16 January 2007

2006 Season Divisional Weekend Recap

Eagles at Saints, Saturday, January 13, 2007

In attendance: Shoegal, me, about 150 screaming Eagles fans, and about 1/3 as many somewhat quieter Saints fans (or maybe they were just disgruntled Giants fans who would've cheered for Kim Jong Il if it looked like he had a shot at beating the Eagles).

Menu: ROCKIN' burgers and beer. Lots and lots of beer, courtesy of the nice Budweiser rep who arrived at the bar in the fourth quarter. Which was greatly appreciated.

Chef Spouse was on a business trip in LA - actually Beverly Hills ("swimming pools" - only record cold in LA meant no one was getting in them - "movie stars" - or at least lunch at the next table over from Jon Voigt), so Shoegal and I decided to head up to Gotham for a ladies' weekend, taking in the sights and buying shoes (of course), among other things, at the January sales. I promised I wouldn't make her give up 14 prime shopping and cocktailing hours to the playoffs, as long as we could watch the Important Game (and I got some Sports Center time to catch up on the other games). Shoegal acquiesced and generously gave up prime party hours on Saturday night to sit with me and the aforementioned screaming fans at Tonic (Chef Spouse's recommendation) to watch the game.

The game. It's already been dissected to death. A few of my thoughts:

1. While Andy Reid's call on punting on 4th-and-15 seems, in retrospect, to have been wrong (he admitted as much himself in the post-game interview), I can understand why he did it. Yeah, sure, our D had not been exactly brilliant at stopping the run. But after the false start penalty on Scott Young, we'd been backed up to our own 39 yard line. We turn it over there, the Saints are already practically in field goal range, which would have put the game completely out of reach. So you gamble that the D can hold and get you the ball back. And speaking of that false start penalty...
2. Sean Andrews. Man, losing him really killed us. We were out 2/3 of our Pro Bowlers. And it really hurt us. As did losing Shawn Barber. We were dropping like flies there. Speaking of our Pro Bowlers...
3. What happened to Brian Dawkins? He really wasn't a factor that I could see. That was an outcome of losing Lito I never anticipated.
4. We just had some bad luck. Guys forced fumbles that the Saints picked up or that bounced harmlessly out of bounds. Our dropsies came back. Garcia seemed to have a hard time settling down (that may have been related to the fact that he rarely got more than 2 seconds to get rid of the ball). And he threw a few times when it seemed to me that he should have run. Dumb penalties took away big plays on both sides of the ball. And our D could not stop the run, inside or outside. On that note...
5. I know it's only the sore loser who cries about bad officiating. And I was in a VERY loud sports bar that wasn't actually playing the audio until late in the 4th quarter. But there was some strange officiating. There were several plays that looked to me like Saints fumbles that were blown dead before anyone had a chance to recover. There were some odd penalty calls on us. There was some REALLY obvious Saints' holding that wasn't called, particularly on those running plays I mentioned we couldn't seem to stop. We got a terrible spot that resulted in a field goal rather than possibly the go-ahead TD in the 4th quarter. At which point I remarked (loudly) to Shoegal, "I don't mean to be the Voice of Doom, but I think that's the game."

So after the game ended, the one really loud Saints fan (who had been sitting right behind us) came up to the bar, where I congratulated her on their win. Turns out, she's from the Philadelphia area, so would normally have been rooting for the Eagles. If it wasn't for the fact that she's Sean Payton's cousin. So I guess I can forgive her. Also, small world.

Speaking of Payton, one of the things I love about him is something he shares with Belichick - he just balls-to-the-wall goes for it. I love AR, and I think his style suits the style team he's constructed in Philadelphia. And it's too early to make any sweeping pronouncements about Payton's greatness (see Romo, Tony and Bowl, Pro). But he shares that slightly-crazy edge Belichick has, which may take him far as a head coach.

Several of my regular readers left comments on my game-preview post about all my thoughts about the season, the team, the coaches, and the fans. A lot of the people around here are of the reasonable-fan stripe. I almost forget that the nutballs are out there. Until I hear a story like Chef Spouse's. Sunday, he flew from LA to Vegas for Leg Two of his business trip. He found a good bar on the Strip from which to watch the Sunday games and, shortly after being seated, found a fellow Eagles fan next to him. They commiserated about the loss for a minute, and Chef Spouse was ready to end the conversation and get on with watching the Bears/Seahawks game. And then Asshat Fan gets going on "the Eagles need to fire Andy Reid, the Eagles need to trade Donovan McNabb, the Eagles need to sign Jeff Garcia to a long-term contract (HE'S 37!), the Patriots aren't actually a good team, Tom Brady's a bad quarterback," blah blah blah, yackity-smackity, idiotic-opinion-palooza. Chef Spouse, busy with business tripping, had not had a chance to read my dissertation on why the Eagles are a good team and fans like that shouldn't be allowed to speak publicly about football, so he was unprepared to respond. But he did mention that he kept thinking, "I wish Red was here - she'd put him in his place." True dat.

But in the end, both teams showed up to play and played hard. They were well-matched, and the Saints won by the generic home team 3 point advantage. I had commented to Shoegal early in the first quarter that the game would probably come down to whichever team had the final possession. And I was right. I will be very pleased to cheer the Saints on to the Super Bowl, and hopefully to a win in Miami. Geaux Saints!

In the rest of the playoff games...

WHAT the HELL is going on? The Colts are WINNING playoff games? Well, actually, the Colts aren't winning playoff games. On Saturday at least, it was pretty much just Adam Vinatieri. He was helped by a lot of Ravens turnovers, of course, but he really did the yeoman's share of the work in that game. First all-field-goal playoff game since the 70s. Bet the Colts are glad they dumped Vanderjagt. Who, may I remind you, has been watching football from his couch since Thanksgiving. Interestingly, the Colts/Ravens was the only game last weekend NOT decided by 3 points.

Seahawks/Bears was sloppy on both sides, and the Bears needed an OT field goal to beat the completely mediocre Seahawks. Yeah, I know they get to play at home in the cold, but I don't see them beating the Saints next week.

I broke my own rule and was punished for it. Of course the Patriots pulled off the upset win over the Chargers. Never bet against a Sicilian when death is on the line, and never bet against Bill Belichick when the playoffs are on the line. I will not make the same mistake again. Even though LT scores more touchdowns before breakfast than most players do all season, the rest of the team - and the coaching staff - and the Schott - made more than enough dunderheaded decisions to offset that. I mean, my God. Actually, you know what? Just read King Kaufman - he says it way better than I could.

Conference championship picks later this week...and maybe a season recap/review if I can get my act together.

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