Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Surprisingly Warm and Comforting Mist

I spent last night in the surprisingly warm and comforting mist at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. As a collective, we patiently watched the Eagles pound the representative of what passes for professional football in Cleveland these days. And, at the end, I sort of threw my hands up at it.

Sure, the 30-10 win moves the Eagles record in absolutely cannot lose games as two touchdown favorites to an increasingly encouraging 1-0-1. But, in your own building, just about everyone should carry the play against a packed it in, busted outfit like Cleveland. And yes, the Eagles did. But, as the Philadelphia Daily News alludes, just how much credit do you give a team for making the opponent’s third string quarterback look like, say, the fourth string quarterback?

Observation: The local media’s fetish with running the football is unreal right now in Philadelphia. Jeez’em crow people. Look, I have no problem with running the football well as opposed to be poorly. Still, last night was an absolute testament to the nature of winning when trying to commit to a rushing, plus passing style ball control, attack.

Despite being horrid, Cleveland was able to hang around into the second half due to inane Philadelphia turnovers and this commitment to possess the ball. Everything the Browns wanted to do in the first half was helped along by the Eagles’ approach: score kept down, clock kept moving, total possessions minimized- check, check, and check.

Even the turnovers were part and parcel of the running game. It can take 4-5 red zone snaps, executed properly, to score in the red zone when you run the ball a lot. I mean, it is an approach- but the more snaps and plays you gotta run to score, the more things that can go wrong. Part of playing smart pro football is minimizing the number of plays you take to do things. This isn’t college- the world of the ten-twelve play drive. This in the NFL- and it is so very darn hard to run ten plays in a row correctly. Even the Browns have good pros in places over there- and over a dozen snaps one of them is going to inopportunely blow something up.

Plus, it is just hard to score the multiple touchdowns required to generate separation from a bad team when you are running the ball well. You can definitely run the ball well for an entire game- and be rewarded with 17 or so points for your efforts. When you are 10-17 points better, you want to maximize your possessions, not milk the clock. It is in Cleveland’s interest to play the keep the score down, create a who makes the bad mistake? sort of outcome. Playing safe, conservative, helps the bad team, not the good one. Phil Sheridan gives Cleveland poor level of play too much credit. It was the Eagles purposely chose to play a tight, low scoring affair where a single counter big play could erase twenty-thirty minutes of good play. The Eagles need more slinging in this spot, more points, more tempo- not less.