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).

In case things weren’t going perfectly enough for Eagles fans this week
Posted on January 15th, 2009 at 11:29 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

What’s that?  The Cowboys have decided that a certain wide receiver might be more trouble than he’s worth?  You don’t say:

“I think we all know that chemistry is the problem with this team more than the schemes or anything else,” a Cowboys source said. “Are we going to continue to allow talent to outweigh everything else in the decisions we make with players and putting the roster together? We’re like the Redskins used to be when they signed every player they wanted. There’s more to it than talent. It has to be more about the team.

“The big one [Owens] didn’t get discussed yet, but I’m sure it will and real hard.”

If that isn’t enough, perhaps some discussion of Eli Manning becoming a member of the $100-million club, then?  And Giants fans aren’t universally thrilled?

“You see $120 million and it just seems like too much money,” said Nizam Abdul, 40, of Ozone Park, holding a copy of the Daily News with Manning on the front page.

“Besides, he lost the game,” said Abdul, still stinging from Sunday’s 23-11 loss to the Eagles. “Everyone is still upset about it.”

Yes yes, I’m serving heavy doses of Haterade.  It’s not very nice.  I know.

Monday Eagles Hangover: Wow, so that actually happened
Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 12:35 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

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Yup.  Still here.  Just checked the Internet, and it appears that the Eagles did, in fact, make the playoffs.  Yesterday will be fondly remembered as pretty much the best day to be an Eagles fan since 2004.  Sure, there were some solid moments in 2006, but nothing so singularly glorious as what went down yesterday.

I dunno.  I’m still reeling.

What I’m chewing on this morning (besides bacon):

The last two minutes of the first half.  The end of the first half has been something of a bugaboo for the Birds over the course of this season.  I guess we should have known that this was truly a special day when — instead of having a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown, as has been their style — the Eagles scored 17 points in the final 2:09 of the first half.  Wow.

Guys we couldn’t be happier for, Part 1.  Correll Buckhalter, you’ve hung in there for years and years, and yesterday, you were the guy.  We’ve always enjoyed rooting for Buck, and this was a great Buckhalter game — made plays when he had his chance, made sure he ran north and south, and did it with a big smile.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Guys we couldn’t be happier for, Part 2.  I take back everything I ever said about Dawkins being done (though that was mostly in August/ September).  I liked GCobb’s comments about Dawk: essentially that Dawk’s game yesterday will be featured prominently in his Hall of Fame resume.  Yup.  Keep talking.

Guys we couldn’t be happier for, Part 3.  Sheldon Brown, good for you.  We thought you might have fallen into a pick by accident by this point, but hey, we’re glad you got one before the season was over.

Discussions we’ll no longer entertain.  Don’t want to hear it about Tony Romo.  Nope.  Not a word.  Until he wins any sort of game that matters, we’re not allowed to call him the best quarterback in the division.  He’s the third-best quarterback in the division.  At best.  Sure, the sample size is small, but it sure looks like Tony Romo has failed in every playoff situation he’s faced.  I’ll look forward to his skewering in the national media.

What you saw if you were at the bar with me.  So when Michael Bush broke the long run for the Raiders, the noises I was making might be best described as “uninterested porn star simulating orgasm.”  I was one of about three people watching the Tampa game at that point (in a packed bar); I think folks were a little taken aback.

Other things mentioned at said bar.  “Is that the same Ryan Moats who just scored for Houston?”  Why yes!  I suppose it is!

Better late than never.  I guess we can’t call Chris Clemons a bust signing if he shows up and delivers in the biggest game of the year.

Things we’ve already talked ourselves into.  A wild-card team with a hot defense can actually reach and/ or win the Super Bowl.  Seems to be how it goes down these days.  We get to think that for at least the next six days.  And that’s a glorious thing.

Dunavin talked about his feelings.   You know what, Big Five, you get to crow a little bit after yesterday.  You earned it.  In re: the constant criticism he faces, McNabb gave us the following in his post-game presser:

“We’re human beings, you get tired of it, but you never let them see you sweat. And you never show that it bothers you because you kill them with kindness, and when you kill them with kindness and you go out and you do your job, people understand that it never really affects you.”

Let it out, big fella.  Let it all out.

The return of Shawn Andrews?  So he’s not on IR (still).  Might the Big Kid actually get a look in a playoff game?  Huh.

I remain baffled and giddy regarding yesterday.  Go Birds.

A theory
Posted on December 28th, 2008 at 5:51 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

We focused all week on how the timing of today’s game would likely demotivate the Eagles. What we didn’t think about was that the Cowboys might have assumed that the Birds would quit(!).

That is, they didn’t expect a real game.

Oh boy.

Ummmmmmm, so this is awesome
Posted on December 28th, 2008 at 5:42 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Birds up 24 at halftime?

I’m…at a loss. This is phenomenal.

Eagles - Cowboys Game Preview: immanetize the eschaton
Posted on December 28th, 2008 at 11:32 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Much like Andy Reid and the Eagles, we’re playing this game preview straight.  Now is not the time to fret about playoff scenarios and the likely end of some very very very impressive Eagles’ careers.  Now is the time to focus on the Cowboys game and the last couple days of coverage in the papers.  We’ll have time later (and by “later” we mean “in thirty minutes”) for a lengthy discussion of our sports feelings and the end-of-days scenarios for our favorite players.

What we’re talking about today:

The new kid might also be a choke artist (!).  In what might be a hint of blathermonkey/ fan angst for years to come, we had a volley of DeSean Jackson coverage rounding out the end of the holiday week.  The CamelCased One is certainly primed to be the next star for this team, and as such will need to shoulder a fair amount of heavy scrutiny for the next couple years.  While it’s great to hear that he’s the team’s playmaker (which we’d been pushing for a while) and that Andy Reid expects him to make plays, catch the ball, all that, the thing that’s nagging me about DeSean is that maybe he gets nervous too.  That is, he dropped the ball with the game/ season on the line.  For the franchise whose quarterback famously puked in the Super Bowl, it’s not exactly sweet that the alleged best player on our team for the next few years appears to get nervous at the end of the game.  Not to panic, but I think it’s fair to be be VERY VERY disturbed by this.

Everyone’s favorite Eagle.  Fittingly, L.J. Smith won’t play today (listed as doubtful), in what has to be his final game as an Eagle.  How appropriate!  Topics that merit revisiting after the season: how terrible a decision was it to bring back L.J. Smith?  The cynics amongst us can pin at least two-and-a-half Eagles’ losses indirectly to him (Chicago, both Washington games).  What if a Terminator came back through time and prevented the Eagles from franchising him last year?  Would the Birds have won one more of those games?  Sort of like a retroactive roster abortion?

End of days, Part 1.  So now it looks like conventional wisdom has Dunavin coming back for the Eagles next year.  Sweet.  There.  I said it.  Also, that was about the only thing I got right in this set of mid-season predictions. By the way.  Though I was close on B-West not breaking 900 yards rushing (he’s at 886 right now) and Shawn Andrews not playing another down.

End of Days, Part 2.  So Dawk has to be back next year, no?  He made the Pro Bowl, which is probably partially a lifetime achievement/ he’s a popular guy around the league thing, but still.  He’s at least going to be in camp.    And those bitter, bitter comments from Tra Thomas.  Wow.  I hope he isn’t pissed on his way out.  GREAT Eagle.  Runyan too.  Big sigh.  We’ll have more time for this in the next few weeks.

Speaking of, an offseason of villainy.  Remember the guys who cut Duce Staley and Jeremiah Trotter?  Yeah.  They’re back.  Get ready to turn your hatred on the front office.

This week’s blathertariat non-story.  So the quarterback is telling people he’s played well.  Uh huh.  So maybe his delivery wasn’t perfect, but, um, doesn’t everybody do that?  That is, when you hand in your performance review at work, do you tell everyone you think you sucked?  Didn’t get the kerfuffle here.  What I thought was interesting was how Andy Reid addressed the non-story on Friday:

“He has done very well. I think, statistically, when you look at it, he has done a nice job. The only stat I really care about, however, is that the team plays well. That’s the most important thing right now. I think when and if you take that statement he made out of context, and you really know what Donovan is all about, he’s about the football team. If you finish reading the whole quote, I think he finishes up where I don’t see that as a negative statement.”

So no one asked Andy Reid if he thought Dunavin’s self-assessment was negative.  But Reid’s answer indicates that he realizes how the comment was chewed up and digested by the media, to the point that he suggests that it may have been taken out of context (”If you finish reading he whole quote…”).  So Andy Reid realizes that the press are trying to make a story out of this, but he won’t say that outright, though he still will give the politically correct answer.  Eerie.  The Birds’ media team definitely prep him for these things.  Or (most disturbingly), he reads it himself.  Reason number 467 that the Philly media is a lot of work to deal with (also why we love said media).

Speaking of, it’s been a long year for the press too.  Went through the game previews this morning.  That’s just some cold shit from Les Bowen right there:

Let’s say everything the Eagles need to happen earlier in the day happens. Are they then going to beat a divisional foe to close the deal? What’s their record in the division again (1-4)? Their coach thinks he could have run it “a few more times” after abandoning the balance that brought him a three-game win streak, calling pass plays, disastrously, 16 times in a row in the second half last week. The quarterback who can’t quite produce a game-winning drive when the chips are down thinks he’s had a “great” year and would just like to mention, with the season on the line, that he could use a new contract.

Bah, humbug.

Yikes.  These people all need a vacation from each other.

My own prediction.  Since it’s my blog and this might be the last Eagles game for a while, I’m treating myself to the twin fantasies of (a) the game actually mattering and (b) the Eagles playing well.  We’ll pretend that the Cowboys aren’t the Eagles’ superiors on both sides of the line and that the Birds haven’t been atrocious within the division this year.  Instead we’ll focus on Tony Romo struggling this time of year and imagine that the Eagles will make a couple big plays on special teams (hey, why not).  Birds prove that they aren’t just last year’s 8-8 team (or even 8-7-1) with a better punt returner: Eagles 27, Cowboys 23.

(Immanetize the eschaton definition link, in case you were wondering.)

Joe Banner defends non-moves, disses Cowboys
Posted on October 20th, 2008 at 2:59 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

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Pretty standard fare on offer in today’s state-of-the-team address from Eagles president Joe Banner.  The obvious driver for the appearance was the recently passed trade deadline, and the Eagles’ lack of moves thereabouts.  I suspect that Mr. Banner was interested in offering the organization’s marketing message directly to the customers in re: said customers’ ongoing perceptions that the Eagles aren’t aggressive enough on deals.  Otherwise, why would he bother?  He’s actually in charge down there; the NFL doesn’t mandate that he speak to the fans — this is all him.   

As a result, we got the standard volley of cliches (”We think we’re always aggressive”), and insistence that the Eagles are always trying to improve the team, though not in a reckless manner (”If ‘going for it” means we do something stupid, then I hope no”).  Good on Spuds for trying to sniff out who might be in line for an extension: the young DTs, the maligned tight end, the veteran free safety, who?  Banner of course gave him nothing, which was a bit of a disappointment.  I wish I had more of an understanding of how the Eagles’ front office views the potential unraveling of the CBA?  Peter King (I can’t believe I’m typing this) actually had a very good take on the Cowboys’ view on this matter in his column this week.   

If there was anything juicy in Banner’s interview, it was his take on the Cowboys.  While he admitted that he roots for all the teams in the division (and conference) to lose, he had some special words for the Cowboys’ loss to the Rams, damning with faint praise by explaining that he doesn’t “know what’s going on with the Cowboys, but they’re very talented.”  And when asked about the Roy Williams trade, he was a bit more candid: 

“They paid a lot….I wouldn’t pay that much for a player like that….I remember that they traded two first-round picks for Joey Galloway, and they haven’t won a playoff game in 12 years.”

Look at that!  Joe Banner talking smack about no-playoff-wins-since-1996!  Is he secretly posting on message boards as well? 

Like Christmas morning for Eagles fans fond of the damaged joy
Posted on October 14th, 2008 at 2:51 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

So not only did the Giants lose, but Greg Ellis sounded off about the Cowboys’ coaches AND Pacman Jones got suspended

Let’s enjoy it.  Take a week off, heal up, and take pleasure in the failures and misfortunes of others.  We’ve certainly had our share. 

(The Germans call it Schaudenfreude, and it translates literally as “damaged joy.”)

Regression toward the mean continues
Posted on October 13th, 2008 at 3:13 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

What’s that?  A Pro Bowl quarterback won’t be making sixteen starts?  And it might mean some tough times ahead for the erstwhile division leaders? 

It’s the NFL.  Randomly unexpected things happen every week, so much so that we should not be surprised when they do.  (This is also what makes it such an excellent TV show.)

On said topic, I might also recommend Fooled By Randomness; mostly it explains that anyone who thinks they’ve got a secret to predicting things is probably extremely full of poop.

Birds fall to Cowboys in a close one, deny me decent night of sleep
Posted on September 16th, 2008 at 8:46 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

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I wish I could pretend that I didn’t watch this one pretty much live. I really do. This was going to be a real turning point for me, maturity wise. I would be able to wait and watch it at a normal hour like a regular human being.

Yeah, not so much.

In retrospect, I think the problem was that I wasn’t completely asleep at kickoff. I needed to be unconscious when it started, otherwise I was going to get sucked into it and end up watching the whole freakin thing, compromising the better part of a night of sleep in the process. Of course, it didn’t help my cause that the game was ridiculously exciting. Sigh. I’ll just be paying for it all day. Should be a hoot!

My takeaways:

McNabb dusted off his mask and cape. For a guy who claimed his days of 14-second scrambles were behind him, it sure did look like Donovan McNabb wasn’t above the occasional superhero stunt last night. It wasn’t just the brave scrambling within the pocket, it was his willingness to absorb some pretty vicious shots (especially that scramble inside the Cowboys’ 10 near the end of the first half) that was most impressive. Sure seemed like this was a veteran guy making it clear that he was playing for keeps last night. Also, aren’t we Philly fans supposed to respond to that gritty “leave it all on the field” stuff? Or will we nitpick because it’s Dunavin?

Speaking of masks and capes. I know we already knew this, but that DeMarcus Ware – yikes! I wish the Eagles had one of those. That he still had the motor to bring McNabb down on that third-down play at the end of the game was keenly impressive. That’s the kind of dude/ play that wins games.

The Big Kid was already looking forward to that turkey burger. Obviously it has to hurt the team to lose a player like Shawn Andrews, especially against a defensive front like the Cowboys have. But the unaided eye certainly must have noticed a couple whiffs from Andrews early in the game. I don’t think the tape is going to be very kind on that front.

Tell the whipping boy that his flogging post is ready. On a night where the secondary seemed to underperform across the board, Sean Considine looked especially useless – not just in coverage but on the second long kick return as well. I guess it doesn’t help that the Eagles weren’t getting much of a pass rush put together, but I thought the Eagles had three starting cornerbacks? I thought one of them might be able to cover that fellow, what’s his name, rather spirited young man, what is it again? Also, was Romo even looking for the other Dallas wideouts?

The broader point in re: the above. The defense looked pretty vulnerable last night. They didn’t get to Romo at all, to the point of frustration, because every time they did bring a little pressure, Romo seemed to falter a bit. Sitting back in coverage was not the answer in the passing game. File that away for December.

It was the facemask we didn’t see. Apart from the Cowboys’ efforts to twist Brian Westbrook’s head clean off (some of which were called, some of which weren’t), did ESPN ever show a replay of the apparent facemask on Asante Samuel on his runback after the pick? Or was there no time for that amidst all the blathering from the booth?

Speaking of blathering. I’m a longtime PTI fanboy, but Kornheiser was especially awful in the booth last night. As the game went on, he went from extraneous to intrusive to downright irritating. It’s nice having Jaws in there, but even that was tempered by a limit to my passion for discussions of quarterback mechanics…in the National Football League.

And one last thing. The hook and ladder and ladder? Seriously? The Birds don’t have any 20-yard plays? What happened to that 4th-and-26 fighting spirit?

I’m shocked that I’m not more bummed out this morning. I was bummed last night, but beyond my dream of an undefeated season, the long-term damage from last night feels minimal. Mostly I’m more convinced than I was the week before that the Birds can be pretty legit this year.

And that’s not so bad.



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