Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Giants @ Eagles Wrap Up

You know how we all, during the season, carefully look at the schedule and put little “W’s” and “L’s” next to all the games. Well, this morning there are undoubtedly a lot of people sensibly scribing a little “L” next to the line for Philadelphia.

Oh my. Arriving at the Linc near 6PM, missing the first half at the beautiful C___n wedding (congratulations all!), I have also been studying the tape. That was pretty scary, wasn’t it? I still don’t think the Giants are that bad a team- and really they did not play that badly. New York ran the ball pretty well and Warner was more than okay. Their secondary is terrible right now- but they generated a pass rush upfront. Nevertheless, for a fifty minute span there, they weren’t even in Philly’s league.

The keys to the Eagles’ long term success are three criteria: the quarterback, a constant talent infusion to off-set losses due to the salary cap, and a certain consistency in approach. All three were on glorious display yesterday.

Everyone knows I enlisted in the glorious Donovan Army years ago. He was, frankly, awesome yesterday. The Giants were, in all probability, always going to be in big trouble Sunday- but when McNabb hangs 26-36, 330 yards, four touchdowns- and altogether now!- zero turnovers (yet again)- a small chance rapidly became no chance. He’s never going to be the most “accurate thrower”- but he is point-producing machine producing seemingly endless big plays with no corresponding turnovers. The jaw-dropping second TD pass to TO- seriously, not five guys in the history of the NFL can make that play.

TO is a self-aggrandizing crazy person- but he is a real, real good professional player. This morning, he is on pace to catch a shade fewer than 50 TDs. His performance galvanized the Linc, flapping his new "wings" after each sore, almost as much as the return of Trotter and Douglas. Wasn't their fourth quarter close up touching? You could almost read the joy in Trotter's & Douglas' faces- as they remembered what it felt like to play in front of adoring, yet demanding, fans. Trotter particularly seemed genuinely moved- not only by watching his quarterback make plays for once, but also that the defense did not quit totally at any point. Westbrook was also scary good. The Eagles really are going to make a serious run at scoring 420-440 points this year- a staggering figure for an outdoors, eastern team.

The Eagles’ defense is clearly not the lock-down outfit it was two-three years ago- the departure of talent here is most glaring. Yet again, they give up some meaningless rushing yards- and Warner had a okay-plus day. However, the Giants only scored ten points until a garbage time score with 2 minutes to go. The Giants really only had 275 yards of offense- before they surrendered with Manning entering the game.

But rushing the football really does not matter so much in today’s NFL- other than protecting a lead late. The Eagles were terrible against the run last year- but only one team in the NFC allowed fewer points. The Patriots were the best team in football- and couldn't run it a lick last year. It frankly just doesn’t matter that much. Unless you can resultantly produce big plays with the passing game as part of your offensive attack- rushing the football is the singularly most overrated part of the professional game. There were a lot of teams in the NFL on Sunday with big rushing days and suspect quarterbacking struggled to score- i.e. the Giants. Portis ran for a bunch in Washington- and the ‘skins scored a whopping 16. The Rams and Titans both had almost 200 yards rushing- and both scored 17 points. And so on. You watch, the Eagles will be 28th against the run- and fifth in points allowed.

Accordingly, the Eagles take the pass away and almost ignore the run- playing six-seven guys in the box. Does anyone play their safeties deeper? Just play those safeties back, protect our young corners, and count on the finally healthy defensive line to stop the run every other time and rush the passer. The DL got great pressure all day- and put a pair of genuinely brutal hits on both Warner and Manning (was that scary or what?). Hugh Douglas is on a pace to have 24 sacks.

All in all an encouraging opening weekend- all you ask for (Tulane wins! Notre Dame wins!). Coupled with the pretty lackluster performances of the rest of the division- I still see no reason the Eagles don’t win the East by three games.