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).

So how bad was Tavaris Jackson? Bad, but not alone.
Posted on January 8th, 2009 at 3:16 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

The prevailing wisdom amongst the national blogerati is that the Vikings lost to the Eagles because of the poor quarterback play of Tavaris Jackson.  Since the “woefully inept” Jackson couldn’t get it done against the Birds, the Vikings will need to kick him to the curb and think about starting someone else next September.

The flip side of this argument is that the Eagles’ victory Sunday is somehow cheapened because they only beat Tavaris Jackson, who surely isn’t a competent NFL quarterback, and that things will change significantly against the Giants.

Things may change significantly against the Giants, and Jackson wasn’t very good against the Eagles.  But, how bad was he?  Was his performance all about his badness, or might it have something to do with the relative goodness of the Eagles’ pass defense?

Some quick stats on Tavaris reveals this was definitely a bad game for him, especially in the context of how well he’d been playing over the past month:

tavarisstats1.jpg

So yeah, it was pretty terrible out there for Tavaris on Sunday.  He’d faced playoff teams the three previous weeks (all “trying” at different levels, but still, this is the NFL, and Tampa can lose to Oakland as a 13.5-point favorite), and had played well against each.  But against the Birds he was awful: a passer rating that was nearly half his previous worst effort, and a horrifying 4.69 yards per attempt.

Still, as bad as Tavaris might have been against the Eagles, maybe the problem wasn’t Tavaris himself.  Maybe the problem was the opponent he was facing.  Check out the stats for Jackson versus the previous five QBs to play the Birds:

eaglespassdstats1.jpg

So yeah, it still doesn’t look pretty, especially if we discount the Ken Dorsey row.  But it’s not like anyone has played well against the Eagles’ pass defense in the past six weeks.  Eli managed the best rating of the bunch, at 73.5 — and most of that came against the clock-killing prevent defense from the Birds.  Also note that two of those guys (Eli and Kurt Warner) made the Pro Bowl.

The big takeaway is that Tavaris shouldn’t feel too too badly about his performance on Sunday, if only because he wasn’t alone in struggling against what is a very stout Eagles defense.  And for those who view the Eagles’ victory against the Vikings as somehow empty because of Jackson’s lousy play/ woeful ineptitude, well, turns out that the Birds probably had a lot to do with Jackson’s performance.  Both Tavaris and the Eagles defense are probably a bit better than what they’re getting credit for.

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.)

People of Minneapolis, you disgust me
Posted on December 31st, 2008 at 1:18 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Tickets are still available?  11,000?  And now you’re petitioning the League for an extension on the blackout deadline?

It’s an NFL Playoff game.  This is high-end entertainment.  There are eleven (11) of these each year.  I went to two in Seattle even though I didn’t care about the Nerdbirds.  And it’s not even like it’s expensive: $35 gets you a seat in the upper level, and $110 gets you a lower bowl ticket.

For shame.  For shame.

Andy Reid can have thirds tonight (since he’s looking so dangerously undernourished)
Posted on October 28th, 2007 at 4:08 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

andy reid is about three brad childdresses

Good guys win today (complete with a heartfelt manhug for Andy Reid and Brad Childress), improving this week’s storyline from “Cowboys and Birds headed in opposite directions as T.O. comes to town” to “Eagles can play their way back into contention with win over Dallas.” I’ll take that.

What I saw from my stool at the bar:

1. You can’t complain about the WRs not making plays this week. The blathermonkeys were mean to the WRs (”Birds’ receivers aren’t good enough“) this week, and the WRs played well — we can only hope in response to this criticism!  Screw you, Phil Sheridan!  You won’t have Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis to kick around anymore!  They actually have the Curtis catch up on nfl.comget it while it lasts!

2. I’m sick of rationalizing Trent Cole’s success by saying that he’s just a pass rusher. He’s on a very short list of playmakers on the Eagles defense, and he seems to be the most emotional/ intense guy out there (which is important since there’s no more Trotter or Dawkins). There should be more Trent Cole shirts in the stands.  I’ll show my appreciation by adding his name to my tag cloud.  Yup, the tag cloud.  That’s how we roll here in Web 2.0.

(Read the rest of this story.)