Monday, October 03, 2005

The Shame of Arrowhead

After watching Tulane wobble all over the place Saturday, it was comforting to settle down and watch the Philadelphia Eagles inflict about twenty minutes of utter hell on the now thoroughly broken Kansas City Chiefs. Outside of Washington, how often do you see the home fans literally bail out on their football team with ten minutes left? These Arrowhead folks are the “best fans” in football? Anyone who wrote that needs to screw his courage to the sticking place- and come sit with me in Section 204 for a little bit.

The glorious Jeffrey Lurie pulled no punches- as this Les Bown article indicates.

The red sea of fans parted. They had howled and chanted and rocked Arrowhead Stadium while their team ran up leads of 17-0 and 24-6. Now they were quietly heading for the parking lots. Big splotches of orange - the color most of the seats are painted - bloomed on the steep red canyon walls surrounding the field.

That was the part that astounded Lurie, after he got over being astonished by the comeback. "Philadelphia, Boston, New York - that would never happen in an East Coast city,'' Lurie said.

Churlishly, one might note an east-coast city Lurie pointedly left out.

Yesterday was an example of a great team having a bad quarter. The Chiefs also came out motivated- as teams tend to do back at home after having been embarrassed the week before. The Eagles took about a quarter to figure out the Kansas City offense- and the Chiefs didn’t get even close to a sniff until garbage time. Killer problems for most clubs: fumbling kick-offs, kick-offs returned for scores, missing an extra point and a blocked field goal- just got swept under the rug. (Editor’s Note: the kicker rallied nicely- made three big kicks, on the road, in the second half. But the Eagles really do need to look at the return situation- these current guys simple won’t do in the realm of excellence Reid demands.)

Down 24-6, the defense picked them off the deck- “the Freak” forced a key turnover. And then the celebrated Donovan and TO show began.

Magnificent Donovan! Splendid TO!

Stupidly, the Eagles are getting roasted for not running the ball. That is to say, no one is complaining they can’t run it, but rather they simply don’t. They are the football equivliant of Democrats: Philadelphia is pro-choice when it comes to rushing- and they candidly choose not to.

I understand all this stuff about establishing balance and protecting the quarterback. It is not nonsense. But for three games in a row, the Eagles offense is literally throwing at will. #5 was the NFC Player of the Month- and followed that up yesterday with 33-for-48, 369 yards, 3 TDs and a meaningless pick. TO had 11 grabs for 171 and a score.

So, other than the health issue- which is significant- just how do you justify transferring snaps out of McNabb’s hands right now? From a pure football standpoint, does anyone think reinstating ten-twelve more rushes, versus passes, would equal more points? And you know, at this point of the season, you got to game plan to win Sunday- not preserve and protect the force. Last year was aberration, the Eagles right now ain’t four games up and cruising.

They might be in November- the Giants exposed, the Cowboys crushed, the Redskins exposed & crushed- but that is just the point. The best way to protect the veterans, the wounded, and the potentially fragile- McNabb, TO, Kearse, Akers, Westbrook- is to render the last game or two of the season meaningless rather than desperate. That means win now.

The brutal part of the schedule is these first seven games. The last nine feature division games (where they’ll win four of five) and non-divisional teams that won’t make the play-offs. They’ll be time then to run it- when the weather gets chancy, the division is more secure.

Also, quietly- the offense line has played, well, pretty outstanding three weeks in a row. It isn't like the Atlanta game- where Donovan was getting blasted snap after snap. The two tackles have rediscovered their pride. I know I am gushing- but inserting Andrews in the middle, now that he is in shape, with two training camps under his belt, has been wonderous. Seriously, he might make the pro-Bowl. What other young guard- soon to be tackle- is in his league?

Plus, wasn’t it just a month ago we were all screaming “get the ball out of Westbrook’s hands and preserve him for December”. It is an ill-wind that doesn’t blow some good, right? Westbrook is going to have to earn his carries at the expense of McNabb’s golden arm.