What Would Buddy Do?
Season in Review: Top Five Eagles games of the 2008 season (now with extra hindsight bias)
Posted on February 7th, 2009 at 5:30 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

As part of the post-season post-mortem, I’m treating myself to a review of the happy moments from this past season.  I offer you my five favorite games, which I will argue were the “best” Eagles games of the season.  “Best” is pretty loosely defined here, but the criteria in play are (a) quality of opponent/ victory, (b) potential for persisting in our memory beyond the next couple months, including signature plays or moments, and (c) how I enjoyed that particular game.  Essentially, I’m trying to figure out which five games I’ll remember a few years from now.  Note that I’ve left myself some wiggle room with criterion (c) — where and how I watched the game will actually matter here.

For those of you still convinced this wasn’t a cool season, rest assured that this was actually a challenging list to assemble.  I seriously sweated some of these calls.  Yeah.  No kidding.  Note also that the playoff games don’t automatically earn a spot on the list (though it’s hard to exclude them).

And now, in descending order…

(5) Eagles 26, Vikings 14 @Minnesota, January 4, 2009.  This edges out the honorable mentions by virtue of being a playoff game and having two signature plays: (a) the Brian Westbrook screen-pass TD and (b) the Asante Samuel pick-six, which included Chris Clemons flattening Tavaris Jackson.  The Westbrook TD will livve in my memory as a companion piece to the long screen-pass TD against the Redskins last season.  It’s also worth noting that, um, well, maybe there won’t be a ton of awesome Brian Westbrook plays in the future.  What I’ll remember about watching this game is that it felt like the Eagles were losing throughout most of the first half (even though they were winning).  What I’ll probably forget is how a bad snap made the ending of this game a lot less stressful than it could have been.

(4) Eagles 20, Giants 14 @ The Meadowlands, December 7, 2008.  I would argue that this was the game that turned the season for the Eagles — more so than the win against the Cardinals.  Sure, the Giants were reeling a bit from the Plax news, and the Birds had a couple extra days of rest, but this was the game that showed us how they’d make their run: tough defense and an efficient offense led by a pissed-off Donovan McNabb.  It didn’t hurt that Antonio Pierce was personally responsible for the Eagles’ two touchdowns, the second of which will be remembered as signature play (the dump-off pass where Westbrook just ran away from Pierce).  It also didn’t hurt that I had great seats and ended up on TV.  At the time, I expected that this would be the highlight of the season.

(3) Eagles 23, Giants 11 @ The Meadowlands, January 11, 2009.  An abusive effort from the Eagles’ defense that included two (2) fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter.  We knew the Giants weren’t the same team they were in early November, but they still had a week off and home-field advantage: and the Birds still roughed them up.  In addition to the fourth-down plays, we’ll also remember the Asante Samuel pick and Donovan McNabb’s phone call (though we didn’t actually see that).  We had great seats (at the goal line, nine rows up) and the Birds scored both their TDs right in front of us.  And we’ll fondly remember joining the crowd of Birds’ fans above the tunnel after the game.  And then we went to Disney World (!).

(2) Eagles 44, Cowboys 6 @ Lincoln Financial Field, December 28, 2008.  Eagles porn!  Not since the playoff win against the Lions in the mid-nineties had a game just completely gone this improbably well for the Birds.  That it happened against the Cowboys with a playoff spot on the line in the final game of the season, in a game that wouldn’t have mattered had a 13.5-point favorite lost at home in the one-o’clock slot…well, I mean, I guess that’s why we call it Eagles porn.  Things you probably don’t remember about this game include the fact that McNabb only threw for 175 yards (though he accounted for 3 TDs).  Things you’ll remember for a long time include Chris Clemons dropping the stiff arm on Tashard choice, Brian Dawkins ripping the ball out of Marion Barber’s hands, and the part where Tony Romo apparently collapsed in the locker room.  Note that as of today (February 7, 2009), it appears that the Cowboys have yet to recover from this loss.

(1) Eagles 15, Steelers 6 @Lincoln Financial Field, September 21, 2008.  Would this — a September game against an AFC opponent — have been number 1 if the Steelers hadn’t won the Super Bowl?  No.  But it would have been no lower than number 3.  This game was the sneak preview of the Eagles defense that would emerge in December.  Watching the game again is as Eagles porn-y as the Cowboys game, and maybe even more so: the Eagles’ pass rush looked like something out of the early 90s.  From the NFL.com game report:

The Eagles recorded nine sacks and a safety and had at least twice that many knock-downs. And those numbers don’t count the four times Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger barely escaped sacks and was credited with 6 total rushing yards. If Roethlisberger was less elusive, the Eagles very easily could have tallied 15 sacks or more.

Remember also that the Eagles didn’t have much on offense that day: Westbrook got hurt early, Kevin Curtis wasn’t back yet, and the Steelers can also play some defense.  But the Birds got it done, most because Pittsburgh could not keep their quarterback upright.  The signature play of the game — and maybe the season — is undoubtedly the Brian Dawkins superhero strip-and-recovery with 3:39 left in the game in which Dawkins appears to violate the laws of Newtonian physics (feel free to treat yourself to another viewing).  If this game gets mysteriously erased from my DVR, couples therapy will be in my future.

Honorable mentions: Eagles 48, Cardinals 20, Dallas 41, Eagles 37 (the only loss that had a chance).

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

cardinalsloss.JPG

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.

Make that extra gravy on mine: Eagles beat Vikings, advance to Divisional Playoffs
Posted on January 4th, 2009 at 9:45 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Suh-weet.

Absent a complete meltdown next week against the Giants (something along the lines of what happened to Dallas last week), the 2008 Eagles season has brought me considerable happiness and I shall remember it fondly.  Sure, they snuck into the playoffs, but they won a post-season game.  Remember how hard it was to do that 20 years ago?  Now we’ve done it 7 of the last 9 years.  Can’t complain too much about that.  If making the playoffs was all gravy, then we all just got a second helping.  Yum.

In the short term, I’m just psyched to get another week of thick Eagles media coverage.  Lay it on thick, national media — there’s no end to the amount of Eagles content I can consume.

My quickie post-game thoughts (minimally ordered):

What a difference a year makes — Birds’ special teams play well.  Take a bow, Rory Segrest, because the Eagles were great on special teams.  David Akers was very sharp, the kickoff coverage was solid, and DeSean Jackson had a big day returning punts.  If I had any complaint about the special teams, it was a that a hyped-up Quintin Demps abandoned his typical just-go-straight return style on the opening kickoff and tried to run around the corner of the coverage.  Come on Quintin, only the other guy gets to do that.

Speaking of young Master DeSean.  Really nice game from the rookie in his playoff debut — he even blocked on the Westbrook TD.  Still, I wonder if he gets a special talking-to from Andy Reid about yapping in Brad Childress’ face after his second long punt return?  Maybe he was telling Childress to quit hassling Big Red about his figure?  Or to go easy on the vodka tonight?

The Vikings DEs came to play.  We’ll avoid the angle that notes that the Eagles’ aging tackles had a long day out there and instead focus on the excellent play of the Vikings’ two defensive ends, who consistently got pressure on McNabb and played the run well.  Those guys were impressive.

The jokes about Brad Childress being as clumsy with the clock management as Andy Reid.  Yeah, I guess that stuff is all true.  Huh.  Very comforting to see someone else screw up.

Our favorite camera angle.  Due to some tough field position for the Birds, we were treated to the back-of-the-end-zone punter cam for a couple Donovan McNabb throws.  Very very cool.  Also, unlike the Washington game, McNabb was great inside his ten.

Speaking of Donovan.  He was sharp today.  The turnovers were tough, especially the misguided/ I-think-I’m-tricky-like-Peyton-Manning pick, but he made some extremely tough throws on third down.

A new candidate for the single-best play of the season (which looks a lot like the single-best play of the 2007 season).  That screen pass was glorious.  Ten guys blocking, Westbrook making a huge play (after a pretty tough day to date), random offensive linemen being heroes (how about that Nick Cole with two big blocks AND a little hop over a defender), and even the wideouts helping him home.  Looked a lot like that play against Washington last year.

All Chris Clemons does is make internet video highlights.  Clemons was very good again this week, and managed to make the Youtube highlight reel by body-slamming Tavaris Jackson.  Already been posted.

Things that went as well as we could have hoped and with which we cannot argue.  Dawk dropping a signature welcome-to-the-playoffs hit on Peterson; Asante Samuel pulling the quick six; and the Eagles holding the Vikings under 17 points; the Eagles advancing to a game at the Meadowlands (which means I get to go).

Things that worry us.  The red-zone offense.  The inability to solve the Vikings defense in the first half.  The continued struggles running the ball (but at least they tried!).

Man, that was cool.

(Early line is Giants favored by 4.)

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.

Personal Instant Replay (aka this is how we DJack)
Posted on December 16th, 2008 at 11:16 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

As you might imagine, the stadium replays at the Linc (which are normally quite excellent) didn’t do a spectacular job highlighting the fact that Asante Samuel definitely fumbled the ball into the end zone on his interception return.

Luckily, one of my buddies is getting pretty handy with his SLR, and he managed to be snapping photos on that play.  Which is how all the folks in our section were treated to first this:

Asante drops it

And then, via the zoom feature on his camera’s display, this:

and again

That’s certainly a lot more incontrovertible visual evidence than I saw in the Ravens-Steelers game. And it was homemade, shot from the upper deck on the opposite side of the field (our seats were roughly parallel to the back of the end zone).

Very solid effort — big thanks to Joe Z for the photo.

Tuesday Eagles Hangover: Well, that was mellow
Posted on December 16th, 2008 at 11:30 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

SEXYTIME

The first sign that this was going to be a low-stress affair in South Philly was the complete absence of traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel at 5:45 on a weekday.  We actually thought something was wrong (a bomb?  the tunnel was closed?).  Nope.  Nothing wrong, and nothing but a smooth ride all the way down the turnpike.  Said smooth ride continued in the stadium, as the Birds cruised in a game that was completely lacking in any sort of anxiety and/ or drama.  About the most stressful moment of the whole affair was the part where we walked up the wrong stairs to get to our seats and had to watch the Curtis TD from behind a Miller Lite cart.

Other talking points and observations:

Dunavin was sharp sharp sharp.  It didn’t hurt that the Browns didn’t really manage to pressure him all that well, but he seemed to really enjoy playing against the Browns’ zone.  That was definitely a you-only-get-to-see-this-in-the-stadium sort of thing, but McNabb and the Eagles receivers were extremely methodical about gaining 10-15 yards in front of the Browns’ safeties and deep cover guys.  Of course, McNabb was also pretty sharp against the man defense that he saw (the extremely tight ball to Avant on the intermediate crossing route comes to mind).  Yeah, pretty solid stuff from the QB.

Slightly less solid stuff from Dorsey.  God bless that Ken Dorsey, but this looked really hard for him.  What balls he did complete were essentially bailouts from a very talented (and sure-handed, at least tonight) Braylon Edwards.  Both picks were pretty bad (balls thrown directly to Eagles), and Hanson should have had a third (which was slightly less bad).  We shouldn’t make fun, because this sort of thing can/ has happened to the Birds as well.  Somewhere, Mike McMahon was reliving 42-0 at home on Monday night in 2005.

Why were people booing Stallworth?  Lots of boos for Donte Stallworth.  What did Stallworth do to offend us?  I didn’t get that.  Hank Fraley was at least the guy who snitched on Dunavin puking in the Super Bowl (until the video tape also snitched on Dunavin puking in the Super Bowl).  As I remember it, Stallworth was a solid part of the 2006 team, which I believe we should all remember fondly.  Then the Eagles said thanks-but-no-thanks and he signed with another team.  Um, that’s chill.  I don’t get it.

Shaking head, staring at ground.  Big double-you-tee-eff in re: Asante Samuel “pulling a D-Jack.”  Who do you think has the least patience for that sort of thing in the Eagles’ locker room (after Andy Reid)?  I have to assume it’s Runyan, right?  As in, he goes over and picks up Samuel by the scruff of his neck and reminds him to “Never f*cking do that again”?  The only cool part of that play was that my buddy got a GREAT photo of it in realtime — we’ll post it as soon as he sends them out.  Very very solid work, and the folks sitting near us appreciated our own instant replay.

Speaking of DJack.  I know it worked in the Redskins game, and we all appreciate his boyish confidence out there.  But dude, enough with the “It’s just like college and I’m fast enough to loop around the back side of the punt coverage” sh*t.  Forward, young fella.  Forward.

Just in case you thought the Eagles were perfect and weren’t the same team from a month ago.  Can I roofie myself for the last two minutes of the first half of Eagles games from now on?  Is anyone keeping stats on this?  The Birds’ penchant for sniffing out and then embracing the most unlikely of calamities as the first half ends is uncanny.  And when you layer on the comical clock management and general level of disorganization, well, it’s just not very impressive.  The was covered thoroughly (and appropriately) in this morning’s papers.  A f*cking illegal formation penalty coming from a timeout?  Dude.

Speaking of the timeout.  The stadium announcer actually preemptively called timeout over the PA before Andy Reid got it in (and the Birds lost a few seconds as a result).  This prompted a discussion of having the “clock coach” just sit next to the PA guy and call Andy’s timeouts for him.  Just completely take it out of Reid’s hands and have the voice of God boom out the timeouts over the loudspeaker.  That way Andy can be pleasantly surprised by the appropriate use of the timeouts.

Three cheers.  To Jason Avant, for catching pretty much everything thrown his way, including some high-degree-of-difficulty snags.  To Trent Cole, for another dominant game on the left side of the line (I say this expecting him to get snubbed for the Pro Bowl).  And to B-Dawk, for breaking the team record for games played.  That’s just extremely classy.

Appropriate booing.  I mean, sure, it’s a small sample size, but, um, does Kevin Kolb look like the guy?  Maybe Dunavin has paid him off to throw picks in mop-up duty?  Dunavin’s owed like $9 million next season — you think it isn’t worth $20K to him to get Kolb to look terrible out there?  Or is Kolb just not very good?  One of those.   I’ve got a lengthy follow-up post coming on this topic.

The Birds defense (and the NFC East) warms my heart.  I really like what we’ve got going on in the NFC East right now in re: teams playing some nasty defense.  All four teams in the top 13 on Football Outsiders coming into this week, with Dallas the lowest-ranked team (the Cowboys D looked completely scary against the Giants last week).  Very old skool, very classy.

Go Birds.

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…

dunavindance1.JPG

…and finished with a groin-loosening flourish.

dunavindance2.JPG

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.

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

Sean Considine finds new role; status of oven mitts unclear
Posted on September 26th, 2008 at 10:51 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

look at dem mitts

A week after a cringe-worthy performance in Texas Stadium (one that earned the scorn of low-traffic Eagles blogs everywhere!), it seems that Jim Johnson got the memo on Sean Considine and kept him on the bench for most of the game against the Steelers.   Might this have been the end for Considine in the Illadelph?  Not quite so fast; in fact, he’s one of at least three people on the Eagles who’s contributed to helping Asante Samuel stand in the right place on defense:

Now he’s finding his way in the Eagles’ secondary - a process that will continue Sunday night against the Chicago Bears - with assistance from teammates Brian Dawkins, Quintin Mikell and Sean Considine, all safeties.

“Those guys,” Samuel said, “have been a great help to me - actually communicating with me, helping me understand the defense and giving me the calls so I can be playing the right plays. Without them, I don’t know where I’d be. I’d probably be a little lost.”

See!  We do need Sean Considine on the team — just think what might happen if he weren’t around and Dawk and Mikell forgot to tell Asante where to stand!  What then!?!?!?!?

No word on whether the oven mitt (pictured above) has been instructional for Samuel as well.   

Birds outshove Steelers, make Ed Rendell smile
Posted on September 21st, 2008 at 9:14 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

In the game that was the inverse of last Monday’s shootout against Dallas, the Eagles roughed up the Steelers in a tough-ass defensive struggle, 15-6. 

Quick-hit reactions to a very satisfying TV show:    

Jim Johnson and the defensive front, take a bow.  Six days after giving up 34 points (I won’t blame them for the special teams TD), the Birds’ defense channeled the 1991 Eagles and just humiliated the Steelers.  The ball was snapped, and the line immediately moved two yards backward on pretty much every down.  It seemed like the Steelers gave up running the ball pretty early, and stubbornly instructed Roethlisberger to try to throw the ball.  Nope.  It wasn’t just a couple plays worth of pressure, it was pressure on every single down.  Darren Howard, Juqua Parker and Trent Cole were monsters.  The body language from the Steelers’ receivers was the most telling part — you could tell they were sick of running routes and not even having the ball come out.  Jim Johnson and the defense have officially made it up to us for the Dallas game.

Speaking of making it up to us after the Dallas game.  I guess the Dawkins retirement can wait another week.  His pterodactyl Makhtar (Editor’s note: Makhtar is a slang term used to describe the act of violently smacking an object out of another’s hand; derived from Makhtar N’Diaye and his proclivity for clumsy fouls) on Big Ben was the best Eagles’ play of the season so far. 

$57 million seemed like a lot, but, well, we like interceptions.  Asante Samuel is definitely earning it after three weeks.  I’ll argue that he’s actually been a little lost in the media shuffle so far, and that he’d definitely be a big story in most other towns, but given the unique, ahem, landscape of storylines amongst the local blathertariat, he’s gotten off pretty easy.  I can’t say I’m anything but impressed by this guy. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been that excited about the punter.  Get ready for a week of “This is the week it clicked for Sav Rocca” though he’s been pretty good so far this season.  He absolutely made a difference today. 

And suddenly it’s the third quarter of a preseason game.  When Kolb checked in with Buckhalter and Booker in the backfield and Baskett and Avant split wide, well, it got pretty chill in my apartment.  It got a little warmer when McNabb checked back in, but even that was an Eagles team without its starting backfield, Pro Bowl guard and presumptive top wideout.  Yikes.

Booker is a liability in pass defense.  Booker whiffed horribly on the McNabb pick, kind of fell down in the act of not even getting a finger on the blitzer.  Not so impressive.  Westbrook and Buckhalter don’t miss like that.    

Think happy thoughts. Let’s pretend the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook isn’t actually hurt and will be back at practice on Wednesday.  Somewhere GCobb is working on a blog post about how Westbrook can’t stay healthy. 

Also, The NFC East still hasn’t lost a game to anyone but an NFC East team.  Though I hope the Cowboys lose in a barrage of injuries to fix that.  Obviously.

Great game.  Go Birds. 



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