This Sunday featured many exciting games with playoff implications. Sadly, the Eagles game was not one of them. The 42-7 rout was a microcosm of everything that's been wrong with the Eagles in 2012. And that's all I have to say about that.
Well, other than to point out to the gloating Giants fans: I realize that the last time you saw the Eagles in 2012 was when we beat you on Sunday Night Football at the end of September, so you might not know. But hanging 42 points on this team is nothing to be proud of. Pissing on Andy Reid's grave - which is what you're doing now - just shows a complete lack of class. And 9-7 and 4-12 will look pretty much the same next week, when both teams are watching the playoffs from their man caves. Only the Eagles scored a higher draft pick.
Now that I have that off my chest, I want to talk about Andy Reid a little.
I am, as my bio states, a life-long Eagles fan. My earliest football memory was when Dick Vermeil came to Philly. I was 5. I have fond memories of Sunday afternoons in front of the TV, hoagies in hand, cheering for Jaws, Wilbert Montgomery, Harold Carmichael, Mike Quick, Herm Edwards,
the Minister of Defense Reggie White, and later on, under Buddy Ryan, Randall Scramble, Cris Cater, Andre Waters, Jerome Brown, and Seth Joyner. By that point, I was in college and used to go over to the only all-male dorm on campus every weekend to watch the games, which were on in the lounges.
And then I graduated and moved out of state for grad school. This was way before the Sunday Ticket era, and I went to grad school at a college football mad university in a town with no pro team nearby. On the upside, I missed part of the Rich Kotite and pretty much all of the Ray Rhodes years. On the downside, I lost touch with my beloved Eagles.
And then I moved to the home city of a divisional rival. And Jeff Lurie hired this unknown quarterbacks coach from Green Bay named Andy Reid, who proceeded to draft this guy out of Syracuse (not exactly a football powerhouse) Donovan McNabb.
And then: Duce Staley. Brian Westbrook. Brian Dawkins. Hugh Douglas. John Runyan, David Akers. Jeremiah Trotter. Troy Vincent. Darwin Walker. Tre Thomas. Lito Sheppard. Sheldon Brown.
And then the rest followed: five playoff appearances in a row. Four NFC championship games in a row. The Super Bowl loss to those big cheaters, the Patriots. The 2005 disaster year. The miraculous run into the playoffs under Jeff Garcia in 2006, after McNabb went down with the sports hernia. Then McNabb down again in 2007 with the ACL tear. Then the equally miraculous run back to the NFC Championship game in 2008. Playoffs again in 2009 and 2010.
Even though - and it's a big "but" - the Eagles never brought home the Lombardi trophy, Andy Reid brought this team and this city the most sustained period of success we've ever seen. He changed expectations for all of us. He gave me back my fandom.
I hope he takes a little time off. After the past two years, which have been extremely difficult both personally and professionally, I think he needs it. After that? I wish him nothing but success wherever he goes. Godspeed, Big Red. Unless you goes to Dallas, in which case all bets are off.
I will pick the playoff matchups and recap the playoff games, even though the Eagles are out, so I'll share my thoughts about the 12 teams when I pick Wildcard Weekend. I *will* say this now: at the beginning of the season, I was thinking 49ers/Texans Super Bowl. Not anymore.
This is it - the final week of the 2012 regular season.
I have plenty of complaints with the NFL (I hate Thursday night football, I wish Joe Buck and Troy Aikman would go do something - anything - else, some of the rules make no goddamn sense, and they often don't seem to be applied equally, at least not if your name is Manning or Brady), but one thing I LOVE is that the final Sunday is *just* Sunday, it's all divisional and lots of playoff scenarios are on the line, at least for the NFC. (Things are pretty settled in the AFC.)
Meanwhile, the Eagles limp to the finish (both figuratively and literally), facing the Giants in New Jersey. And the Giants don't really have much to play for, either. Don't get me wrong - they aren't mathematically eliminated, and the G-men are going to win Sunday. But it is highly unlikely that the Cowboys, Bears, and Vikings will ALL lose.
Also, I'm expecting Andy Reid to be let go first thing Monday morning. You definitely did not read that here first - EVERYONE expects Andy Reid to be let go first thing Monday morning.
Buccaneers at Falcons: The Falcons have nothing to play for, and I'm guessing they'll rest their starters as a result, despite recent (Colts) evidence of what a mistake that usually is. I see the Bucs winning this one.
Jets at Bills: Rex Ryan's last game at the Jets head coach? Maybe. The Jets should be able to win this one, but with the QB mess (Sanchez is benched! No, he's the starting QB!), I figure morale is at an all-time low for Gang Green, and the Bills will sneak a win. Not that it really matters.
Ravens at Bengals: I don't think either team can improve their seeding with a win - Bengals will b #6, Ravens will be #4 - and honestly, although I'm sure no one wants to play the Pats right now, facing a divisional rival two weeks in a row is even worse. With both teams likely to rest some starters and not really be that invested in the outcome, I'm going with the Bengals at home.
Bears at Lions: I know I keep picking the Lions and they keep losing. I know the Bears are fighting for a playoff spot. I'm feeling Lions, but...gotta go Bears.
Texans at Colts: The Texans have stumbled a bit of late, but the bye and possibly homefield are on the line. They'll find a way to win, even against a highly motivated Colts team at home. I think.
Panthers at Saints: Nothing to play for but pride, but the Saints don't lose at home.
Browns at Steelers: Same and same.
Jaguars at Titans: Bleh. Also, Titans. Not that ANYONE will be watching this game.
Chief at Broncos: Broncos, definitely, who also still have a shot at both the bye and homefield.
Packers at Vikings: This is going to be a great game, I think. The Pack needs the win for the bye. The Vikings need the win for a wildcard spot, and all they have to do to get it *is* win. Logically, the Pack should win, but I think the Vikes will dig deep and surprise them.
Dolphins at Patriots: Patriots.
Raiders at Chargers: The Chargers will probably win at home, but it won't change the fact that Norv is going to be be fired on Monday, too.
Rams at Seahawks: Should've listened to myself last week and NOT picked against the Seahawks at home. Not making that mistake again. Seahawks.
Cardinals at 49ers: 49ers who, if I'm right about the Pack losing, will snake that bye week right out from under Green Bay.
Redskins at Cowboys: It's for all the NFC East marbles, and the Redskins GOT this one. The Cowboys will choke. Glad Monday's a day off, because this should be a great game that I'm going to stay up to see the end of and will probably be too hyped to sleep after.
I was in two minds about this game. On the one hand, it's clear this was Andy Reid's last home game, and I was hoping the team could send him on his way with a win. On the other hand, top 5 pick! And on the third hand, if I may borrow one of yours, of the remaining choices to win the division, I'd most like to see it go to the Skins, which means they have to win out.
Looks like your hand is the lucky one.
Well, at least luckier than Nick Foles, who apparently broke his hand in the loss. Guess Vick is coming back for the final game of 2012? Assuming he passed his concussion tests finally? What's Trent Edwards up to? Isn't Jason Avant behind him? Maybe we give #81 a shot next week?
Oy. It's 2005 all over again, only without the "fun" of coming off a Super Bowl loss.
Stud of the week: Jeremy Maclin who, as Bleeding Green Nation points out, is quietly having a decent season. (Also, it was good to see Shady back and feeling spry.) Mac scored one TD, and had Nick Foles put a little more zip on that final pass, would've tied up the game.
Well, not the final-final pass of the game. That would be Foles' intentional grounding muff on 3rd and goal with two seconds left and a chance to tie, leading to a 10 second run off and "the game is over."
How Eagles of them!
It's been like the f-ing Keystone Kops out there most of the season. And was a poetically apt way to finish out the home games for the 2012 season.
As has been the case in so many games this year, the team did some things right, and many more things wrong. They played well enough to stay in it, but not well enough to win. Turnovers killed them, and when it came down to it and they needed to dig deep for the extra effort to tie it up, they screwed up in a genuinely comical fashion.
Yep. Your 2012 Philadelphia Eagles.
They can't even really play spoiler next week - not that their chances of beating the Giants in New Jersey are very good - because, although not technically eliminated, it would take not one, but about 17 miracles for the Giants to make the post-season.
Or, in football parlance: "The NFL has announced that the Giants-Eagles game on December 30 will air at 1 pm."
A final note: not to take anything away from RGIII or Andrew Luck, but Russell Wilson is quietly having an outstanding rookie season in Seattle, too. In the past three games, they've put up 58 points (on the Cardinals), 50 (on the Bills), and 42 (on the 49ers' #2 ranked defense in the league). You know how the Super Bowl is all about getting hot at the right time? The Seahawks are ON FIRE right now.
This week - tonight, in fact - the Eagles will be hosting the Bengals at the Linc.
On the one hand, the monkey's off their back - they finally won a game.
On the other hand, the Bengals don't have the worst-ranked pass defense.
Also, they are currently holding the #7 playoff spot in the AFC, looking up at slumping division rival the Steelers.
They have every reason to bring it, and I expect them to.
In the rest of the matchups:
Redskins at Browns: The big question in DC this week isn't the fiscal cliff or what's going on in Syria or the upcoming inauguration, or the ever-amusing local corruption. It's, "Will RGIII play Sunday?" The Skins are facing the Browns. Don't know that it will matter. Redskins.
Colts at Texans: Man, the Texans must be reeling from the ass-whupping they took at the hands of the Pats Monday night. And you know Matt Schaub is thinking, "ONE year? I get ONE year where the Colts aren't good? Goddamnit!" But I think they'll pull this one out. Texans.
Jaguars at Dolphins: Dolphins. To quote the Bleacher Report: things Nick Foles is slower than - the Jaguars selling out a home game.
Broncos at Ravens: This may be the best Broncos team we've seen since...Elway? I don't even know. They're good. REALLY good. And the Ravens are sputtering on offense. Broncos.
Vikings at Rams: I can't figure out the NFC North at all this year. The teams win when they should lose and lose when they should win. I've got the Rams at home, but who knows?
Buccaneers at Saints: The Bucs have nearly the worst defense in the league, and THE worst against the pass (see above re: last week against the Eagles), while the Saints have, well, Drew Brees. Last week the Seahawks put up 58 points on the Cardinals. Brees could do that against the Bucs in the first half, unless his arm gets tired. Saints.
Giants at Falcons: Don't pick against the Falcons at home.
Packers at Bears: See above RE: NFC North, and I'm going with the Bears because homefield, but I think this game will be close.
Lions at Cardinals: Lions. Don't think the Cards have an answer for Megatron.
Seahawks at Bills: Seahawks, who are quietly pretty damn good with their rookie QB, Russell Wilson, who's getting very little attention because Luck and RGIII, also Seattle.
Panthers at Chargers: Talk about inconsistent teams! Anything could happen in this game. I mean anything: clown cars, Rip Torn, flash mob, you name it. I think Panthers, but I wouldn't put money on it.
Chiefs at Raiders: Chiefs. Also, who cares?
Steelers at Cowboys: Think the Steelers can keep the wheels on the bus long enough to beat the Cowboys? I'd like to say yes, but I really don't think so. Cowboys.
49ers at Patriots: Possible Super Bowl preview? Nah - AFC's going to be the Broncos, mark my words. The Pats are pretty hard to beat at home, which I should've remembered when picking the Texans last week, but in Kaepernick I trust. 49ers.
Jets at Titans: Bleh. I'll be in NOLA Monday night, which is great - I won't feel bad at all about skipping this one. Also, for what it's worth, Jets.
I know, I know, this does not help the team's draft position, and that's pretty much all that's on the line at this point.
But how nice was it to see Big Red and Howard Mudd hugging after the game. And not "bro-hugging" either, but a big old "I'm about to cry" clinch.
Stud of the week: Could it be anyone but Jason Avant? He had an amazing game. No TDs, but 7 catches for 133 yards, including an amazing one-handed circus catch. Just Google it - you'll have no trouble finding it. Shout out to Jeremy Maclin, too, for catching the game winner as time expired.
Good thing the receivers had a big day because, thanks to the Bucs' #1 ranked running defense, Nick Foles was the Birds' top rusher on the day.
Speaking of Foles, I'm still not sure he's The Guy, but I'll bet he gets a shot at the starting spot for 2013 at this point. He played well, particularly when he needed to bring the Birds back from being down by 11 with 7 minutes left. And for once, burning the timeouts to save the clock worked, as the D, which had been up and down all day, was able to come up with a stop when they needed it, with about 3 minutes to go. And then Foles got sacked right before the 2 minute warning, and nobody panicked. Or gave up.
In the end, it doesn't change anything. The Eagles will finish at the bottom of the NFC East. Andy Reid will be fired in January. Mike Vick will not be an Eagle, and may not even be playing football. Same for King Dunlap. I'm sure someone will pick up Nnamdi Asomugha, but he won't be Philly anymore, either.
But on a day when the Bucs were honoring the team that, according to Chef Spouse's unending bile, stole the Eagles' Super Bowl from them (if I had a dollar for every time he's said "2002 was OUR YEAR!" I'd be a rich woman), it was nice to be able to savor a victory.
Only Jim Washburn got fired, so it's more like rats being thrown off a sinking ship. Of course, according to all the reports I'm reading, it was long overdue. Seems like Washburn was a complete asshole. Good riddance, but it's probably two years too late (yes, for those who are bad at math, that means I think he never should have been hired in the first place).
Stud of the week: Nick Foles, who had a good game. Finally. I don't know if he has what it takes to start in the NFL. Guess we'll be seeing his 2013 audition - for the Eagles or some other team - in the next month, particularly since Big Red named him the starting QB today. But he had a solid outing last night, and that's a start.
I also have to give a shout-out to my boy Jason Avant, back in the lineup after 3 weeks out with a bad hamstring, for making some typically excellent catches and even getting some YAC (not usually his strong suit). Alex Henery kicked his 4,537th field goal in a row (really 21, a team record. Damaris Johnson had a punt return TD. I think that might be the first of the 2012 season. We saw something heretofore unknown in the NFL: King Dunlap threw a few good blocks. Riley Cooper made another circus catch TD. Bryce Brown scored two TDs again and had I think 169 yards on the ground.
Actually, the entire offense played decently.
Well, other than when Bryce Brown fumbled and Morris Claiborne ran it back 50 yards for a TD.
Gotta learn how to hold onto the football, son.
And things are at such a sad pass that I didn't even yell at the TV when he did it. It was more like, "Well, I knew disaster was going to hit sooner or later." And sure enough, that was it. The Eagles, down 10 with under 4 minutes to play, never recovered, despite the Johnson return TD.
Of course, they also scored 33 points, and it wasn't enough.
It's the D that killed us.
Well, that and Bryce Brown's fumble.
There aren't enough negative adjectives in all the languages in all the world (including the dead ones) to express how disgusted I am with the Eagles defense from last night. It's like they aren't even aware that they're playing defense in the NFL out there. I don't know what they do think they're doing, but whatever it is, it doesn't deserve to be on prime time TV. Or even cable access. At 2 am. It was a total, complete breakdown in all facets other than Brandon Graham's 1.5 sacks.
I am starting to come around to the position many of the Eagles bloggers have taken that this team lacks a culture of winning. Whether it's too many free agents who were middling to good players on bad teams, lack of locker room leadership, coaching issues, lack of focus, I don't know. But clearly, these guys don't know what to do to win. Hopefully it's something they can learn under a new regime, or it's probably fire sale time come January.