, throughout the day, either as a result of his still-bruised sternum, his groin pull, or the combo platter. Given the fact that he got better in the second half, it would seem that it was the groin pull, since it would've loosened up as he warmed up. Still, in interviews after the game, he said that the change resulted from a halftime realization that he'd have to use his legs more, as his chest was so sore, which argues for the sternum bruise. And having bruised my sternum as a kid in a gymnastics accident, I can attest to the fact that it is REALLY painful and tends to take a while to heal. Bye-week can't come soon enough. And while we're at it, let's talk about sitting Akers through the next two games (Chiefs and Cowboys, both on the road) and the bye and letting him heal up. Sunday clearly demonstrated how much we need him.

But you have to fault coaching, too. Reid knew that Akers' hamstring was in BAD shape throughout the week. How did he not have a better plan than letting Simoneau kick the extra points? OK, Simoneau played soccer in high school and came through for us against the 49ers (when there was NO pressure and nothing at stake), but that does not make him an NFL kicker. Aside from the fact that NFL kickers pretty much always hit the extra point, they NEVER miss because they kicked it into the back of one of their own players. Why was French not dressed out for the game? We signed him last week. And how did we not have a backup for field goals? Call me crazy, but wouldn't our highly experienced punter, Dirk Johnson, be the logical choice? At least he's used to, you know, kicking. Footballs. Professionally. Just saying.

The up side? The D kicked a**. Trotter was in on almost every single tackle made anywhere on the field for the entire game. He TORE UP. Dawk broke up how many receptions? And several that would have been TDs. The Freak seems to have gone missing, but the D was rockin'. There was a curious lack of blitzing - it's not like Kerry Collins is Michael Vick. The big worry isn't containment. But whatever - it worked. And the O line totally stepped up to protect our injured QB. They did an almost superhuman job of holding the pocket and not making D-Mac scramble around, which he clearly could not do.

Two class moves on the part of Oakland: OK, tub-o-lard Warren Sapp landed hard on Donovan a few times, but there were a few times other Raiders snuck through and took him down, but were clearly bracing themselves up once he was on the turf to keep from putting extra weight on him. And no one ever rushed Akers or even made any moves towards him at all. Who would've thought that the Raiders + Randy Moss (who was CLEARLY not having a good day and was VISIBLY pissed off on the sidelines) would behave so well?

Around the rest of the league, 20-20 was a VERY popular score for the day. Lots of really close games - Dallas/San Francisco, Tampa Bay/Green Bay, Steelers/Patriots...

I was expecting Dallas to blow out the 49ers the way we did lat week (OK, maybe not quite THAT bad). High scoring game on both sides, and the 'Boys just pulled it out. Either Dallas isn't going to be as good this year as a lot of people are predicting, or the 49ers aren't going to be as bad. They did seem to locate their D over the past week. Maybe they just forgot to get off the bus last week.

Green Bay is, as I predicted, tanking. Wah-wah-wah, poor Brett Favre. His dad died, his wife has cancer, and he lost his house in Mississippi. He either needs to deal with it and play, or he needs to retire and go into therapy. End of story. Lots of normal people have to deal with personal tragedy every day WITHOUT the excessive sympathy of the entire sports casting world, the maniacal devotion of fans, AND millions of dollars to cushion things. Yelling at receivers for not catching bad passes on field during the game is a pretty low-class move. Take the blame for your screw ups like a man, Vicodin Boy.

The Steelers-Patriots game was amazing. Plenty of mistakes on both sides - interceptions, fumbles, and sacks - and at the half, it looked like the Pats were going down and we'd have a repeat of the Eagles-Falcons in week 1 in which we see the championship game loser get a little payback. But it was not to be. Once again, the Pats found a way to win. And once again, it was on the leg of Adam Vinatieri. 45 yard FG with ONE SECOND left on the clock. Talk about another gut-buster.

So at the end of week three, only three teams in the league are 3-0, and they aren't the teams I would've figured for that record at this point: the Bengals, the Bucs, and the Colts (OK, I probably would've picked the Colts to be 3-0 at this point). All 4 teams from the championship games last year are 2-1, and some of the pre-season picks to be division leaders (Vikings and Chargers, I'm looking at you) are at 1-2. It's still early, everything's still up for grabs, but it seems like this may be one of those "realignment" seasons.


19 September 2005

2005 Week 2 Recap

Week Two: Eagles v. 49ers, Sunday, September 18, 2005

First the good news - we won! Nice to put a tick in the right column and come up to .500. Whatever off-field issues they had and may still be having, TO and D-Mac seem to be able to work together on the field, to everyone's immense relief after the constant miscues against the Falcons in week 1. Also, just in case the relationship goes south, my boy was spreading the receiving love to, well, everyone. It was good to see the Eagles offense clicking again - we even got some rushing yards! D-Mac had an insane QB rating - that bruised chest didn't seem to slow him down any as he threw for 4 TDs - and all was well in the Linc.

Now for the bad news: Akers' hamstring. Is it serious? Don't know yet – he didn't have to do too much in the game. But Marc Simoneau kicked an extra point or two, which doesn't seem good. How do you replace the #2 kicker in the entire league? We have no backup kicker, and certainly no one who can nail 'em at 40+ yards out. If we do need to pick up a replacement, unless he's Adam Vinatieri, we're in trouble. And the news on philly.com indicates that they're trying out other kickers – "just in case." Ruh-roh Shaggy.

Also, this was the 49ers. The 49ers. Think about that for a minute. The NFC is the weak conference, and of that weak conference, the West is the weak division. And of that division, the 49ers are the worst team. Not to put too fine a point on it, they suck. So yes, we stomped THE WORST TEAM IN THE ENTIRE NFL 42-3. So let's not start taking everyone's ring sizes just yet. I'm a life-long Eagles fan. There's still plenty of time for it all to go to hell.

Around the rest of the league:

Sportscasters have been speculating that this might be the year the Packers finally fall off the cliff. Only a fool would make a sweeping pronouncement based only on two games, but by God, I am that fool. Yes, I think this is the year that it all catches up with Mr. Favre – his age, the hits, the fact that he’s never been particularly accurate, his penchant for throwing interceptions. Time to hang up the spikes, Vicodin Boy. Good thing y'all picked up Aaron Rodgers in the draft. He may have to step up a little earlier than planned.

Meanwhile, the Vikings lost to the Bengals 8 to 37. The same Vikings who have been predicted by many to win the NFC north this year. Looks like they shouldn't have dumped Randy Moss after all. Dante Culpeper seems to be in a tail spin, and between the Vikings and Packers, it's a race to the bottom between the NFC North and the NFC West.

The NFC South, now, that's another story. The Panthers beat the Patriots, believed by many to be invincible. Speculation was that Brady and/or Belichick had sold his soul to the devil. Looks like that's not true – or they should've read the fine print before signing. The thing that's likely to hurt the Pats this year is the loss of key coaching staff more than the loss of a few important players. There's a reason that nobody 3-peats in the NFL, and the Pats may be about to learn it the hard way. On the other hand, the Falcons followed up their big season opener against us with a loss to the Seahawks. Yes, Seattle, part of the universally reviled (by me at least) NFC West. Yes, THAT Seattle. Where Mike Holmgren will probably lose his job after this season unless a miracle occurs and they get to the Super Bowl.

The Steelers continue their run of excellence. Looks like Big Ben may not have the rough sophomore year many people predicted, as long as the Bus manages to hold together for one more season or Duce Staley finally gets healthy. Sorry as I was to see him leave Philly, looks like Reid and Banner made the right decision there. Now if we could just offload Correll Buckhalter for someone who stays healthy long enough to actually play in one or two games, we'll be all right.

The big surprise? The Bears stomped all over the Detroit Lions. The same Bears who couldn't hold off the Redskins in week 1. Of course, see above re: the total suckitude of the NFC North. So apparently nothing should surprise us there - including all the NFC North teams managing to lose to each other. And the 49ers. And probably the Cardinals.

The other big shocker was the 'Skins/Cowboys game. The hapless Skins broke at TEN YEAR losing streak at Texas Stadium, and a 14 game losing streak against the Cowboys. In the final 5 minutes of the game. When it looked like it was going to be a shutout. And yes, I did go to bed before the end of the game, but I TiVoed it so I could watch the end today (thank God!). The battle of the over the hill QBs went the 'Skins' way. At the moment, they have a better record than the Eagles. Yeah, I don't expect that to last either, but it was the 'Skins Super Bowl in Dallas last night - closest they're likely to get any time soon anyway.

And finally, even though the Saints lost to the Giants (who seem to have improved dramatically in the off season - good thing somebody made Eli Manning practice), I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for a Cinderella year for the beleaguered - and currently homeless - Saints.


13 September 2005

2005 Week 1 Recap

Eagles Season Opener, Monday, September 12, 2005 at the Falcons

Oy vey.

When Jeremiah Trotter got ejected (unfairly I think), I took it as a bad omen. Was he set up? Seems possible to me. Mathias is a nobody and he seemed to have both started the verbal altercation and he definitely threw the first punch. The Falcons needed Trotter out of there for Warren Dunn and Michael Vick to run. Things that make you go "hmmmmm....."

And I don't think we've EVER won a game when David Akers misses more than 1 FG. Of course, setting him up for two 49 yarders wasn't exactly fair, but you could still see him mentally kicking his own butt as he left the field both times. The guy literally aims to be perfect. And in fact he'd probably have better overall stats than Vanderjagt if we weren't constantly asking him to kick incredibly long FGs. He has the most over 40 yard FGs EVER in NFL history and accuracy over 94% under 40 yards.

But enough about David Akers. Both offenses - Eagles and Falcons - were TERRIBLE, the Falcons were just a little less terrible than we were. These were the NFC championship contenders last year? You have to be kidding. No wonder the AFC perpetually spanks the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Bright spot: Dawk did his damndest to win the game all on his own even after having to visit the locker room for an IV for dehydration, and TO shut up and played, although certainly not at his best. Perhaps they can get him some gloves with sticky finger pads so he can hold on to the damn ball. I hope this isn't an indication that we've gotten our D together, only to lose it on O.

I'm also hoping D-Mac isn't seriously hurt from that helmet butt, since the fortunes of the team pretty much rise and fall with him. He's not on the official injury report, but then again it hasn't been updated since last week. If he's not going to be out, I suspect we won't hear much about it, since Andy Reid tends to be pretty close about non-bench-time injuries. You know, because he's normally so forthcoming with the info on everything else. whistling.gif

And dude, why didn't my boy run a few of those times rather than throwing those HIGHLY suspect passes? I know we don't want our QB to get schnockered this early in the season, but he had clear lanes more than a few times, and he's learned how to go down once he gets the first down yardage rather than risking injury for a few more yards.

And clock management! JEEZ let's talk about the clock management problem! That's what KILLED us in the Super Bowl last year. You'd think someone would have thought to work on that in the off season. I love me some Andy Reid, but the clock management thing is NOT GOOD.

At least we have what should be a gimme next week against the 49ers, like the rest of our conference had Sunday. Giants versus Cardinals? The team vying with the 49ers for worst in the entire league? Yeah, I'm sure Eli Manning did have a great game against them. So would any above-average high school QB. The 'Skins managed to squeak by the Bears. You know, the same Bears the group of people I've cc:ed on this email could probably beat if we put our minds to it. The Cowboys were the only ones who played a real team (Chargers), and they managed to win, even though Bill Parcells continues his reign of over the hill QB terror in Dallas. DREW BLEDSOE? How long has this guy been playing? Since the 14 game season?