What Would Buddy Do?
Monday Eagles Hangover: at least they found a new and innovative way to FAIL
Posted on January 19th, 2009 at 12:55 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

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You know, I really thought they would win yesterday.  I thought they would win because their defense was good enough to best the Cardinals’ offense, and that the Eagles’ offense would be able to score against a Cardinals’ defense that wasn’t as tough as the Vikings or Giants.

Instead, the defense — the one I felt confident calling the best Eagles defense since 1991 — was exposed and fooled by a very clever Cardinals team.  We all sort of knew that the Birds would struggle to handle the Larry Fitzgerald superhero act, and he hurt them, but I didn’t expect the linebackers to look so confused and for the tackling to be so sloppy.  All credit to the Cardinals and their coaches for outcoaching and outscheming the Birds.

Even with all that, the Birds were leading this game with five minutes to play (!).  It was there.  But neither the offense nor the defense were good enough to win the game in the fourth quarter.  It was there.

It’s been there before, and we can only hope it will be there again.  Ouch.

Some day-after storylines:

I didn’t expect to be down on Jim Johnson this morning.  It’s just not what we expected, right?  That Jim Johnson, who was rightly praised for the efforts of the defense over the past seven games, would be a goat this Monday morning?  The Cardinals saw something on the right side of the Eagles defense, and certainly seemed to prey on Akeem Jordan a bit.  They got it a bit figured out at halftime, but, um, that was after they’d surrendered more points than they had since the Baltimore game.  Ouch.  Also, Stew Bradley looked like a first-year starter for the first time in a while.

Brian Westbrook was a non-factor.  Save for the great fingertip catch and sprint out of bounds on the Birds’ final drive, Westbrook didn’t really make a difference.  It actually looked like the Eagles’ offensive line was getting a good push on their running plays, but big plays did not result.  The Eagles got away with a win last week sans a big effort from Westbrook, and they almost repeated the feat this week.  It doesn’t matter if he was injured or just old and slow, but that was not a dangerous Brian Westbrook the past couple weeks.  And that hurts.

Speaking of, the dread run-pass ratio.  I’m sure the score had something to do with this — as well as the state of the Cardinals’ pass defense –but the Birds did end up throwing on 72 percent of their plays.  Luckily they were doing a fairly decent job of throwing it, but they didn’t look very committed to balance.

Speaking of, please, enough with the crying about the wideouts.  Sure, there were a couple drops and none of our guys look like Larry Fitzgerald, but the Birds’ wideouts made some huge plays yesterday.  I feel pretty good about Jackson, Curtis, Avant and Baskett (assuming they bring Baskett back).  This is not a position of concern heading into the offseason.

Positions of concern heading into the offseason.  Running back!  Running back!  It’s either a gimpy B-West or a free-agent Buckhalter.  Or Lorenzo Booker.  Or Kyle Eckel.  Yes.  It’s feeling very cold in here.  Also offensive tackle — both those guys looked their age yesterday.

Are we really talking about Donovan McNabb’s future?  McNabb missed a couple throws on that final drive, and the haters will focus on that, but he also had the cape on for the better part of the second half.  No running game, a lot of pressure from the edges, and the guy actually brought the team back from an 18-point halftime deficit.  Dude.  McNabb was not the problem for the Eagles yesterday.

Too much hitting, not enough tackling.  Whilst we like the idea of dropping a couple big hits on the opposing team to let them know it’s going to be a physical afternoon, it sure seemed like the Eagles’ defense was throwing shoulders and not wrapping up at all.  Shoulders aren’t enough against Larry Fitzgerald.

A guy we hate to admit didn’t make the big play.  Quintin Mikell almost — ALMOST — made a season-saving play on the fourth-down run in the fourth quarter.  Ugh.  That would have been nice for Mikell.

Asante Samuel.  Sigh.  After picks in two consecutive games, we can overlook a weak effort from Samuel yesterday.  Apparently he ducked reporters after the game?  Don’t know about that, Asante.  Philly doesn’t appreciate that sort of thing.  Even if you were hurt.

Guys who didn’t really duck reporters, but could’ve been forgiven for it.  Reggie Brown, L.J. Smith, it’s been a pleasure.  I guess the Birds thought Greg Lewis had some big-game magic in him?  Ummm, not so much.  Still, Brown didn’t even dress?  Yikes.  And Brent Celek’s big day yesterday really makes it that much easier to pretend there never was an L.J. Smith; I wonder what rookie will get #82 next summer?

Lucky breaks we’ve likely forgotten already.  How about that DeSean Jackson forcing a fumble for the Birds after the pick?  Pretty lucky break!  Though not as lucky as the Abiamiri call on the kickoff.  Whew.  Close one.  If you’re whinging about pass interference in the fourth quarter, you need to keep that kickoff call in mind.

Was Akers going to make a fourth-quarter field goal?  It sure seemed like he was Chuck Knoblauch unable to find first base by the third quarter.  A missed PAT?  The kickoff out of bounds?  Mercifully the Birds needed a touchdown and not a field goal for the go-ahead points.  Kind of a meltdown, no?

That’s it for now.  I’ve intentionally avoided the good season/ bad season ruling.  Plenty of time for that later this week.

Eagles - Vikings Game Preview: don’t pretend you know what we’re getting today
Posted on January 4th, 2009 at 11:38 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Well none of us are going to pretend we expected this.  Sure, we could envision this, but to expect this would have been a bit strong after the Washington game.  The Eagles are actually in the playoffs.

So, are they any damn good?

That’s the thing about the Eagles game today.  We don’t actually know what the narrative of this season is yet.  Is is the “Eagles go on a run like 2006 (Washington game is ‘just a blip’)” or is it “Eagles stumble into playoffs, but are who we thought they were”?  If they win today, many many sins will be forgiven — even if they lose the following week.  Then they’re good but not good enough, and that’s a lot better than we thought we’d get in mid-November.  If they lose today, especially if they do so in one of the ways to which we’ve become accustomed, well, then they were essentially last year’s team with a better punt returner: good on paper, but bad when it matters.

I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Eagles didn’t show up at all today, but I don’t think it’ll happen.  Rather, I think that there’s a compelling reason why it might not happen: the Eagles defense.  But more about that in a bit.

What I’ll be shouting about in re: today’s big Wild Card Game:

Your storylines.  It’s a little overwhelming (and by overwhelming, I mean that it makes writing a preview really challenging) when your team makes the playoffs in re: the clear national storylines.  As in, (1) Jim Johnson versus Tavaris Jackson (must include reference to total available quantity of blitzes), (2) Can the suddenly elite Eagles’ defense contain Adrian Peterson, (3) Teacher-versus-Pupil.  What’s sweet is that I feel good about each of those.  And the thing that worries me most is just that they go out and throw it 48 times.  Andy Reid, you haunt me!

Storylines we refuse to consider.  You’re not allowed to say, “This is an extremely close game in simulations with the Eagles winning just under 51 percent of the simulations. The key to the game is turnovers,” in an article entitled “Intel Report” on ESPN.  Generally speaking, I think blathermonkeys should be fired on the spot for uttering the phrase, “The key to the game is turnovers.”  The key to scoring is touchdowns and field goals.  The key to defense is tackling.  Yes.  It’s all true!

Fan storyline that’s a bit odd.  I assume most of you are like me in that you feel good about defense and special teams, and have no idea what we’re getting from the offense.  It’s worth noting that said offense set the franchise record for points scored…and I still don’t think we’re remotely irrational for not trusting them.

The last time these guys played in January.  The future Mrs. BountyBowl got us tickets for the game as a Christmas gift, circa December 2004.  This was a very clever strategy of hers for currying my affections.  Seemed to have worked out for everyone.  F***ing cold that day, though!

Hip, whatever.  The Birds paid a lot of money for Asante Samuel.  Mr. Samuel has traditionally been very successful in elimination games (save for an awkward moment along the sideline last February).  It’d be lovely if he felt compelled to demonstrate his penchant for the big moment against the Vikings.  Also, I’m pretending that the injury thing is an illusion.

Speaking of, he doesn’t need to play.  L.J. Smith has his impending free agency to worry about.  Let’s cut the guy some slack and let him get healthy.  It’s for the best.

The CamelCased One.  What a wonderful opportunity for young Master DeSean to go out and demonstrate he has a feel for the big moment (and redeem himself for the Washington game) than to make a play against the absolute worst punt coverage team in the league?  Very tempting, no?  We’d hate to think the kid had issues with the spotlight.

Speaking of wideouts.  Both Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown made circus catches against the Vikings when the Eagles played there last year.  A similar effort this afternoon would augur well for the Birds’ chances.

Jared Allen is scary, though not as scary as Demarcus Ware.  I think Allen will be slightly more dangerous than Ware was last week if only because Ware’s team completely quit.  But if the Birds can handle Ware, why not Allen?  (That said, I think Allen is excellent.)

Adrian Peterson is scary, though not as scary as Brian Westbrook.  Sure, AP (”Purple Jesus”) is a megastar guy who has a chance to be the best back of his generation.  But in a game that matters I feel extremely good about a Brian Westbrook, and not just because he might be the single smartest guy on the field.  He’s also good at not getting tackled!

Eagles thoughts from during the Cards - Falcons game.  While I know it’s not for everyone, it sure looks like you can run your offense through a couple dominant wideouts.  Those guys are good.

Eagles thoughts from during the Bolts - Colts game.  This was actually painful to watch for me, if only because there were so many little plays that almost but didn’t quite go the Chargers’ way (at least until the coin toss!).  Lots of dropped picks, bad bounces, that sort of thing.  It’s rare that I can feel like an Eagles fan watching another team.  Thanks, Chargers!

Things I’m glad I haven’t thought about in weeks.  How about that David Akers!  Doesn’t seem to be struggling any more.  And he’s got to feel good about a dome.

No one believes in you, Donovan.  I hope Mr. McNabb is on his laptop this morning reading the InterWebs just so he knows that NO ONE BELIEVES IN HIM.  Nope.  Not a one.  And the ONLY WAY HE CAN STICK IT TO THE FICKLE DOUBTERS is to play the game of his life.  That’s the only way you can really get us, Donovan.  Seriously.  It’ll totally piss us all off, because we don’t really like you and don’t want you to succeed.

Cardboard Box.  One of the things that makes me feel confident about the game today is that I think the Eagles actually will get the speed of the playoff game.  That is, there are a few guys on the field for the Eagles who won’t be intimidated by the moment and will come out playing fast.  Mostly I’m thinking that Brian Dawkins and/ or Sheldon Brown isn’t going to be afraid to endanger themselves in order to announce their presence with authority in the first few minutes of the game.  And now, because I can’t help it, is the link.  Treat yourself.

Game prediction. I think that the defense is going to show up this week for the Eagles, and that if the Birds can get it to 20 points they should be chill.  The problem is that I can’t really speak for the offense.  I think they could be awful.  I think it’s important that the Eagles wide receivers play well.  That means getting open and it means catching the ball.  Eagles 20, Vikings 13.

Proper Birds handle Nerdbirds; woe be unto sports fans of C@L
Posted on November 3rd, 2008 at 4:11 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

coaching em up

And we’re back.

Following a sometimes soggy but always glorious weekend in the Pacific Northwest, BountyBowl is back on Eastern (Standard) Time and ready to sign. Respect must be paid to our hosts out west as well as the benefactors who hooked us up with game tickets and other entertainments — it was a great trip. Mercifully, the Eagles pitched and made sure we also got a result. We wouldn’t say it was a barnburner of a game, but, well, 26-7 is a lot better than it otherwise could have been, especially coming out of a nervy first quarter. What we noticed at Qwest Field:

About the first five minutes. Whew. Ugly start for the Birds — both flavors. You know it’s an odd game when there have been five total possessions and there are still 10 minutes and 45 seconds left in the first quarter. That’s what a 90-yard touchdown and four three-and-outs will do to you. For the uninitiated — essentially, non-NFC West opponents — the opening quarter at Qwest Field is usually pretty dicey. The crowd is always on their feet and screaming for the better part of the first quarter; I liked that the Eagles kept their poise and didn’t panic. Then the crowd settles in a bit, the initial chaos clears, and things get a bit more balanced. Good on the Eagles for not freaking out.

Lito the ostensible starter. Sheldon Brown was initially on the field for the Birds’ first defensive play, but was replaced before the snap by Lito. So that means that Lito was the starter? I think I liked him better as a backup — he bit on the pump fake like a rookie on what was really the Birds’ only horrible defensive snap.

Evil Dunavin returns! I was making jokes to my Seattle crew before the game about how Evil Dunavin had shown up for the first quarter against the Falcons, and lo — he returned for the opening frame against the Nerdbirds! I guess Dunavin must not like seafood, because he looked just plain miserable on the Jumbotron all day. Mercifully he came around after the awkward start and made a couple sweet plays dodging traffic in the pocket. Those definitely looked cool in person.

Poor L.J. Smith. Andy Reid did a nice job standing up for L.J. today (by essentially claiming that Brent Celek’s big day was possible because he doesn’t command the sort of attention that L.J. does), and for this we admire Big Red. Thankfully, this sort of game didn’t happen at home. Also, the conspiracy theorists on the team (Lito, we’re looking at you), would likely point to Celek’s big day as some sort of contract-fueled scheme to highlight the backup guy at the expense of the potentially pricey vet. I don’t think so, though. Celek was great all day — I especially liked that tight-end screen they ran in the fourth quarter. Very classy.

David Akers lives! Good for increasingly beleaguered David Akers — it isn’t kicking at Qwest, and he was rock solid. You keep your job another week!

The heavens smiled on Seattle. I don’t know how or why it happened, but we got extremely lucky with the weather for the game. It was flat-out pouring just 30 minutes before kickoff, and we were sitting in an uncovered part of the stadium. That could have been horrible. Luckily the heavens cleared and — gasp! — it was even sunny for parts of the afternoon. Remarkable!

Things my homer brain was probably imagining. Did it seem like the Seahawks DBs were getting away with a lot of contact in the first half? Or are Kevin Curtis and the CamelCased One just on the small side? (We’ll also accept “a little from column A and a little from column B” here.) Also, The Seahawks PA guy kept exaggerating the Seahawks’ success on a play-to-play basis; he just seemed to be rounding up rather aggressively. Luckily, the refs are still in charge of awarding first downs.

More shaky stuff from Dawk. Because of our collective fondness for Brian Dawkins, let’s try to forget how he whiffed on the Koren Robinson TD and focus instead on the big hit he delivered on the sideline to force an incompletion later in the first quarter. Moving on….

Things that deserve their own post. I’m starting to have dark, lonely thoughts about the Eagles’ offensive line. They just don’t seem to be capable of lining up and pushing the other guys around. And they’ve got a BIG test coming up.

And, finally, a word for our hosts. Dude, I feel ya, Seattle. These are some dark times (literally and figuratively) for sports fans in the Northwest. The Sonics are gone, the Mariners were the worst team in baseball, the Huskies just lost 56-0, and the Seahawks are having a down year. Not a ton of goodness there. I’ve already heard some of the Philly press giving you grief about leaving early, but I can’t say I blame you. Your team didn’t have it yesterday, and it’s not like better days are coming soon.

For the most part (the exception being the drunk jackass in the row in front of us), the Seahawk fans were a chill bunch — folks in our row even leant us a towel to wipe down our seats. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t take any abuse, but it sure subsided after the first quarter. Thank you kindly for hosting us in your stadium and proving that we can all watch sports together without getting too upset about things.

Blown call denies Eagles opportunity to crush fans’ souls in win over Falcons
Posted on October 26th, 2008 at 5:21 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

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Bank error in our favor this afternoon, as a pretty hideous call on a seemingly muffed punt snuffed out any chance for a final Falcons comeback attempt. Certainly we can’t assume that the Falcons would have driven those 60 yards for the go-ahead score, especially with a rookie quarterback and no timeouts, but, well, as Eagles fans, we’re given to a certain glass-half-full worldview at the end of games. So it was lovely of the referees to hook us up on that.

Other thoughts and takeaways from the Eagles’ glorious victory this afternoon.

The Best Player On The Team. Welcome back, Brian Westbrook! That Eagles offense sure looks a lot more confident when the best player on the team is on the field. Westbrook looked limber and quick and didn’t seem to be feeling the effects of his recent rib injury. A buck-sixty-seven will do very well, thank you very much.

The long-awaited quarterback sneak. After weeks of braying from the blathertariat (yours truly included), we finally saw a Donovan McNabb quarterback keeper at the goal line. Which then touched off a Donovan McNabb touchdown celebration/ silly dance, which, quite frankly, we hadn’t seen in a while. The good folks at PE.com were kind enough to post the following ridiculous photos. We start with some Thriller…

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…followed by dog-at-the-hydrant…

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…and finished with a groin-loosening flourish.

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David Akers quiets the haters. It wasn’t the most challenging afternoon for David Akers, but whatever. He made all of his tries, and spared us all the awkwardness of discussing his job security for at least another week.

“Best of the Eagles Playbook” on display this afternoon. As if the split-back set on the goal line leading to a shovel pass wasn’t enough, the Eagles managed to call the fake-dive-and-pitch-outside to Westbrook on third-and-short late in the fourth quarter. That particular call was especially galling, since the result was exactly what our table at the bar expected. That is, prior to the play we specifically discussed how the Eagles would call this exact play as well as the precise manner in which it would fail. We mention this not to beat our chests, but as a stern warning: if idiot fans can call the play, I’m assuming that opposing defensive coordinators can as well.

The redemption of Lito! Good for that number-twenty-six fellow…what’s his name again? The backup cornerback who took that bad PI call but then made the big pick in the end zone? If he keeps trying super hard in practice, maybe he’ll play a little bit more!

Speaking of DBs. We loved the pick from Samuel, but the first Roddy White TD seemed to be as much Asante’s fault as anyone’s — especially since it looked like he was trying to jump the route and go for another interception. Oops. Don’t know if they discussed that on the telecast — we didn’t have audio at the bar.

Another rough day for the officials. In addition to the horrific blown call on the muffed punt, there were a couple other head-scratchers from the zebras, most notably the personal foul on Trent Cole for what was a perfectly textbook hit on Matt Ryan. There was no helmet-to-helmet contact, he hit him as he was throwing…I didn’t really get it.

The CamelCased One shows his age (yet again). So we can understand how DeSean Jackson has convinced himself that he’s still in college and that he can just run faster than everyone else, even if it means running backwards on punt returns. It worked against the Skins, why not try it again? Ugh. Forward, DeSean. Forward. Though it’s worth noting that we’re still excited enough about Jackson that we’re willing to write off yet another brain fart as a “harmless part of his maturation.” Enjoy it whilst it lasts, young fella!

Can Philly go 4-0 for the weekend (the Flyboys won yesterday as well)? We sure hope so. Go Phightins.

Iggles Blog vs BountyBowl Bye Week Blogganza (#4)
Posted on October 17th, 2008 at 4:32 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

In which I defend Darren Howard’s honor (sort of) and make a bunch of random predictions of my own.

The story of the film so far: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

*****

Oh my heavens!  I think we might need an intervention here.  I’d like all the Iggles Blog readers to note that Derek just said that he’s only been to two Eagles games!  (I mean, there are legitimate reasons for this, but still.)  I bet more than a few of the fans of Iggles Blog have season tickets.  This is your hint to send Derek an e-mail and invite him to a game.  Think of all the joy (and charts, and graphs, and lengthy defenses of Donovan McNabb) he’s brought you over the years — don’t you think you owe it to him to bring him to a game?

At the very least, the Birds organization should comp you as some sort of blogger outreach program.  (NOTE WELL anyone from Birds HQ who might be reading this: I would also like to come to more games!  Right here!  The Bounty!)

Cheers to the SAWX for their big comeback last night.  Though I can’t help but note that there really isn’t a good answer in re: which city the Phils face in the World Series — it’s essentially the two cities respsonsible for the Worst Eagles Experiences of the last decade (being, of course, the 2002 NFC Championship/ Final Game at the Vet and Super Bowl XXXIX).  Depending on your inclination with these things, it’s either a win-win or a lose-lose.  I’d like to suggest some sort of Flyers-esque “Vengeance Now” value prop for the local marketing efforts, but I think the Phils are a little too PG for that.

On to the football, first with some comments on your replies to my questions.

WHOA.  Damn skippy you need to be careful what you’re saying in re: Darren Howard!  It certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but man, that’s quite a bit to suggest.  I mean, I obviously love an elaborate conspiracy theory as much as the next fellow, but the Occam’s Razor answer seems a bit more plausible; can’t we just assume he signed a big contract, loafed around and then finally got in shape when he was worried about his job?  I mean, that’s what I would have done….

But while we’re on the topic, were there ever rumblings when Dunavin showed up for work a couple years as Bulky Donovan?  Or was he just lifting too much?  I mean, McNabb is obviously a guy who’s going to need to be careful about the waistline once he’s done playing; maybe he’s just big-boned?  Also — and you’ll love this one — I’m sure you read the section in Pro Football Prospectus about how remarkably healthy the Cowboys have been over recent years…don’t tell me it didn’t lead you to wonder if there was a little something-something added to the salad bar at Valley Ranch.

Thus concludes the Unfounded Accusations portion of today’s post.

Also, you should really be more careful about what you say about David Akers.  You know he’s sitting on his couch right now sporting his fashionably rimless spectacles, catching up on Mad Men, and hitting F5 on Iggles Blog.  At the rate you’re going, you’ll never get another interview out of those Reebok people.

And now for your questions of me.

1.  Favorite / least favorite Eagles and why?  No cheating by picking old-timers, I’m talking current roster.

This is actually a pretty easy question.  It’s Sheldon Brown by about two touchdowns.  My reasons: (a) I’ve always had a fondness for big-hitting DBs, and he’s been the biggest-hitting DB for the past three seasons (with apologies to Dawk; the days of the Dawkplex are past); (b) he actually speaks honestly and intelligently to the press, and doesn’t appear to be completely full of sh*t — it’s like he skipped media training; (c) he plays every week.  That counts for a lot.  So yeah, I’m a big fan.  I’m actually staring at a framed copy of the SI cover photo of him drilling Reggie Bush (”Cardboard Box“) right now.

2.  Fill in the blanks: “The Phillies winning the World Series would feel like __________.  The Eagles winning the Super Bowl would feel like __________.”

You know, this is a really hard question to answer without sounding like a complete pervert, so apologies in advance for my answer (which draws upon the amount of time I spend on airplanes): “The Phillies winning the World Series would feel like getting a surprise upgrade to first class for a seventeen-hour flight to Australia. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl would feel like getting a surprise upgrade to my own private jet for a seventeen-hour flight to Australia, only we’re not going to Australia, we’re going to a special island in the South Pacific where cheesesteaks grow on trees, clothing has been outlawed, and I am about to be named emperor.”  (Too much?)

3.  You’re really not going to ask about Tony Hunt?

Okay, so tell me about Tony Hunt.  I just assume he’ll end up in Minnesota, right?  You can just ask him, right?  I assume he’s spending his time off chilling at your place?  He’s playing XBox right now?

4.  Over the past 10 months, the Eagles have been linked by rumor to approximately two dozen players not currently on their roster.  Of the guys who actually changed teams — yes, we all wanted Larry Fitzgerald — who are you most annoyed about not getting?  (NOTA is an acceptable answer if you show your work.)

Let me get the obvious and popular answers out the way first: the answer isn’t going to be a wideout, so we can cross off Randy Moss and Roy Williams.  My answer might have been different six months ago, but that was before young Master DeSean was dropped at our doorstep.  The Moss thing was especially tempting, more so than Roy Williams.  I’m just not as completely obsessed by this position as your average Birds fan.  I mean, I guess I could say Jared Allen because, well, he’s Jared Allen and it remains relatively difficult to find dominant defensive ends.  But I don’t know if that was actually ever in play.    (The Skins can have Jason Taylor, though.)

I actually would have been pretty psyched if the Birds could have nabbed Jeremy Shockey.  There.  I said it.  He’s better than L.J., and would have played like a complete psychopath against the Giants.  But my actual answer — and admittedly, this is very fresh — is Tony Gonzalez.  DOOOOOOOOOOOD.  That’s pretty much exactly what the Birds need.  A red-zone beast who’d be reinvigorated on a new team?  Plus he’s a veteran guy who’s a non-idiot and seems like he has the personality and temperament to handle the Illadelph?  Also, he comes with a lovely commitment partner.

Also it’s worth noting that I really like the guy they did get: Asante Samuel.  This is just the beginning of the Asante Samuel era in Philly.  This guy definitely counts as a playmaker, and he’s not going anywhere.  Seriously.  He’ll be a “real Eagle” soon enough.

5.  I cheated on your bonus question, but now I’m kind of interested in hearing your answer to it.  I’m rubber, you’re glue …

First off, I know I thought that the Eagles would lose to the Nerdbirds before the season began, but I herby update my opinion on this topic.  Seattle has to be the most disappointing team in the NFL right now.  The Eagles had better win that game.  Of course, none of us care about that because, well, no one cares about the Left Coast teams (nor should they — West Coast teams are, as well know, soft).    Let me throw a couple random ones out there:

a.  Shawn Andrews doesn’t play another game for the Eagles this year, and spends the off-season musing about retirement.

b.  Dallas misses the playoffs.  Wade Phillips is fired shortly thereafter.  Jason Garrett is named the head coach.  Wow.  That was awesome to type.

c.  Washington makes the playoffs.  I can’t believe I’m typing that, but playing solid defense and running the ball can get you pretty far in the NFL.  And for the life of me I’m not going to say nice things about the Giants.

d.  Brian Westbrook never really gets healthy and rushes for fewer than 900 yards on the season (he’s at 194 after six games, so I’m saying he doesn’t break 70 yards/ game over the remaining ten).

e.  Finally, at long last: Donovan McNabb starts 16 games, and, GASP, is welcomed back as the Eagles presumptive starter for 2009!

What say we to that?

Birds confirm existence of less organized teams than themselves in win over Niners
Posted on October 12th, 2008 at 8:33 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Whew!  Close one.  I was admittedly nervous until the spread-busting return from Juqua Parker nee Thomas.  Note well that a play prior to that I had remarked to my buddy that it struck me as odd that a defensive end was dropped so deep in coverage at the snap; it wasn’t like they were showing a four-man front and then he dropped into coverage.  Nope, he was playing linebacker (in the post-game coverage I’m sure there will be much discussion of the “Joker” linebacker position).

We’ve actually got a full house coming for the Phightins here at BountyBowl HQ, so expect post-game reactions to trickle through slowly.  Still, my quick hitters after the game:

David Akers makes it through the bye week.  Did he actually make the challenged one?  We’ll never know.  Leads one to wonder why there isn’t a more definitive camera angle for that sort of thing, but hey, we’re more than happy that Nolan wasted a challenge on it.  If he had missed it…and the block…and well…you can kind of guess what the big storyline would have been in a loss.

Game balls to the deserving vets.  Correll Buckhalter and Juqua Parker nee Thomas, take a bow.  You guys both played great games — heart-and-soul-of-the-team-type games.  And it’s nice to see it from the guys who aren’t on the cover of the media guide or on the tickets. I thought Buck’s stamina was especially impressive; he really seemed to keep running with energy deep in the game.  And Parker, well, we wrote the following two weeks ago, and it feels even more true today, “Also, at what point can we admit that Juqua Parker is playing really well and isn’t some sort of undersized liability?”  Juqua Parker, you’ve earned yourself a place in my official taxonomy: enjoy your tag.  Quintin Mikell is an honorable mention here.

Heroics in the secondary.  Speaking of, the Birds were a couple diving deflections away from some scary things late in that game.  Kudos to Sheldon Brown and Mikell for making some huge plays.  Also Dawk stepped up and got stronger later in the game (who needed to make up for some sloppy tackling earlier in the game).

Lito’s hurt?  Dude.  I mean.  They’re going to give you grief for that.  It’s not fair, but they will.

Andy Reid isn’t actually crazy.  That is, he seems to have agreed with the assembled masses and majority of the blathertariat (yours truly included) that DeSean Jackson is the best guy they have on offense with Westbrook out.  Jackson seemed to have gotten a lot of different looks and touches, and the kid played well.  I get more excited about him every week.

Takeo Spikes, you’re a cruel, cruel man.  Dude, you catch JUST ONE ball that hits you in the chest last year and the Birds might have made the playoffs (the Seattle game was the most offensive).  And now you gotta be picking off Dunavin in the red zone?  Seriously?

That’s it for now.  More later, let’s go Phightins.

So it’s pretty much last year’s team, but with a better punt returner
Posted on October 5th, 2008 at 10:06 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Eagles - Redskins at the Linc, 2008

Oooooooooooooh man, this one sucked.  Sucked.  SUCKED.  (And now, the coup de grace, caps AND bold): SUCKED.

I guess I had gotten suckered into thinking that the 2008 Eagles were not blood relations of the 2007 Eagles, and that somehow all those “mistake-ridden” and “unlucky” losses from last year were all just accidents and aberrations.  Not this year, I thought.  This year they’re going to be a bit better organized and focused, and we’ll actually win some close games.  The Pittsburgh game definitely sold me a bit.

But after two weeks in a row that looked a lot like the team from last year — I mean, I guess we’ll need to make our peace with that.  So they’ll be in most games, but don’t expect too many dominant performances, and they’re likely to clumsily bungle a few along the way.

Anyway, one might imagine that this wasn’t the most exciting game to attend. The beginning was excellent, and then it was about two-and-a-half hours of “frustrating dull.”

What I saw:

DeSean Jackson should get the ball more.  After seeing him run in the context of the whole field, I’m actually thinking that Jackson might be a little underhyped?  Is that possible?  He’s a legitimate offensive threat out there.  The I’m-still-in-college-and-faster-than-everyone thing on the punt return was spectacular; the guys in pursuit completely misjudged their ability to catch up to him.  I dunno.  This guy has a chance to to make a lot of plays for the Eagles.  No reason he shouldn’t touch it more.

Why the Eagles lost.  I mean, whatever else might be said, the Eagles sure looked like they got pushed aroundat the line of scrimmage.  Their offensive line definitely exerted their will on our guys, and while their defensive line wasn’t really dominant, they still prevented the Eagles from running at all.  It was a little humiliating to watch: kind of slow and steady and maddening to the point where you begin to doubt your own sanity.  Like listening to someone defend Sarah Palin and telling you that no, YOU’RE the one who’s out of touch!  (”BountyBowl: Now With Sarah Palin Jokes!”)

To whom the assembled peoples assigned blame.  Pretty straightforward here — lots of “I hate you you [insert profanity-laden description of obesity] [object of derision]” for Andy Reid.  I guess it can’t always be McNabb’s fault, and it’s tough to get specifically angry at the defensive line.  The peoples were definitely restless about Reid.

The Redskins played really well.  Didn’t turn it over, played very simple football and beat the Eagles up at the line of scrimmage.  Yeah, you can win with that in the NFL.  All credit to them — they aren’t flashily talented, but they looked very well-coached and they kept their heads on, even when they went down early.  Campbell was very solid.  And Portis was a beast.  I dunno.   If there’s a slouch in the NFC East, it’s definitely the Birds.

And some randoms. oh, the indignity of James Thrash drawing a penalty on Asante Samuel!  David Akers has got to be bummed about missing three kicks over the past two weeks.  Reggie Brown had a decent game, but also contributed to the drops, and the drops were not so impressive.  The Red Zone offense doesn’t look “fixed.”  Juqua Parker was solid again.

Let’s Go Phillies.  Definitely plenty of gear at the stadium (the default tasteful demonstration of extended loyalties seemed to be the Eagles jersey with Phils hat), sure, but I was amazed by an actual “Let’s Go Phillies” cheer early in the game.  Definitely a lot of love at the Linc for the Phils.  They didn’t go overboard with the score updates, but each one was enthusiastically welcomed.

So yeah, kind of a crap day, save for the part where the Phillies made the NLCS, and also the part where I got to eat this totally sweet sandwich.  (But mostly it was beat.)

Eagles-Redskins at the Linc 025

This train is leaving the station
Posted on October 5th, 2008 at 9:16 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Actually, we’re driving, so the gameday postings will be a bit light, BUT, let me quickly say the following:

1.  This will be a nervous afternoon by any definition.  The Redskins don’t seem capable of playing games that aren’t decided in the fourth quarter, and I imagine that’s how this one will go.  That plus the Phils game should have the folks in the stadium on maximum anxiety levels for most of the aftenoon.

2.  I’ve got a good Reggie Brown vibe for today.  Can’t tell you why (other than the part where he’s made big plays against the Skins in the past).  It’d also be nice to see the secondary end that whole “Jason Campbell hasn’t thrown a pick” thing.   And I wouldn’t be shocked to see David Akers need to make a big field goal today (like in the fourth quarter when it matters).

3.  Letdown versus High Pressure in re: the respective psychoanalytics today.  We’ve got the Skins pegged for a letdown after a big win against Dallas, right?  And we have the Eagles feeling a ton of pressure in the face of 2-3 and another division loss.  Usually the more desperate teams get the win in these scenarios (”Parcells’ Axiom of Sportscliche #43″).

4.  In case I didn’t mention this four time already, I couldn’t be more psyched to actually be attending the game today.

5. I like the Eagles to win, call it Eagles 23, Redskins 16.

Noted puppy-killer and kitten-mauler L.J. Smith responds to imagined criticism
Posted on October 3rd, 2008 at 4:32 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Must have been a slow news day at the NovaCare center yesterday (which it kind of was; I watched the coordinator pressers and they weren’t terribly interesting or lengthy), because there were about three different versions of “L.J. Smith responds to critics” in the local papers today.  Not that the L.J. Smith angle isn’t interesting, but jeez, there are certainly bigger fish for breadings and frying, no? 

Implicit in the content of the articles is the suggestion that L.J. Smith has somehow drawn the ire of the fanbase, which I sort of get, but not really.  I mean, sure, some folks in the philly.com comments and the Birds’ message boards are down on L.J., but I’ve never really felt the anti-L.J. rage.  Strike that – I’ve been pretty chill with him ever since he stopped holding the ball with one hand like a loaf of bread; that totally used to cheese me off. 

Could it just be that the normal targets of rage are out of focus these days?  I mean, they finally benched Considine, McNabb is playing well, and DeSean Jackson has made us forget that we hate the wideouts.  Hating on the kicker is too obviously fickle.  Is L.J. just the last guy standing? 

Personally, I could use slightly more anti-Lorenzo Booker vitriol from the fanbase.  That guy almost got Dunavin killed against Pittsburgh and looked mostly useless against the Bears. 

Let me know if I’m missing anyone on the list above; specifically, whom should I be hating on more?        

And here I thought we might make it to October without a craptastic loss
Posted on September 29th, 2008 at 12:17 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

about to break off the pattern

On a weekend that the Phils clinched their second straight NL East championship, we didn’t really think that we’d be twice blessed with an Eagles victory on the road, did we? Without Brian Westbrook?

Despite the text messges I received upon landing in the Pacific Northwest last night (”Don’t even bother watching the game”), I plowed through the tape of the game, and the Birds weren’t terrible. The defense, in fact, was excellent in the second half. McNabb was fine — not great, but certainly on his game. But you pile up a couple injuries and stumble on a couple important plays and voila! You lose to the Bears!

(I hate to admit it, but I was a little Nancy Negative ahead of this game, and it looks like my anxieties weren’t completely unfounded.  SIGH.)

The thing is, most NFL games are close, and you have to expect to lose a couple close games each year. Last year’s team probably lost about 1.5 more close games than the league average (Packers, Bears, Seahawks and second Giants game come to mind); previous years’ teams lost fewer of the close ones. We’d like to believe that the Eagles are so formidable that they won’t even be in very many close games, but that’s just not true. They blew a close one last night; let’s hope that the next couple break their way.

My observations upon viewing last night/ this morning on my PC screen via Slingbox:

The Birds need some sort of Team-minus-36 plan.  This will be the most obvious and pedestrian thing I write all week, but man, it sure does look different without the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook out there.  Andy Reid needs to start working on the binder of plays for when they don’t have the best back in football on the field.  Cause it doesn’t seem like he tends to have very many good ideas.  Also, they miss Westbrook in a ton of ways – not just running the ball and scaring people with his placement in the formation, but the blitz pickups and blocking as well.  Buck whiffed a bit last night on those.  We won’t talk about Booker, other than to say….

…Booker isn’t there yet.  Seems like a decent situational/ once-in-a-while substitute, but this guy is not serviceable as a first-down back in the NFL.  And suddenly we’re a bit thin at that position.  The portions of the second half when Buck was out were horrfying.  Horrifying. 

We’ve found the weakest link.  Another solid game from the young linebackers.  Gocong even got into it a bit more this week (good for him on the sack), though I think Gocong might be sticking out on film as the “one you can beat if you want to” — that first touchdown was on him, and looked pretty similar to the Marion Barber TD catch from two weeks ago. 

Question I’d like someone to answer.  I’m wagering against the Eagles in prime time games until further notice.  I’m desperate to be disproven on this, but they’ve just been awful in night games for too long now.  Is there some sort of Kerry Collins-on-the-sauce-with-the-Giants thing at play here?  (My theory on Kerry Collins on Sunday night games with the Giants was that since it was a night game he’d clear himself to have a few extra drinks on Saturday — since the game wasn’t until later and he wouldn’t have to get up early — and this would inevitably snowball and leave him in terrible shape for the whole day Sunday.  Yeah, you’ll see me in hell for that one.)

And suddenly DeSean Jackson is our best offensive player?  I mean, that was it, right?  No B-West and suddenly Jackson is the number-one option?  Is that really the deal at this point?  Nice to see Reggie Brown catch some balls last night, though.  He looks like he’s getting back up to speed, and he’s had some great games against the Skins in the past – they’ll need that Sunday.

Marvels on the defensive line.  Someone who actually knows something about football needs to explain to me how a little dude (all characterizations relative, of course) like Dan Klecko keeps getting to the quarterback (and why Broderick Bunkley can’t).  I could not have been more wrong about Dan Klecko all summer.  And he keeps making plays.  Remarkable.  Also, at what point can we admit that Juqua Parker is playing really well and isn’t some sort of undersized liability? 

I agree with Les.  Should have used Dunavin down on the goal line.  He’s the most gifted guy on the field.  Let him win it for you.

Don’t discount the other injuries.  The running game missed Westbrook, obviously, but it also missed The Big Kid and L.J. Smith (editor’s note: we’re about 3 mm away from affixing “much maligned” to the front of L.J.’s name in the Word Press templates).  Probably wouldn’t have hated having those guys out there for the goal-line offense.  Ultimately, the offense probably looked crappy because it was missing four ostensible starters — and that was before Buck got dinged up.

Yeah, this one sooked.  The B-West injury watch vigil will continue all week ahead of a tough division game against a confident Redskins team.  Yikes!  On the upside, I bought myself some tickets to that one and will get to see it firsthand.  

Onwards.               



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