Monday, January 12, 2009

Glory & Vindication

One can overanalyze the Eagles satisfying smackdown of their division rivals. The New York Giants had been on a fine run. They achieved passing greatness. But their brief, very distressing, one year interregnum of the Eagles’ decade long dominance of NFC East is over.

Philadelphia has handled them twice in five weeks. A Giants’ garbage-time touchdown aside, Philadelphia kept the New York from scoring offensive touchdowns over eight quarters, won both games by multiple scores and won both on the road. Before one trashes Gilbride or Eli, it must be acknowledged the Eagles are simply better right now.

Right now, it isn’t any longer a question of a play here or a decision there. I came into the game thinking any game between these teams would be toss up. That was wrong. Given good offensive line play, an outstanding running attack and an all-pro wide out, Eli is a productive player. Otherwise, notsomuch. At the same time, I can see how the Eagles can enjoy consistent, albeit modest, success against the Giants quality defense.

The Giants offense has real issues with perimeter skill players. To that end, the game was a microcosm of my problem with rushing the football too much. The Giants ran it great, right? But unlike college, unless you can throw the ball effectively to skill people who can function on the perimeter, it is hard to turn rushing yards into touchdowns. That twelve play, heavy on the rushing offense, is a hard thing to work at the pro level. Running twelve good plays in a row against a quality defense is probably impossible. The Eagles or Ravens or Giants or Steelers figure to stop your team once in twelve plays on 3rd and three, or on 1st and 10- creating a tricky down and distance for a run-first team.

Further, the Eagles played really horrid on offense for 28 minutes- wasting snaps in a futile attempt to get the ground attack going. Fortunately for all denizens of Philadelphia, the two minute offense surfaced, forcing the Eagles to throw- and moving snaps wasted in the futile running game to a place where they could be somewhat productive: McNabb. Consequently, the Eagles scored 23 points, scored two TDs in the red zone, probably would have gotten a third if not for half time. McNabb flipped field position with the passing game (3rd and 20 conversion for one thing) and put them in position to kick a couple of field goals.

Frankly, the Eagles just didn’t need to do much right, run say three good plays in six, to getfield position, get themselves a chance for a field goal and play red zone football. Playing a very good defense in bad conditions, you want to minimize the requirements for success- and even the Eagles can run three in six plays correctly and to standard. Anecdotally, I bet the Eagles and Giants ran something like the same percentage of successful plays- plays that achieved what they were designed to do- but the Eagles had a higher number of plays, due to throwing the football with verve and design, that could gobble chunks of yardage.