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?