What can be said that hasn’t been said… that you haven’t read… that you haven’t felt.
The Philadelphia Eagles did not play well enough to win in their 38-31 victory, but somehow, the Birds are one win away, or one Giant loss, from their first NFC East Championship since 2006. (It has been awhile, hasn’t it?)
I’m not going to sit here on a Monday night and recap a game that you’ve watched the highlights for a dozen times. That would be wasteful.
What I will do is look beyond the despair and euphoria we lived through yesterday as a fan base, and reflect on the positives and negatives that will affect the final two games of the regular season and beyond. There are surely plenty of them, but I’ll try to keep it short.
We can certainly revel in the last eight minutes of yesterday’s
impossible improbable comeback. The Eagles showed they have bounce back ability deep in a big game, when most people saw an opportunity to change the channel. Michael Vick had 94 rushing yards and a touchdown in the final quarter of the game, and Brent Celek and Jeremy Maclin capitalized on secondary mistakes to make huge plays.
We can’t revel in the first 52 minutes, where blown coverage in the Eagles’ secondary, especially where Dimitri Patterson was involved, helped the Giants immensely. Say what you will about Eli Manning and his 20 interceptions, but he was able to pick on the right defenders at the right time and move the ball effectively in the first half.
Continuing with mistakes, there were three plays where Andy Reid could have thrown the red challenge flag and won, but opted not to. There was also a blown call by referees at the end of the first half that allowed the Giants to get another quick opportunity in the red zone. They scored a touchdown on that play,when Dimitri Patterson gave Hakeem Nicks way too much room in a short-field situation.
The Birds have allowed 30 passing touchdowns this year, including three yesterday, and were disappointing in the red zone again. They remain the worst in the league in that defensive category. I’m still waiting for that to come back and be the dagger in a big game. I just hope it’s not in the playoffs. Hell, it should have been yesterday.
On the defensive side, the Eagles were sharper in the second half. Mistakes were minimal and the Giants could only muster one touchdown, and that was off a turnover in the Eagles zone. Rookie 7th round pick Jamar Chaney got his first start at middle linebacker with Stewart Bradley out the rest of the season. In case you missed it in all of the excitement, he had 16 tackles and only a couple of mistakes. Not bad for a young 7th rounder.
The bad news for the defense (other than allowing the most touchdowns through the air in the Andy Reid era), they lost another defensive starter in safety Nate Allen, who tore his patellar tendon in his right knee. The injury is serious enough to keep him out possibly after the beginning of training camp next July.
That makes it three starters on the defense that have been lost in two short weeks. The aforementioned Bradley is on that list, as is rookie defensive lineman Brandon Graham, who tore his ACL. If you throw Ellis Hobbs in there, the Birds are falling from flight too quickly on the other side of the ball. The Eagles will likely sign a player tomorrow to join their secondary in the wake of Allen’s injury.
If you consider all of this, plus the fact that the Eagles are a win or a Giants loss away from a playoff birth and the NFC East division, where does that put them in your mind? Is the explosing Eagles offense featuring Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson enough to carry the Eagles through the postseason? Are you still worried about the playcalling and decision making of Andy Reid and the coaching staff? Are the defensive ailments becoming too much (terrible red zone percentage, injuries, youth and inexperience in the secondary) to overcome?
There are a lot of questions and not many answers. The closest thing to a response would be 10 wins and four losses, but that means nothing in the second season.
What is true is that incredible minutes following 52 dismal ones won’t fly in the playoffs. This is the NFL…
…and the Eagles can’t play every game in the Meadowlands.
Other observations from Week 15, in no particular order.
- I said last week that Matt Cassel was the most important player on the Kansas City Chiefs. I wasn’t kidding.
- From the “awesome sign” department: “Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Joe Webb?” One of the best signs I’ve seen this season. ESPN showed a fan holding it up after Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Webb’s rushing touchdown in the third quarter against the Bears Monday night. Good for him.
- Tom Coughlin’s tirade on rookie punter Matt Dodge was hilarious, but I do feel bad for the kid… I’m also thankful for his actions.
- Rex Grossman’s four touchdowns were impressive, but he still wasn’t the solution for the Redskins, and benching Donovan McNabb was a mistake and an insult.
- Staying with the ‘Skins, Mike Shanahan sending out McNabb as a captain for the coin toss was despicable, tasteless, and heartless. His handling of the team and his son’s handling of the offense is something to take a look at when the final fingers are pointed at season’s end.
- Dan Snyder is clueless and he should sell the Redskins or stay the hell out of football decisions. He’d be a great hands-off owner.
- Matt Flynn performed as well as Aaron Rodgers would have in the Packers 31-27 loss against the Patriots last night… until that final 30 seconds, where Flynn’s youth and inexperience cost the Pack the chance to steal one from the likely representative for the AFC in the Super Bowl.
- The New York Jets aren’t dead, but they’ve had too many close games this year to get deep in the playoffs. We’ll see if I’m on to something… because they’ll be there.
- Classy move by Jeff Fisher to give Mike Heimerdinger the game ball yesterday. Heimerdinger was diagnosed with cancer in November and has continued to remain with the team. A touching moment for a team that has struggled mightily this year.
- I love Andy Reid’s enthusiasm this season. I guess having a young team can… well… make you feel young again. I’m loving it, Big Red. I’m loving it.