Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Vikes @ Eagles Wrap Up

Sometimes in life you can overanalyze stuff- particularly important things like, say, your own children or even, perhaps, professional football. So in its simplest state: While there are no doubt trials and tribulations ahead, right now the Philadelphia Eagles are a good football team playing pretty darn well.

By no means was the Eagles’ A-game on display at America’s favorite glittering jewel: Lincoln Financial Field.* But they still demolished a pretty good Vikings outfit by two scores, played ahead by multiple scores for most of the game and never were in a position where Minnesota had the ball with a chance to tie or win from the second quarter on. This is very similar to the sort of predicament the Huskies face Saturday in South Bend.

You can’t expect teams to “bring it” emotionally week after week in the NFL- and both Minnesota and Philadelphia are franchises that know the NFL is not about Monday night in September. But the Eagles are a real challenge in this sort of environment- as the Patriots are the only other team in football that brings a competent, professional effort Sunday after Sunday regardless of circumstances like Philadelphia does.

For example, have you noticed Philadelphia seemingly doesn’t commit penalties anymore? When was the last time the Eagles were called for a penalty that hurt them? The OL is never off-sides. Or holds. The defense played an entire game against Minnesota(!), who dropped back to pass in excess of 55 times, and did not take a single penalty against the defensive backs? In today’s NFL? When was the last dumb personal foul? Every single kick is covered- I can’t remember the last kick off run back they allowed past the fifty. Or the last time we had a return come back due to a clip. By the way, you can see why our kick returner, JR Reed, led the NCAA in kick-off returns last year. It is scary how good he is running in space. An outright steal in the fourth round.

Of course, the QB has clearly taken a huge step forward in his play. Another 19/28, 240 yards, throw for two scores, run for another (just an unbelievable play). I am not reporting his interceptions anymore for fear of jinxing him- but you all know the magic number. It rhymes with “hero”. Can you even imagine him coughing it up on the one-yard line like Culpepper? Please. And his TD run- watch him “sense” the defensive lineman just behind him….

TO! On pace still to catch over thirty touchdowns! The Freak! I know it is a long season, and I know he’s got to stay healthy, but he is unbelievable. First guy I’ve seen since Reggie White that is literally un-blockable at times. And Westbrook had his traditional 150 yards of offense on 15 or so touches.

The defense let up a lot of yards- but they were on the field all the time- and still held the Vikings to one “almost meaningless” touchdown and some field goals. The defensive backs weren’t asked to do much (if you can ever say that about playing Randy Moss and pals)- just keep play in front of them- and they did a commendable job. Even had a big sack. I thought the linebackers quietly had the best game they’ve had in forever. Minnesota couldn’t run it a lick- thirty something yards?- the first time in like forever you could say that. They tackled brilliantly on the endless underneath stuff- did they miss any? And they made the defensive play of the game forcing the Culpepper fumble on that scary, brutal hit. The Eagles have really, really punished QBs this year- I wouldn’t be surprised if they “cart” a few this year. Some happy thoughts: Brunell, hobbling pitifully away from the Freak. Ramsey crumpled, just blown up, from the blind-side by Trotter- the ball skidding away. Tim Hasselbeck’s eyes wide in fear- audibling to yet another “run”. Gibbs better prep his “emergency QB”. Yo! Joe! You could probably get Blake for a “two”.

The schedule takes a curious turn the next couple weeks- as the Eagles head out on the road. A short week, coupled with Detroit’s nice start, make this Sunday an interesting affair- particularly since this is probably the Lions’ most important game in about ten years. Then travel to the up-start Bears and Chicago. I think the Bears are terrible- for example I know Rex Grossman is horrible- but still…. The Eagles last seven games are shaping up pretty easy (lots of division games against what appears to be a particularly sorry lot)- so this next stretch of four-five games is probably the hardest of the season.

*Did you hear Al Michael’s lavishing praising Philadelphia fans- saying he “loved” us for “understanding every nuance” despite astonishing levels of intoxication?