Monday, January 05, 2009

Philadelphia Manages A Win

Philadelphia managed to win a road play-off game by two scores yesterday evening.

Now, I choose the word manage deliberately. But before I complain and carp, I concede that winning a play-off road game by the aforementioned two scores is pretty darn good.

Now, that being acknowledged, that offensive effort will get the Eagles blown out of Giants Stadium this weekend by multiple scores: two turnovers from the quarterback, quarters of offensive ennui that only the Eagles can generate.

The defense played fine. Minnesota played the game predicted here. The Vikes rushed for a gaudy 150 yards- but as always happens against a quality defensive team, they were unable to turn that rushing total into points north of 17. he Vikings spent most of the day manfully struggling to score fourteen points and stay in contact with the Eagles.

Unfortunately, the Eagles spent most of the week listening to talk radio about establishing and staying with the run- despite the fact they don’t run the ball well and Minnesota, if nothing else, really clamps down on the run. So the Eagles wasted some two dozen snaps watching Westbrook get stuffed- and hobbling themsleves deliberately.

For three plus quarters the Eagles persisted with this nonsense- sentencing themselves to the same “17 points and under” day Minnesota sough to achieve. On offense, the Eagles scored 19 points- but really, six of those were the result of a giant punt return and the ball turned over on downs late. The Eagles kicked a lot of field goals because that was running the football is all about- needing to run a dozen plays successfully to score, failing once, having to kick.

There were some other issues too. In retrospect, Minnesota's good defensive line that was designed to exploit some problems the Eagles have there. In the absence of Shawn Andrews, you can bully their interior guys- and Minnesota DTs had good push all day. Also, the Eagles tackles are increasingly slow- and Minnesota’s edge ushers really tortured them- particularly with the tight end Celek being used frequently as a receiver rather than help.

Both teams exchanged this languor for fifty minutes- until the Eagles used a forward pass to Westbrook- the kind sportswriters hate- to clinch the game. The other two huge plays of the second half, where the Eagles gained first downs from inside their ten to flip field position, were also the result of the forward pass- poignantly after the run failed!

To their credit, Philadelphia showed that sort of professionalism they normally do on the road. Outside of McNabb’s turnovers- and only one was horrid and potentially harmful- they played an errorless game. Peterson had a big run- but the guy is great, he’s allowed to make plays.

People rant about Reid can’t coach… but how about, say, the Eagles special teams yesterday? They made all their kicks. They covered all returns. The only penalty was a sham. They got a giant return from Jackson. Or how about that screen pass to that ended the game- all those guys blocking 40 yards down field? They might run that play fifty times this year- and only once or twoce do we notice whether the guys downfield actually make blocks. Not surprisingly, there they were, not loafing, putting hats on guys. Add in zero turnovers from wideouts and running backs and returnees. All of this is coaching too.

That is why Philadelphia is a tough road out. Be it the Giants and Saints two years ago, or Minnesota yesterday, they put a tight, well coached product out there- and force the other team to make play after play after play without error too.

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