Wednesday, December 29, 2010


There's no other word for that inexcusable performance last night, a 24-14 loss to the Vikings. It was the Eagles first loss by double digit points this season, and it came at home, in December, to a 4-10 team.


There are plenty of goats after a game like that, so I can't call them all out, but here's a few of the biggest:

  • Mike Vick - Looking suspiciously like Vick 1.0, he was careless with the ball, missed wide-open receivers, and ran at the first sign of pressure. One of his greatest strengths earlier in the year was his ability to make the first rusher miss, step up in the pocket, and deliver a strike. Instead, he pulled the ball down and tried to take off.
  • Andy Reid - As usual, Reid was steadfast in his attempt to get Vick killed. Not even four big hits on the first five plays could convince Big Red to put the ball in McCoy's capable hands. And even though the Vikings blitzed on nearly every defensive snap, the Eagles never countered it with standard blitz-beating strategies like quick slants and screens. It was deep drop after deep drop, with five- or six-man protection, and no amount of failure was going to convince him that his pre-game plan was wrong.
  • Sean McDermott - The offense was so bad, it's easy to overlook the putrid performance of the defense, but I'm not about to let it slide. For all of Collinsworth's effusive praise about rookie Joe Webb, he didn't throw to the second receiver in his progression one time the entire night. Against a one-read-and-run QB, which Joe Webb is, and most young althetic QBs are, you play a zone defense. This forces him to scan the field patiently, and gives your defenders a chance to read his eyes. Webb didn't look off a safety once, he stared down his primary receiver on every single throw...but it wasn't a problem since the Eagles' safeties were blitzing anyway, leaving one-on-one matchups behind them. On the third-and-11 play which broke the Eagles' backs, the Eagles blitzed two DBs. Percy Harvin, one of the fastest and most elusive players in the NFL, was covered one-on-one by seventh-round rookie linebacker Jamar Chaney. Sure, Webb made a nice throw...but any QB in the NFL should be able to make a one-read throw to a WR in mismatched single coverage down the middle of the field. McDermott made it easy for Webb all night, by getting cute and overblitzing when base defense would have won the game handily.
  • DeSean Jackson - On two of Vick's accurate throws, which were few and far between anyway, Jackson made no attempt to come back to the ball. Both times a defender behind Jackson closed faster than the receiver, who was simply standing still, and broke up the pass. I challenge you to find one play in Jerry Rice's career where he allowed a defender behind him to beat him to the ball. Jackson's an interesting case, as his rookie contract comes to an end, because he has game-breaking talent and clearly changes games. But he's not giving 100% on each play, and routinely pouts when the ball isn't coming his way. He's not on the diva level of T.O. or Ochocinco, but $30 million in his pocket wouldn't figure to improve his motivation.

The good news, if there is any, is that the Eagles earned a bye last night. With the #3 seed now locked up, and no possibility of movement in either direction, expect Kevin Kolb and a cast of misfits to stumble around the field on Sunday. That will give Vick, Samuel, and the host of hobbling Eagles an extra five days' rest before their first-round matchup against the Packers or the Giants.

Monday, December 20, 2010


I don't want to take anything away from the Eagles' historic victory in New York yesterday, but I can't let Andy Reid, and the officials, off the hook completely.

Third-and-eleven in the first quarter, Manning throws to Hakeem Nicks, who uses the ground to help secure a catch. The replay from Fox showed it clearly wasn't a catch. Unbiased observer Peter King agreed. But no challenge from Andy Reid, and the drive ends with seven points for the Giants.

The DeSean Jackson 'fumble' at the end of the third quarter - replay again showed he was clearly touched down, and it should have been challenged and reversed. The red flag stayed in Reid's pocket, so instead of first down at midfield for the Eagles, the Giants get the ball and score. Another seven points flushed away by Big Red, and possibly could have been a 14-point swing if the Eagles finish the drive.

Those are on Reid, because he had the power to challenge and didn't...but it's the refs who are blowing the calls initially. And neither of those was worse than the Maclin 'fumble' at the end of the first half. It looked like a clear incompletion to me, especially if you're judging it by this standard. Fox brought in Mike Perreria, the former head of officials for the NFL - as qualified and unbiased an observer as you'll find - and he said the pass should be ruled incomplete. And yet, the referee emerged from the replay booth and said the call of catch/fumble was confirmed by the video. The Giants scored on the next play. Seven more points.

Did the Eagles defense do a good enough job? No, of course not. There's no excuse for letting Eli Manning light you up for 31 points, but 21 of those points were the direct result of bad calls - not the normal homer-whining bad calls that happen in every game, but nationally-recognized headscratchers, fourteen of which could have been rectified by Andy Reid's little red flag.

I couldn't be happier about the victory - I won't forget about that punt return, and singing the Eagles fight song with my kids afterward for decades - but we can't afford boneheaded decisions every week, especially in the playoffs. I don't even need to be on the sidelines - if Andy would have just conferenced me in for the game, the Giants would have scored 14 fewer points, because I was screaming for the challenge flag on those two plays (and only those two plays) well before the next play was run.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Game This Week

Playoff scenarios:

Eagles win: Their magic number to clinch the division is one with two games left to play. They have a legit shot at the #2 seed and a playoff bye.

Eagles lose: Suddenly, the road to the playoffs is a lot longer. The only way to take the division is to win out, and the Giants need an improbable loss to the Redskins. The wildcard comes down to two teams from this bunch: Saints (10-3), Eagles (9-5), Bucs (8-5), Pack (8-5.) The Eagles lose any tie with the Packers. They would probably lose to the Saints on conference record, unless the Saints lose their last two. And they'd likely tie the Bucs on conference record, so the deciding factor would be common opponents.

Remaining schedule:

Saints: at Baltimore, at Atlanta, TB - These are three good teams...they've already lost to Atlanta once, and they did lose to TB last season...but it's hard to imagine them doing worse than 2-1. At 12-4, they'd finish ahead of the Eagles, who can be 11-5 at best with a loss to the Giants. Even if the Saints lose twice, they'd likely have a better conference record.

Packers: at NE, NYG, Chi - A brutal schedule with a wobbly Rodgers or a healthy Matt Flynn at QB. They'll almost certainly finish 9-7, though 10-6 is possible.

Bucs: Det, Sea, at NO - The Bucs are 8-0 against losing teams, 0-5 against winning ones, so it's easy to predict them for a 10-6 finish.

Realistically, the Eagles will have to win out if they lose this weekend, just to squeak into the playoffs as the #6 seed. That makes this game against the Giants huge, and it's going to be a tall order to defeat a division rival on the road two weeks in a row.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

RDR Gets Some Love

It's the end of the year, which means lots of "Best of" articles and "Top Ten" lists. I guess these are supposed to remind us that we're turning a page in our lives, even though the delineation between Dec 31st and Jan 1st is completely arbitrary.

But before I drift off into some boring rant involving Julius Caeser and Pope Gregory XIII, I'll focus on the topic at hand: Video Game of the Year.

Predictably, Red Dead Redemption is the consensus choice, in spite of my less-than-flattering review. (Note the misspelling of the title: Redepmtion. Thanks for the heads up, careful readers.) Using words like "verisimilitude", these video game reviewers extol the artistic virtue of the scenery, the careful storytelling, and the moral compass of John Marston.

And while all of these characteristics are indeed interesting, they don't by themselves make the game fun to play. A Monet masterpiece, a Beethoven sonata, a Shakespearean sonnet - all amazing art, but definitely not best experienced with an XBox controller in your hands. If I played a pixellated avatar exploring a museum, I wouldn't call it Game of the Year. While I certainly appreciate a game reviewer's desire to elevate the medium, and with it their own importance, I cannot agree that art alone makes a good game. You have to want to play it, not just look at it.

In Eagles news, the defense has been weakened significantly by the losses of Stewart Bradley and Brandon Graham. And in spite of spending (wasting) a third-round pick on Daniel Te'O-Nesheim, they signed an aging castoff Derrick Burgess instead of relying on the rookie's contributions. Says all you need to know about that blown pick.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Best of the Best

There are 32 NFL teams.

Playing QB for an NFL team is one of the most desired jobs in the world: with it comes an immense salary, instant fame, endorsement deals, and the ability to knock up one supermodel and then dump her for another supermodel...all with a Justin Beiber haircut.

Yet, there aren't 32 guys in the world who can adequately play QB at an NFL level. Check out some of these stat lines from yesterday:

Jake Delhomme: 12 completions, 20 attempts, 86 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT
Jimmy Clausen: 14-24-107-0-1
Matt Flynn: 15-26-177-0-1
Drew Stanton: 10-22-117-1-2 (win)
Kyle Orton: 19-49-166-0-3
Josh Skelton: 15-37-146-0-0 (win)
Jay Cutler: 12-26-152-0-2
Mark Sanchez: 17-44-216-0-1
Chad Henne: 5-18-55-1-0 (win)
Brodie Croyle: 7-17-40-0-0

Not included in this mess is Carson Palmer's 3INT day or Matt Hasselbeck's 4 pick effort.

Only three of those losers were playing because of injury, the other seven were actually their team's first choice at the position.

I don't follow other sports as closely as football, but the difference between the #1 QB and the #20 QB seems to be much more drastic than top-line players in other sports. As you can see, the 20th-best QB in the world is incompetent. Consistent mediocrity would be a huge improvement.

Yet, the 20th-best scorer in the NBA still scores a ton of points. The 20th-best forward in the NHL will score 30+ goals. The 20th-best striker in soccer is a tremendous, brilliant player. The 20th-best first basemen will still field his position adequately and hit .250. Why is there such an immense dropoff between #1 and #20 for NFL QBs?

It makes you really appreciate the teams, like the Cowboys and Eagles last night, that have two good QBs on their roster. And it makes you understand, whether you agree with it or not, why the NFL is so desperate to protect its quarterbacks from injury.

No one wants to pay to see Drew Stanton face off against Matt Flynn.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Random NFL thoughts

Interesting stat flashed during the Dallas/Indy game last week: when Wade Phillips was the head coach of the Cowboys, they had a 2-to-1 pass-to-run ratio. Since Jason Garrett took over, they were exactly 1-to-1. (In that game, they ran 42 times and dropped back to pass 32, so it's in favor of the run now.) The media, of course, want to attribute the Boys' 3-1 record under Garrett to his "tough" attitude - he forces players to dress in a suit when travelling - but odds are that it's the changes on the field, not in the airplane, that are making a difference.

Oddly enough, Jason Garrett was the OC under Phillips, so I'm not sure why he didn't run the ball more from the start. Was Phillips demanding more pass attempts? Did Garrett actually try to sabotage Wade, knowing the head job would be his? While I can't put my finger on why they suddenly started running the ball, I do know that it's translated directly into wins, and this much-tougher team gets two shots at the Eagles in the next four games.

Big Red, on the other hand, is more dedicated to passing the ball than ever. Even with a 14-point lead, even with three minutes to go in the game. Against the Texans, he dialed up 43 passes and only 20 runs. LeSean McCoy is among the league leaders in yards per carry, but Andy just keeps passing. He pleads with the refs for Vick's protection, while he's stubbornly unwilling to protect Vick with his playcalling. Maybe he's anxious to start the Kevin Kolb Era, Volume Three.

Meanwhile, Baby Belichik was fired in Denver, ending an ignominious coaching debut. I've called him out numerous times for his horrendous decisions, even calling him the Worst Coach in the NFL. Sadly for the Chargers, Chiefs, and Oakland fans, he's no longer a part of the NFL. A quick recap of his bigger blunders:
  • Inheriting the #2 offense in the NFL, he traded away the starting QB, WR, and TE within two years. He changed the zone-blocking run scheme that was so successful and quickly dropped to the bottom of the league in rushing.
  • Firing Mike Nolan after the team ranked #7 in defense last season. Because of his abrasive personality and control-freak nature, McDaniels couldn't handle a strong, successful coach on his staff. He dumped Nolan and his defense currently ranks 27th.
  • Drafting Alphonso Smith - This was the worst choice in a draft I dubbed disastrous the day after it happenned. Trading away the first-round pick that the Seahawks used on Earl Thomas, the Broncos gave up on Smith earlier this year, dumping him to Detroit for a fourth-string TE.
  • Trading Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn - Hillis ranks #10 in the NFL in rushing yards, with 11 TDs. Denver's best RB is ranked #23 and has 4 TDs. Quinn's been a disaster, unable to even secure the back-up role.

Some guys think they have all the answers. McDaniels didn't have any, and now he can wear his sweatshirt on the couch on Sundays.