Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh When the Saints.... Score and Score and Score

At least it was a nice day.

It was a hypnagogic day at the Linc- a vexing vibe. On the surface, it was a tale of two halves. How many times have the Eagles gotten blown out, yet exited the field at the half to a rousing ovation? The young back-up quarterback, after gustily navigating the first thirty minutes, had marched his team right down the field in the two-minute drill for a late field goal- cutting the margin to a mere four points. Then the second half: Ellis Hobbs’ fumbles the second half kick-off, and a survivable one score game became a tricky two score game. The defense took the opportunity to promptly fold its cards- making us all miss the Brian Dawkins’ iron will for the official first time.

But it also had this weird, exhibition-style game feel to it. In 2007 and 2008, the Eagles began to have this early season “protect the roster for the haul” approach- as if the season doesn’t begin until after the bye week. Worse, since Philadelphia resolutely doesn’t do or show anything in the pre-season games, a lot of prep work and experimentation bleeds over to the first month. So, as in the past two years’ September tilts, right before game time, the Eagles scratched or de-activated a bunch of players. Then the unknowable back-up quarterback played; Westbrook’s touches were managed. After the game was well over competitively, Kolb and the first unit were out there pitching and catching, as if this was all was an excuse to get this o-line some work and Kolb some seasoning.

The unorthodox game plan was fun- but again, it also smacked both of a lack of belief the Eagles could score 21 straight up and a vague desire to get some use from McNabb’s absence “to work on things” (i.e. the “Wildcat”). The lack of confidence seemed to hang out there- Bill Bergey on the post game said it didn’t feel like the offense came to play NFL-style football. As a C-USA observers, we know about this. We see it when Tulane plays second tier BCS teams- a desire to score by being unusual to prepare for and getting a gimmick or two to break the right way. This hopeful approach- try to trick our way to three TDs and play to zero mistakes- unraveled when the special teams began to make brutal mistakes. Fortuna- you capricious sprite! And the horrid six minute return mid-game meltdown (penalties and turnovers) became an excuse to for the defense to just go home.

So, the loss stinks. Fortunately, Kolb did enough in his first start to warrant not playing Garcia next week (thus not wasting precious development time under center- the Eagles gain nothing from playing Garcia except surviving another week, playing Kolb turns those snaps into concrete evaluation and hopefully, improvements). I’m not going crazy- those gaudy yardage was piled up late- but not cynical either (two interceptions were in garbage time forcing balls Kolb would never throw in a real game). Bottom line: he completed a ton of balls, looked like he could belong. I want to see him again.

Look, it was a bad scene- no denying that. But right now, New Orleans is genuine good- and their “A”- game is gonna wreak havoc on a lot of teams having a bad day, trying to break in a new quarterback, unable to match their firepower. Long way to January: we know the Eagles seemingly can mange season after season to get there, we’ll see about the Saints.