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?