Archive Page 2

12
Jan
10

wild-card weekend (part 2)

RAVENS 33, PATRIOTS 14 – Really impressive job by the Ravens in this one.  Coach John Harbaugh deserves a lot of credit for taking his team up to New England and putting a beatdown on the Patriots (in their own stadium) the likes of which they haven’t seen in a very long time.  This game was over by the end of the first quarter when the Ravens lead 24-0.  The tone was set on the first play from scrimmage when Ravens RB Ray Rice took a handoff, went right through a hole, cut back to the left and flew up the sideline for an 83 yard TD.   On the FIRST PLAY FROM SCRIMMAGE!!  It was crazy to watch live and sucked the air right out of the Patriots’ stadium.  Whatever energy was still buzzing around was completely destroyed 3 plays later when on 3rd & 11 from his own 26 yard line NE QB Tom Brady was strip-sacked from behind by Ravens DE Terrell Suggs.  The fumble recovery gave the Ravens the ball deep in NE territory and 5 plays later it was 14-0.  So to review:  4:31 of game time had elapsed, the Ravens had run 6 plays, scored 14 pts and already caused a Patiots fumble.  After the teams traded punts, Brady threw an Interception and 6 plays after the INT the Ravens scored another TD.  With 3:55 left in the 1st quarter, the Ravens were winning 21-0.  Sensing the theme here?  Just a bad day to be a Patriot.  Everything that could go wrong did.  The Ravens defense was dominant from start to finish and the Patriots, despite having a lot of time left in the game when they fell behind, never threatened to come back.  Just a truly impressive performance by the Ravens.  Quick thoughts:

  • THE STREAK(S) ENDS – The Patriots were undefeated at home this year.  Brady and Bill Belichick had been undefeated (7-0) at Gillette Stadium  in the playoffs.  The Patriots as a team had won 11 straight playoff games at home (Gillette and Foxborough included) and hadn’t lost a home playoff game in 31 years.  Apparently, the Ravens don’t care.
  • WHO NEEDS A QB – Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s stat line: 4 for 10 for 34 yards, INT, passer rating: 10.0. AND HE WON THE GAME GOING AWAY!!!  You simply can’t make this stuff up.  If someone had said before the game that that would be Flacco’s stat line but that the Ravens would blowout the Patriots anyway, NOBODY would’ve have believed that.  But give the Ravens credit.  Flacco was definitely hindered by a hip injury and rather than make a big deal about it, they just carried on and let their running game and their defense handle the rest.   
  • MINI-WELKER DOES GOOD – Patriots WR (and possible Wes Welker clone) Julian Edelman was the team’s lone bright spot of the day.  He only had 6 catches for 44 yards, but he caught both TD passes from Brady and if Welker is going to miss some significant time next year, their slot receiving position looks to be in good hands with Edelman.
  • THE RUNNING GAME MAKES A COMEBACK – For all the talk last week about how the league is now a passing league, 2 of the weekend’s playoff games featured standout performances by running backs.  Shonn Greene keyed the Jets’ win, Cedric Benson did all he could to help the Bengals, and in this game ALL 3 RAVENS RB’s had at least one TD.  The best stats of the day of course belonged to Ray Rice  with 22 rushes for 159 yards and 2 TD’s.  Maybe the old playoff formula (run the football = win the game) isn’t as anachronistic as some would believe. 
  • MORE REPLAY MADNESS – Early in the 2nd quarter the Patriots recovered what appeared to be a fumbled punt by Ravens Safety Tom Zbikowski.  Replays showed that Patriots Cornerback Kyle Arrington did not maintain possession of the ball as he fell out-of-bounds.  Inexplicably, Ravens coach John Harbaugh DID NOT throw his challenge flag.  Had he done so, the call on the field would most likely have been overturned which would have given the ball back to the Ravens.  The Patriots’ first TD was a direct result of the fumble recovery and though it didn’t really hurt the Ravens in this game, it could’ve been a HUGE gaffe.  After the game Harbaugh said his coaches up in the box didn’t see a clear enough replay to cause him to challenge the call.  Still, in that situation, shouldn’t he have done it anyway?  The challenge at least kills momentum a bit and if he blows a timeout so what? He was up 24-0 at that point.  I suppose someone could argue that because of the score he didn’t really need to challenge but I would counter that because there was so much time left in the game a TD there could’ve sparked a Patriot comeback.  Ultimately, it didn’t.  But I still say he should’ve thrown the flag. 

UP NEXT: THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS.  This promises to be an interesting game for a variety of reasons.  First, you have the Colts.  Yes, they’re rested & refreshed but they’re coming off back-to-back losses where they were ridiculed by everyone (especially their own fans) for tanking a shot at an undefeated season.  I really think Peyton Manning is supremely pissed about that.  He knows the history of the game and though he’d never come out and say it I think he’s very angry at Colts GM Bill Polian for pulling the plug on his shot at 19-0.  Peyton also knows that if the Colts don’t at least make the Super Bowl then everyone will say that the second half of the Jets game was the point at which the team screwed itself by choosing to stop what had been so effective for 14 straight weeks.  Second, you have the style matchup.  The Ravens are all about defense and running the football while the Colts have the league MVP at QB and one of the most lethal passing games in the entire NFL.  I know the Ravens won’t be afraid about playing on the road and they might even have an edge when it comes to their physicality.  Still, I think this one’s an uphill climb for them.  I expect Peyton to be as motivated as he’s ever been and if the Colts get points early, look out.  Could be a long day for the Ravens.

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12
Jan
10

wild-card weekend (part 1)…

Apologies to the 12 of you out there reading the blog for not getting these up sooner.  Sunday and Monday became busier days than expected and I’m only now just catching up on all the happenings from a very long (and mostly boring) wild card weekend.  I’ll do separate posts on each playoff game and give some thoughts about this week’s matchups.  I’ll also be doing a full Eagles season post-mortem in the next week or so.  But getting back to the weekend…

JETS 24, BENGALS 14 – A game that was much less in doubt than the final score would indicate.  While Cincinnati had the early lead 7-0, the Jets quickly took control of the game thanks to their aggressive defensive schemes and led 14-7 at halftime.  What struck me most about the Bengals in this game was that Carson Palmer looked to be a shell of his former self and the lack of a downfield passing threat really hindered the Bengals’ ability to score points.  Though Cedric Benson had one hell of a game and finished with 169 yards rushing and a TD, the Bengals’ offense was very one-sided and predictable.  The Jets knew that Cincinnati was going to have to throw the ball at some point and thanks to the attacking style employed by head coach Rex Ryan, they were ready for it.  Throw in the fact that Darrelle Revis is a MONSTER and was able to basically shut out Chad Johnson Ochocinco for 2 straight weeks, and it was always going to be an uphill climb for the Bengals.  The Jets were fired up from moment one and when Shonn Greene ripped off his 39 yard TD scamper early in the 2nd quarter, their mental edge over the Bengals seemed to grow.  Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez has a good day managing the game and playing mistake-free football.  His 45 yard TD pass to Tight End Dustin Keller was a beautifully executed play.  Sanchez was on the run and made a nice touch pass to hit a wide open Keller.  Keller did the rest – turning upfield and carefully dancing his way down the sideline into the endzone.  Though the Bengals fought back to get within 7 points, you never really felt like they were going to win the game.  They simply didn’t have enough weapons on offense and their defense just couldn’t stop Shonn Greene.  Some quick notes:

  • THE JETS’ RUNNING GAME –  Been great all season (they lead the league in rushing offense) but took another step forward on Saturday.  Shonn Greene was a BEAST.  Dunno if they beat San Diego this week but they’re set up well for next year.
  • JAY FEELY –  Did the kicking AND the punting for the Jets because usual punter Steve Weatherford was deactivated right before the game with an irregular heartbeat.  While Feely certainly shouldn’t consider a position change, he didn’t have a single punt blocked, downed a couple inside the 20, and gave his coverage teams a chance on every punt.  Nice job, Jay.
  • I SAID IT BEFORE BUT I’LL SAY IT AGAIN: DARRELLE REVIS IS A STUD –  Best cornerback in football, period.  Unbelievable how good he’s been this year.  He’s seen all the top wideouts (Andre Johnson, Moss, TO, Ocho, White, Wayne, Steve Smith [the Panther]) and he’s shut them all down.  Just amazing to watch this guy.
  • THE BENGALS REALLY MISS CHRIS HENRY – Prior to his passing, the arm injury that ended his season also had a devastating effect on the offense.  The Bengals simply don’t have another guy to stretch the field and take some pressure off Ochocinco and that fact was hugely exploited by the Jets on Saturday.
  • SHAYNE GRAHAM MIGHT BE OUT OF WORK – The Bengals kicker missed not one, but TWO field goals inside 40 yards.  That’s inexcusable come playoff time.
  • REPLAY MADNESS – The Bengals burned BOTH their challenges in the 1st quarter.  I don’t think this really hurt them in the long run but someone needs to remind Marvin Lewis you NEVER use both challenges that early in a game unless you’re absolutetly certain you’ll win one.  Could’ve been a huge gaffe.    

UP NEXT: THE SAN DIEGO CHARGERS.  Should be a very interesting game because the Jets are susceptible to a good running game yet San Diego doesn’t run the ball all that well.  The Jets are very good against the pass and San Diego has one of the better passing offenses in the league.  Definitely a strength versus strength matchup.  While Revis will probably shadow Vincent Jackson all day, Philip Rivers still has Antonio Gates to run his offense through.  Look for Malcolm Floyd to have a big day as well given his height advantage over whomever will be covering him.  The Jets, though, have a shot in this one.  if they continue to do what they did against the Bengals.  Run the football effectively, control the clock (and therefore keep Rivers and the Chargers’ offense off the field), and keep the turnovers to a minimum and they have a real chance to upset the Chargers.  If the Jets fall behind early and this game turns into a shootout (with a rookie QB on the road against a pretty good San Diego pass defense) they’re in real trouble.

08
Jan
10

friday findings

Yeah, I brought that one back.  If anyone out there feels like sending me more creative titles for my posts, please do.  Anyway, here’s what’s interesting on a Friday afternoon:

  • FLYERS 7, PENGUINS 4 – HA-HA!!  The Flyers played one hell of a game last night against Cindy Crosby and his Penguins.  I have to admit I was very impressed by the way the Flyers played last night.  Despite the fact it was their second game in back-to-back nights, our boys had lots of energy from the start and they really seem to be getting a handle on new coach Peter Laviolette’s system, having scored 13 goals in their last 2 games.  Getting early leads seems to be a renewed focus for the club and they continued that trend by jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a beautiful turaround shot from Jeff Carter.  31 seconds later rookie James van Riemsdyk made it 2-0 on a mini-breakaway off a beautiful feed from Arron Asham.  Both players would score a second time – JVR on an almost identical goal in the 2nd period and Carter off a great pass from linemate Danny Briere in the 3rd.  What struck me most about last night was the fact that every time the Penguins scored, the Flyers answered.  The only tie score was 0-0 and the Penguins never scored two goals in a row.  When the Flyers play like they did last night, they’re definitely a force to be reckoned with.  Getting production from all 4 lines (11 players had at least 1 point) as well as your defensemen (Chris Pronger & Matt Carle both were a +3), usually translates to winning hockey.  There were still too many giveaways (Carter had one that led directly to a Penguins goal), a few instances of the D not clearing rebounds (Crosby’s first goal was off a HUGE rebound), and the refs DEFINITELY SCREWED the team out of a goal (though the NHL office in Toronto said results were inconclusive, the Penguins TV feed [which thanks to the NHL network was forced down my throat] CLEARLY showed the puck in the crease) so all was not perfect.  However, it’s hard to complain much when not only did the Flyers FINALLY nail the Penguins, but they did it in PITTSBURGH and have now won 6 out of their last 8 games.  With 8 out of their next 10 games at home, the Flyers finally appear to be headed in the right direction.  Keep up the good work, boys!!
  • ALABAMA 37, TEXAS 21 – The highly anticipated BCS National Championship game turned out to be something of a dud.  Texas’ hopes (as well as the hopes ABC & all of its sponsors had for a tight game) were pretty much dashed early in the first quarter when the Longhorns’ all-world QB Colt McCoy left the game with an injury to his throwing shoulder and didn’t return.  Though the hit looked relatively innocuous, McCoy later said he had no feeling in his arm and that’s what prompted the decision not to return.  His backup, redshirt freshman Garrett Gilbert (the son of former NFL QB Gale Gilbert) came in and did what he could but the score was 24-6 at halftime in favor of Alabama.  Though Gilbert played better in the second half and helped the Longhorns get to within 24-21 with about 3 minutes to play, his fumble on the 3 yard line after getting sacked by a blitzer ultimately cost the Longhorns a shot at victory.  All in all the game was pretty one-sided and though Texas fought back, it wasn’t a particularly exciting game.  The lasting memories will be of McCoy’s injury and the fact that now Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban can probably lay claim to being the best college football coach in America (2 national titles in the last 6 years with 2 different schools is pretty incredible).  Overall, I’d say the game was a fitting end to the Bowl Season: lots of hype, lots of fanfare, but ultimately disappointing.  When will the BCS get it?  Bowl Season is still WAY too long, doesn’t have a true championship game and at this point in the year, nobody really cares about it anymore. 
  • PETE CARROLL TO THE SEAHAWKS?? – In a story that’s just beginning to percolate across the airwaves, the Seattle Seahawks fired Jim Mora earlier today and have supposedly reached out in a very BIG way to USC head football coach, Pete Carroll.  Everything I’ve read in the last couple hours points to this as almost a done deal (he might even bring along his offensive coordinator (and former Denver Broncos QB coach) Jeremy Bates with him if he takes the job).  While nothing is certain, and when it comes to head coaching vacancies in the NFL there are always a million things that could go wrong, this would be one hell of a story.  The Seahawks have a ton of money, play in maybe the toughest stadium in the entire league, and one of its weakest divisions so the job is an attractive one.  But the Seahawks also have no GM, a young Defense, and a whole lot of nothing on offense, so there are a lot of challenges ahead for the franchise.  To me, Carroll leaving USC isn’t as big a story as some people will make it.  The guy has done everything possible at that school (rebuilt it, made it a year in/year out contender, won a national championship, etc.) so for him to move on is not a huge surprise.  The bigger story and what makes it a surprise (if anything) is that he’s coming off a “down” year for USC so it’s not like he’s going out on top.  Usually when college coaches make the leap to the pros it’s because they’ve just had major success.  Carroll’s lengthy tenure at USC may qualify but it’s not like he’s won anything significant recently.  But if history tells us anything it’s that when the NFL calls, you answer.  Though there are head coaching vacancies every year, the longer a coach has been out of the game the harder it is to get back in (Bill Cowher anyone??).  Furthermore, there are even fewer opportunities to get back into the pro game once you’ve left for college.  So if Carroll ever wanted to get back, and now that someone seems to be offering him the chance, he’d be wise not to decline.  He’s not getting any younger and he’s been an NFL head coach before so it’s not as though he doesn’t know what he’s getting into.  I’m sure this story will continue to develop but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pete Carroll back in the NFL next year.
  • PLAYOFFS THIS WEEKEND – I’ll probably be taking a 2 day break so that we can all enjoy (hopefully) the first round of the NFL playoffs this weekend.  If you’re curious, I’ve posted who I think will win on the picks page like always.  On Monday I hope to post a recap of all four playoff games.  Til then, have a great weekend!!

GO EAGLES!!

07
Jan
10

Things to think about on a Thursday

Sorry for the lack of new postings yesterday but a 100 degree fever makes it hard to type.  No worries though – it seems to have been a one day thing.  My thoughts for today:

  • FLYERS 6, MAPLE LEAFS 2 – Great start to finish victory for the boys last night.  They came out and jumped all over the Leafs (which is as it should be considering the Leafs are the worst team in the Eastern Conference right now).  The game was highlighted by more solid goaltending from Michael Leighton (Brian Boucher you are officially a backup again), Danny Briere getting his 500th NHL point, Danny Syvret scoring his 2nd NHL goal (& first one indoors) and Dan Carcillo’s beautiful solo effort on his 2nd period goal.  Considering the Flyers play most of their January games at home, last night’s win will be crucial if they’re to continue to climb the Eastern Conference standings.  They’ve only been a .500 hockey team at the Wachovia Center so far this season so wins like last night should also go a long way to restoring their confidence hopefully increasing their home ice advantage.
  • FLYERS V. PENGUINS ROUND 4 – Last night’s win against the Leafs should also be a great way to head into tonight’s game against Cindy Crosby and the hated cross-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Penguins have won all 3 games so far this season including a 6-1 blowout last month in Pittsburgh.  Though tonight’s game is the 2nd one of a back-to-back (which traditionally doesn’t favor the Flyers), the team might be catching the Penguins at the right time.  The Flyers of course are 5-1-1 in their last 7 whereas the Penguins have actually hit a bump in the road having only one once in their last 6 games.  The Penguins are rested and ready but the Flyers are probably playing their best hockey of the year and certainly haven’t forgotten the beatdown they received last month.  Expect lots of fireworks and a playoff type atmosphere at the Igloo tonight!!
  • MANGINI SURVIVES – Earlier today Cleveland Browns Head of Football Operations Mike Holmgren released a statement saying that Head Coach Eric Mangini will retain his job for the upcoming 2010-2011 season.  After weeks of speculation that Holmgren would not retain him, Mangini appears to have saved his job based on the fact that the team won 4 straight games to finish the season and looked pretty good in doing it.  Now that Mangini is no longer involved in making personnel decisions, he’ll be able to focus solely on coaching.   Their defense played very well down the stretch and Jerome Harrison is a STUD.  He looks to be a phenomenal running back to build around.  I expect Holmgren to be VERY involved when it comes to choosing the quarterback to lead the franchise and wouldn’t be surprised if he gets rid of Brady Quinn AND Derek Anderson and starts from scratch.  The future suddenly looks promising for the Browns…(*****Of course as soon as I started writing this post I read online that Josh Cribbs, the Browns’ all-everything kick returner/wide receiver/sometimes quarterback has told friends & Browns employees that due to his contract situation [he is WOEFULLY underpaid] he thinks he’s played his last game in a Browns uniform.  So maybe we should withold judgement for a bit…******)

I would post more but I’m sure I’ll have a lot to cover tomorrow, so that’s all for now folks!

06
Jan
10

Should Brian Westbrook be Finished as an Eagle?

Okay so this is the post I’ve been alluding to since yesterday.  I firmly believe that when Westbrook plays Andy Reid’s offensive philosophy completely changes.  What worked during the 6 game winning streak were simple runs with Shady & The Weave either up the gut or off tackle.  The Eagles averaged over 100 yards rushing in each game during the streak and the offense was successful because of its unpredictability and balance.  The run/pass ratio for the Eagles during the streak was 55-45 in favor of the pass.  Unheard of numbers based on previous seasons.  Not surprisingly, teams didn’t know quite how to prepare for the Eagles and as a result, the offense exploded.  Reid & Mornhinweg stuck with the run, even when it didn’t always work early in the game, and the results paid off in the 4th quarter (i’m reminded of The Weave’s 12 yard scamper for a first down late in the Giants game to help keep the big drive going). 

But since Westbrook’s return, the Eagles offense has managed 10 points in its last 6 quarters.  I think this is largely because Andy Reid simply can’t help himself when Westbrook is in the game.  He remembers what Westbrook used to do and how he used to drive defenses nuts and he tries to game plan that way.  Sadly, Westbrook’s injuries have finally begun to catch up with him.  He seems a step slow and even if his knee & ankle are healthy, there is simply no way he’s in “game shape” at this point in the season, having only played about 4 games.  From the 2nd half of the Denver game through the entire Dallas game, Reid refused to pound the football and turned The Weave into nothing more than a glorified O-lineman (which is a shame because he’s truly become a DOMINANT WEAPON).  What made the running game successful during the streak was its simplicity.  Whether because of Shady being a rookie, The Weave being new to the system, or the flux in the O-line, the running game was pretty straightforward.  Pound the ball.  Off tackle or behind Jackson, it was mostly downhill.  Now that Westbrook has returned, all of that went out the window.  Sunday’s game against the Cowboys saw a 75%-25% pass/run ratio and there was no attempt to pound the ball.  Instead, the “running game” consisted of screen passes, passes into the flat, & pitches out wide (I say “running game” because Reid is on record as saying he considers those types of passes to be runs.  NEWS FLASH: THEY ARE NOT RUNS!)

Look…I love Westbrook as much as anybody.  His game-winning punt return TD against the Giants years ago turned the franchise around and really laid the foundation for the success of the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb era.  That was just one of many memorable Westbrook moments over the years (the screen pass TD against the Vikings last year in the playoffs and the big run against the Giants early last season where he left Antonio Pierce in the dust are 2 more).  If I thought that Reid could utilize him in a different fashion, I’d LOVE Westbrook to retire as an Eagle.  If Reid kept him around as a 3rd down back and a guy you could put in the slot from time to time or pop into the game to spell Shady, I’d absolutely be THRILLED (sort of like what happened to Tiki Barber & Warrick Dunn in their last couple years).  But I just don’t think Reid is capable of that and have seen no evidence to the contrary.  When Westbrook plays, the Eagles’ offense gets predictable and becomes very easy to stop.  Just look at what the Cowboys did – they didn’t bring an extra guy into the box to stop the run (because they knew Westbrook wasn’t gonna run), they doubled DeSean (because they didn’t need the extra guy on the line of scrimmage) and they blitzed the hell out of McNabb (because they knew he was gonna pass on almost every down).  Is this Westbrook’s fault?  NOT AT ALL.  He just does what he’s told.

I don’t want to see Brian Westbrook leave the Eagles until he’s ready to retire.  I really don’t.  But if the Eagles’ offense is to really fly again, he may need to go sooner rather than later.  That has nothing to do with him but EVERYTHING to do with Andy Reid’s stubborn refusal to stick to the game plan that was so successful for 6 straight games.   Reid has definitely surprised us all with some of the successes he’s had this year.  Here’s hoping he surprises us one more time, sticks to the run on Saturday night, and that the Eagles celebrate a victory over the Cowboys with 150+ yards rushing and rushing TD’s for Shady, The Weave, AND Westbrook.  I can think of no sweeter victory.

04
Jan
10

A Mournful Monday…

I suppose “mourning” is a tough word to use, but after the way the Eagles and Flyers played yesterday, it seems appropriate.  I’ve already given my thoughts on the Eagles’ disaster and I have a subsequent post for either tonight or tomorrow about what I think needs to change (we’ll see how motivated I get in the next few hours).  In the meantime, here are some miscellaneous thoughts about the weekend:

  • SENATORS 7, FLYERS 4 – A Flyers game that was an exact microcosm of their entire season so far.  Fresh off the Winter Classic the Flyers head up to Ottawa and get an early 1st period goal from none other than Ian Laperriere (which I spelled right on the first try – go me) who broke something like a personal 38 game goal scoring drought.  I’m thinking this bodes well but in the blink of an eye, the Sens score twice in 7 shots and chase Michael Leighton from the game.  Brian Boucher comes in and promptly gives up 2 goals on 9 shots including the first one he faces and the period ends with the score 4-1.  Way to go Flyers.  But then they come out for the 2nd period, get 2 quick goals from Darrol Powe and Arron Asham and chase Ottawa’s goalie Pascal Leclaire.  They fight and claw and eventually end up with a 5-on-3 Power Play for about 1:30.  After Mike Richards breaks not one but TWO sticks on the shift, he eventually takes a beautiful drop pass from Kimmo Timonen & buries the shot top shelf tying the score at 4.  They head into the 3rd period and I’m quite excited by the Flyers’ chances at pulling out a victory.  They then proceed to give up 3 more goals in the third and lose 7-4.  As I said above, a snapshot of their entire season so far.  Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down.  The Flyers may have just gone 4-1-1 on their 6 game road trip but they still have a lot of issues.  Turnovers were a HUGE problem in this game and continue to plague the team.  Brian Boucher’s rebound control was a MESS yesterday and if he doesn’t fix that quickly, he can expect to be relegated back to the bench until Ray Emery returns.  If the Flyers are to contend for a spot in the playoffs, they NEED to start playing more consistently not just from game to game but from period to period.  One good period in three will not get it done. 
  • BRONCOS FOLD – The only NFL fan base that should be as upset and devastated as Eagles fans are Broncos fans.  Early last week coach Josh McDaniels deactivated starting WR Brandon Marshall and TE Tony Scheffler for what he said were “accountability” issues.  Apparently, Marshall was overreacting to his hamstring injury (MRI showed no damage) and was late for a treatment session on it while Scheffler’s transgressions were never truly defined.  As I understand it, McDaniels even met with team leaders Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey, and Kyle Orton asking for their advice.  They responded that he should crack the whip and require everyone to be equally accountable (kudos to them for standing up and telling rogue teammates to get in line).  Besides, the Broncos only needed to beat the 3-12 Kansas City Chiefs (at home no less) to clinch a playoff berth.  Sadly, the Broncos managed to get BLOWN OUT 44-24.  The loss was marred by not one but TWO interceptions returned for TD’s by Chiefs LINEBACKER Derrick Johnson.   For a team to start out 6-0 but finish 2-8, something must be severely wrong.  The team certainly has plenty of talent (Knowshon Moreno, Elvis Dumervil, Bailey, Dawkins, etc.) and should’ve been able to beat the Chiefs.  Considering that both Marshall and Scheffler will probably not be back next year (their contracts make them restricted free agents and I think it’s safe to say that the Broncos DON’T really want them), the Broncos may have a more unified team in year 2 of the McDaniels era, but at what cost?  And, should the team go in the tank again late in the season, will McDaniels even have a year 3?  Probably not.
  • BOWL SEASON CONTINUES – Yeah, apparently college football bowl games start the week before Christmas & continue all the way thru the end of this week.  Anybody else feel like that’s sort of anti-climactic?  Not to mention that the ones left this week aren’t all that exciting or important (except for the BCS championship game).  Tonight has Boise State playing TCU in the only matchup of unbeatens in a bowl this year and thanks to the BCS the outcome really means nothing.  Instead of these two teams getting a chance to play a power conference team (like Iowa or Georgia Tech) springing an upset, and really giving the viewers something to watch, they’re forced to play each other in a rematch of the Humanitarian Poinsettia Bowl from last year.  Meanwhile tomorrow night has the Iowa-Georgia Tech matchup that NOBODY seems to care about except the people directly involved in the game.  I don’t know about you guys, but I think i’m over bowl season even though the “National Champion” will be crowned on Thursday (and I use quotes because until there’s a playoff, how can any team say they are truly National Champions?)
  • BOWL SEASON HIGHLIGHTS – Even though I’m kind of over bowl season, not everyone is.  To be honest, though I think the highlights of bowl season so far have been few and far between.  Tebow’s monster performance in his last game at Florida, Bowden winning his final game in charge of Florida State, and Paterno winning 10 games again (a couple years after he was thought to be done) are probably the “lasting” memories so far.  The 2 best games: IDAHO 43, BOWLING GREEN 42 (Idaho wins on a 2 pt. conversion with no time remaining because their coach decided, “Screw it, we’re here to win” and was rewarded) and AUBURN 38, NORTHWESTERN 35, OT (Auburn blows a 21-7 lead only to win it in OT when Northwestern’s attempt at the old “fumblerooskie” play fails).  Those were both great games but for the most part bowl season has been very unmemorable so far (and not even a fantastic BCS championship game will change that). 
  • TOMORROW’S POST – The “controversial” one I was gonna post tonight I’ve decided to put off until tomorrow.  I call it controversial because some of you out there will DEFINITELY think I’m crazy for what I’m saying.  Hopefully, the post will at least spark some debate.  Until tomorrow night…
04
Jan
10

COWBOYS 24, EAGLES 0

DEFECATION IN DALLAS –  Now I could say yesterday’s game was a disastrous debacle that dampened the Eagles’ Super Bowl dreams and defenestrated (look it up) their hopes of hosting 2 playoff games.  And I realize last week I went all classy with the Dickens references.  But not this week.  Defecation is the perfect word to describe what the Eagles did yesterday in Dallas.  They took the field in Jerry Jones’ billion dollar behemoth of a stadium simply needing a win to lock up the #2 seed in the NFC and a first-round playoff bye and laid a giant steaming turd.  I apologize for the graphic imagery but there’s no better way to describe what transpired yesterday.  As a lifelong Eagles fan I’ve certainly seen my share of horrible and confounding losses, stupid playcalling, and general malaise emanating from the players on the field.  Last year’s loss in Baltimore, the NFC Championship loss in Arizona, and this year’s putrid performance in Oakland were all upsetting and disgusting for various reasons.  But for my money they all pale in comparison to yesterday’s performance.  I’m so angry, hurt, frustrated, and confused that I’m actually numb – I had no visceral reaction at all.  The worst part about it is that I have absolutely no idea what it means for next week.  Let’s just get on with the review:

THE GOOD:

  • Thinking….
  • Still Thinking…..
  • Um…
  • I got nothing.
  • Seriously.
  • I can’t think of a single thing that was good about yesterday. 
  • Okay, Brent Celek had 7 catches for 96 yards.  Yay.

 

THE BAD – Holy Lord where do I begin?  There was so much that was bad yesterday I could go on for about 3000 words.  But I’ll try and spare you that and stick with the lowest of the low:

  • The team showed no heart.  For the first time since the Oakland game, the players just didn’t show up.  It was like watching the Eagles play in the preseason.  Considering the magnitude of the game and everything that was riding on the outcome, that’s simply inexcusable.  I blame Andy Reid most of all but Donovan McNabb, Sheldon Brown, Jeremiah Trotter and the other “leaders” of the locker room are all equally culpable. 
  • ZERO POINTS.  The highest scoring team in franchise history scored a whopping ZERO points in its most important game of the season. 
  • The Defensive line got so beat up and pushed around they looked like a junior high football team playing against the Varsity.  Dallas did whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted, and however it wanted.  They ran the ball right down the Eagles’ throats (funny because going into yesterday Dallas’ offense had been struggling to run the football), Tony Romo passed for over 300 yards and the Eagles’ only turnover was on a deflected ball.  Was there a single member of the D-Line that didn’t get obliterated by the Dallas O-line yesterday?  I couldn’t find one. 
  • 36 passes, 12 rushes.  I realize they were behind early but that’s like 75% passes.  Are you f-ing kidding me? 
  • “The Weave” had 1 carry for 2 yards and Shady McCoy had 1 carry for 4 yards.  Well done, Andy.
  • In previous games against Tony Romo, the Eagles have blitzed the living hell out of him and caused him a lot of problems.  So yesterday they spend most of the day in their “Nickel” package and rarely blitz.  Huh?
  • The wide receivers dropped at least half a dozen balls.
  • The Eagles burned a timeout on a punt formation deep in Dallas territory.  Rather than take a 5 yard penalty for delay of game (which would’ve given Sav Rocca more room to pin Dallas inside the 10 yard line), the Eagles instead chose to burn a timeout.  Reid said later he wanted to make sure they had the right personnel on the field.  Not surprisingly, the Eagles could’ve used that timeout in their final drive of the half as they desperately tried to march up the field for a field goal. 
  • Down 17-0 in the 3rd quarter, Andy Reid inexplicably decides to kick a 53 YARD FIELD GOAL on 4th and 2.  For starters, when’s the last time Akers hit one from beyond 50?  But more importantly, at that point in the game, with NOTHING working on offense OR defense, trying to kick that FG says to your team you don’t think they have the “stones” to keep pushing forward.  Reid said later he thought it was important to try and get some points.  I don’t totally disagree but NOT FROM 53 FREAKING YARDS!!!  AND NOT WHEN YOU HAVE “THE WEAVE” JUST SITTING THERE!!!  Had Reid gone for it and gotten it, who knows?  Maybe the team fights back late and makes the game interesting.  Even if they had gotten the first down and ultimately settled for a FG it would’ve at least showed the team that Reid still believed in them.  As it was, Reid mailed it in from that point on and so did the rest of the team.

 

THE VERDICT – A disgusting display all around.  To come out so flat and uninspired in the biggest game of the year against a hated division rival is simply astounding.  There is no word that adequately expresses the disappointment, disgust, and general alarm anyone who’s a fan of this team is feeling today.  I suggested to my friends that the team shouldn’t be allowed to return to Philadelphia this week.  Whenever the charter tries to land in Philly the air traffic controllers should simply say, “Sorry.  We don’t know who you are.  You certainly don’t represent our city when you play like you did yesterday so please go back to Dallas.”  Seriously.  I wish the team had to stay in Dallas all week so they could listen to everyone & their mother talk about how great the Cowboys are, what a HUGE win yesterday was for them, and how they’re now the favorites to make it back to the Super Bowl.  Maybe a week spent listening to that garbage would piss off the guys on the team enough to come out and obliterate the Cowboys next weekend.  I feel so disheartened by watching the game yesterday that I don’t think a single player on the team DESERVES to wear Eagle green.   When you represent the city of Philadelphia as a member of the Eagles, your team’s supposed to be about pride, hard-work, determination, and never backing down against anyone.  NONE, I repeat, NONE of those traits were on display yesterday.  It was the worst feeling I think I’ve ever had watching the Eagles.  Losing I can handle.  But coming  out so flat, so uninterested, and simply looking like they didn’t care about the BIGGEST game of the season is something that I don’t understand and no amount of explanation or justification will ever suffice.  I was ashamed.  I don’t know if it was because of the team’s collective youth or inexperience or the fact that they hadn’t really been tested much this season, but things had better change quickly.  Every single player on the team needs to look themselves in the mirror and do whatever is necessary this week to ensure things turn out differently next Saturday.

UP NEXT: THE DALLAS COWBOYS – Round 3.  Right back where they were yesterday, only this time, the loser’s season ends.  Which Eagles team will show up? The one that was barely treading water at 5-4 or the one that ripped off a 6 game winning streak?  I have no idea.  I think that’s what bothers me the most.  Last year I KNEW they were beating Minnesota and I KNEW they were beating the Giants.  This year?  I really couldn’t begin to say.  Could they come out and repeat yesterday?  Absolutely.  Could they come out and hang 47 on Dallas? Without a doubt.  Because I’m really not sure, I’ll leave you guys with some numerology.

  • The Eagles are now 8-3 under Andy Reid in the second Dallas game of the season.
  • The Cowboys won their last game of the season yesterday for the first time in 9 years. 
  • The Cowboys have not won a playoff game in 13 YEARS (12/28/96).
  • In NFL history, there have been 19 instances where one team has had an opportunity to go for a 3 game sweep against another.  12 times out of 19 has the feat been accomplished.
  • Despite that, the Cowboys are 0-2 when trying to beat a team for a third time in one season (In ’98 the Cardinals [at the time they still played in the NFC East] led by none other than Jake Plummer went into Dallas and upset them in the wild card round.  In ’07 the Giants went into Dallas and upset them in the Divisional Round).
  • The Eagles have not lost a first round playoff game under Andy Reid.

I expect that streak to continue on Saturday.




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