62 Yards

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Yet again, the Eagles find a new and even more excruciating way to lose a game, that they statistically dominate, and squander a fourth quarter lead. This time, it’s a journey man kicker connecting on a 62 yard field goal. But how do the Eagles get beat by a guy who has bounced around the league with four different teams, has a career long field goal of fifty yards and was a week away from getting cut? Why does it seem that week after week the Eagles will beat a team in every facet of the game yet make just enough bone headed plays to either make the game closer than it needs to be or cause them to lose? Why is the team with the number one offense in the league 4-3? I don’t doubt the heart of this team. Nor do I doubt their talent. What I do doubt is their discipline and decision making. Frankly, after watching this team over the past five weeks, I have very good reason to have my doubts.

There are times when a player is going to make a mistake. The ball carrier pushing and struggling for the extra yard who is stripped of the ball or the quarterback who tries to make something happen and throws an interception. These are examples of mistakes due to effort and not stupidity. Although many times avoidable these mistakes are usually understandable. Some of these mistakes occurred last Sunday against Tampa Bay. Then there are the mistakes that are 100% avoidable. I cannot remember how many times The Eagles have squandered scoring opportunities at the end of the half. With the ball at the Tampa Bay nine yard line, nine seconds left and no timeouts, even my Grandma knew that either you throw it into the end zone or throw an incomplete pass. Instead, as he has done many times before, McNabb threw the ball to L.J. Smith who was two yards short of the end zone. The Eagles tight end was tackled immediately and the Eagles took a big fat goose egg into the locker room. I don’t know if it was Reid or McNabb who made that call but it is unconscionable that it happened and that it keeps happening. Of all the stupid things that the Eagles did or did not do on Sunday this was the most egregious because it exposes an innate weakness involving the decision making process of this team. It is what worries me the most because it begins and ends at the top.

Individual players have made avoidable stupid mistakes. In all three of the Eagles losses, a defensive player will commit a penalty that can only be attributed to pure unadulterated stupidity. I’ll go from bad to worse. Linebacker Omar Gaithers is the twelfth man on the field in the game against New Orleans resulting in a penalty that nullified a Trent Cole sack late on the fourth quarter. Had the sack stood the Saints would have had to punt. Instead they chewed up the clock and kicked the game winning field goal in the final seconds. Trent Cole is called for unsportsmanlike conduct in the game against the Giants during the closing seconds. He was caught retaliating against a Giants player who had fouled him. The resulting 15 yard penalty allowed the Giants kicker a chance from 35 yards out instead of 50 yards out. The Giants tied the game on that kick and won in overtime. And then, just this past Sunday Jerome McDougle sacks Brad Gradkowski but gets called for a face mask. He kicks the referee’s flag thus resulting in an additional 15 yards. The 30 yard penalty puts the Bucs in field goal position and increases their lead to six points. I don’t have to remind anybody how this one played out. How many dropped passes have we seen this season? The color commentator for the game (former Eagles Brian Baldinger) even noted this troubling trend among Eagles receivers. He basically said that if the Eagles receivers held on to all of the passes that they dropped, the Eagles would be on their way to shattering all current NFL receiving records. He was speaking in hyperbole but I’m guessing we all got the point.

Discipline, concentration, maturity. These are qualities this team lacks. Heart? Definitely not. At least not if your talking about Donovan McNabb. After an abysmal start in which Ronde Barber basically picked up right where he had left off in the NFC championship game of 2002, Donovan turned in an effort that can only be described as heroic. I have said it before, I’ll say it again, The Eagles are a better team when McNAbb runs the ball. I’m not talking about running the ball like the overrated Michael Vick, but an occasional designed run creates havoc for a defense.

This is where I talk Tim Holt off of the roof. The Eagles will be in the play off hunt until the final few weeks of the season. The reason? Parity. Besides the 6-0 Chicago Bears, whose opponents boast a win-loss record of 14-25, the NFC is a collection of 4 win teams suffering from schizophrenia. One week a team will look like world beaters, the next week, a semi-pro farm club made up of out of shape truck drivers. The NFL strives for parity. It’s good business when every team has a chance of making the play offs. It keeps people tuned in and allows the NFL to charge slightly less than the national debt for the rights to broadcast their mediocre slug fests. The Eagles are the best 4-3 team in football. If we can’t count on them to show their best side every week at least we can count on every other NFC team to do the same thing. In the season opening RT, I said that 10-6 may be good enough to win the division. I think the Eagles are still more than capable of hitting that mark. Once the second season begins and you have guys like Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook, anything can happen.

The Birds are a 7 point favorite over Jacksonville this Sunday. I think the term “must win” is overused in the NFL so I will avoid it. It is, however, a very important game to both of these teams and their play off aspirations. Because of that and because a touchdown win will only give you a push, I am not recommending laying any wood on the Eagles this Sunday.

Go Birds!

Eric Written by:

6 Comments

  1. October 27, 2006

    I read this week that the Birds have done that “end-of-the-half-goose-egg” chirade FOUR TIMES in the last NINETEEN games, going back to the playoff game against the Vikes in 2004. After the game, Reid didn’t exactly throw Donovan under the bus, but he indicated that throwing underneath to L.J. was not in the cards. Pin that one on McNabb.

    McNabb has been unbelievable this year, and running out of the pocket definitely starts to open things up, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this team lives and dies with Westbrook. When he’s on, this team looks unstoppable.

    Red

  2. October 27, 2006

    Didn’t see the game as I was golfing at Merion East (holler!).
    Big Red is having a terrible year. All loses are directly attributed to him. Trying to run versus Giants, poor clock management/can’t get plays in = lose to Saints. Stupid penalties, etc – lose to bucs.

    Team is excellent but they are finding new ways to lose each week. Great teams find ways to win.

    Let’s hope for a better second half. Thank god the schedule gets easier. Oh, wait. Oh, no . . . . .

  3. October 27, 2006

    Let’s face it — brain power has never been an attribute the Eagles have possessed at any level (Hello, Buddy Ryan!).

    As a side note, when playing at their worst, this team has the unique ability to even make my puppy depressed. Do you know how hard that is? Puppies never get depressed. I’ve had to ban my dog from watching the Eagles for his own good.

  4. October 27, 2006

    I have been a huge Reid supporter since his arrival here. In my view he is clearly the best GM and coach in this franchise’s history. But the Eagles’ losses this year, especially Tampa Bay, are directly attributable to him more than anyone else.

    The 2 biggest factors in the loss to Tampa: the debacle at the end of the first half, and the dumb penalty by McDougle. That was not the first time McNabb made that mistake–as Red pointed out, it was the fourth time in 19 games. The fact that McNabb could make the exact same mistake 4 times is a clear indication that Reid has not gotten the point across to him. McDougle’s DUMB penalty was not the first this season, it was the third. Once again, that indicates that Reid has not gotten his point across.

    If Bill Cowher or Bill Parcells or Belichick were coaching this team, McNabb would have made the end-of-half mistake once and only once, and we would have suffered thru one dumb penalty this year, not three.

    Head coaches who are one-trick ponies do not win Super Bowls in the NFL. See Marty Schottenheimer as Exhibit A. Head coaches that adapt are the ones who get Super Bowl rings. Reid has achieved success thus far as a head coach because he has earned the respect of his players, and they clearly enjoy playing for him. That’s all good. To win a championship though, he needs more. He needs to make clear that players, even the best ones, will be held accountable for their performance. That will be an important step for him in evolving from a very good to a great coach.
    Mike

  5. October 29, 2006

    I am still on the ledge. If they loose this week, I might take he express route off of it. If they win but don’t play consistently well (again!), I will remain there for a nap during the bye week. If they win impressively and finally put together a great showing for a full game, well, I’ll at least back away a bit from the edge.

    I do not factor last year into anything I think or feel about the Eagles. I just classify that whole disaster as being my painful penance for selling my soul to get to a Super Bowl: rooting for TO. Those who were raised with the gloom and doom of Catholicism will understand. 🙂

    That being said, I thought we were done with season-long battles just to make the playoffs and win games. Those were the early years of McNabb’s career. I don’t want to go back to sitting on the edge of my seat for games. I shouldn’t have to handle the enormous swings from high to low at this point. I want a cakewalk in every game and a return of my optimism and confidence. Unfortunately, that ain’t gonna happen until this team strings together a few impressive wins. There’s no reason I should have to be thinking this way, so it pisses me off! Am I wrong?

    So, thanks for the effort to talk me down, E, but it looks like I’ll be staying on the ledge for a while longer at least.

  6. October 29, 2006

    I’ve always thought that Bill Parcells was a little over-rated. Belichick is the real genius. What has Parcells ever done without Belichick.

    I would like to thank him, however, for taking the Cowboys out of the mix by benching Bledsoe. I guess I can also thank Jerry Jones for signing T.O.

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