Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Running the Gauntlet




The time is now. It's finally here. The moment we've all been waiting for......

Sort of.

B-Dawk will finally once again run out of the tunnel at the Linc but when he does it will be from the visitors tunnel. If that’s not bad enough weapon x will be the least of our worries. Santa isn't coming to town, Brandon Marshall is and he doesn't care if you've been naughty or nice. He's going to be firing on all cylinders and out to break our hearts.

And if anyone has the power to do it he does.

Standing at number 12 on the top receivers list with 1,081 yards and 10 touchdowns this man is scary. One thing that is scarier though is one spot ahead of him at number 11 is our boy DeSean Jackson. So the Birds match up there. Westbrook and Maclin returning gives the Eagles a little more of an edge offensively.

Defensively is a bit of a different color. The Birds offensive line is going to have their hands full of Elvis Dumervil. Young and fast, this kid is a human bowling ball and he'll roll right over you. A league leading 15 sacks and 3 forced fumbles the Eagles do not have a silver lining to that dark cloud to match up with him.

When asked about his concerns with Denver's defense Donovan McNabb replied "Very aggressive, plays downhill. Obviously their cornerback situation, with three or four picks from the both of those guys, (S) Renaldo Hill I believe had three picks, (S Brian) Dawkins has two. Obviously (LB/DE Elvis) Dumervil, guys that get to the quarterback and I believe they are ranked number three in the league as far as total defense is concerned. It's going to be a challenge for us on the offensive side knowing that we have to make sure, in all phases of offense, we're very effective."

Indeed Donovan!

This is big one buddy so please on behalf of the midnight green nation "All we want for Christmas is a parade!"

Friday, December 25, 2009

PLAYOFFS?

That’s right people! The Eagles are officially in the playoffs after another great performance from the Donovan and DeSean Show.

Who would have thought that 5 weeks ago when I said the Birds can afford maybe 2 more losses before the playoff picture was out of reach that with 2 weeks left they would have a playoff berth and a potential first round bye. That makes 5 straight and suddenly not only is the NFC East in our sights but a first round bye isn’t inconceivable.

Should the Eagles run the table against Denver while Dallas and Minnesota drop 1 of their remaining 2 games vs Chicago or New York, the Birds will have a first round bye and a playoff game at home.

Last week wasn't such a tough matchup but the Eagles are finding ways to win and it's no fluke. They are running a balanced offense spreading the ball around to their numerous ground threats and letting DeSean do his thing when the time is right. Thirty-six passing attempts and 33 rushing attempts and here we are on a 5 game winning streak.

Even the defense tightened up and more importantly improved on the sloppy tackling problem. There was a lot more wrapping up and a lot less pushing for that big hit. They did allow their first 100 yard rusher since November 2008 but a win is a win and this one doesn't really have any downside.

Well maybe there’s a little down side.

My Ed Lover "C'mon SON!" of the week goes to................ LEONARD WEAVER!

C'mon SON!

You've been in this league 5 years now. What are you doing getting into an argument in the backfield with the halftime clock running down? The Birds had to settle for a field goal instead of taking 1 maybe 2 shots at the end zone as of result of your childishness.

You’re a grown man and a professional athlete! Start acting like it!

That aside, bravo Birds!

Denver is on deck which means the return of B-Dawk.

Five down 2 to go…

Time to nail down the coffin boys – the playoffs are calling!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eagles v. 49ers a toss up


This is certainly going to be a scary game this week. The 49ers are very similar to the Eagles in the sense that they are capable of beating anyone on any given Sunday as they demonstrated last week against Arizona.

It seems like the Eagles have someone to test their Achilles’ heel every week. The power north to south rushing of Frank Gore combined with the pass catching tight end Vernon Davis who has a league leading 815 yards for 11 touchdowns out of the 15 that Alex Smith has thrown. San Francisco is certainly expecting to have a hard time matching up with the Birds offense especially with Kevin Curtis back in the line up being that they are 7.5 point underdog.

That being said as long as the offense does their job this game is going to fall on the potentially unsure shoulders of the Eagles defense. They have been very hit or miss so hopefully after the lack luster performance last week against New York they will come out with some fire to try to stop the 49ers’ weapons.

Confidence is certainly key this time of year so it was no big surprise that Donovan had plenty of it when asked about how he's feeling.

"We are in a great position," said Donovan McNabb, who posted his third passer rating over 100 in four weeks. "If we just take care of business and do what we have to do, we kind of secure a position and kind of get better as far as trying to win the NFC East."

Well Donovan this is certainly a pivotal week in order to secure the NFC East so we're gonna need you on your A game bud.

John Madden keys to victory this week:

1) Penetrate and get in Alex Smith's face!
2) Continue the “no shot” rushing defense of letting no individual rusher gain over 70 yards.
3) Lock down on Vernon Davis.

Game time prediction: Eagles: 38 49ers: 20

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Eagles better lucky than good?


What can you say about a game that has an excitement level that is off the charts and at the same time an extreme disappointment? Should we be excited for the stellar offensive performance or worried about the complete and total defensive break down from the start?

Then again someone once told me "a win is a win is a win" so I suppose we take it for that and just focus on San Francisco next week.

Nevertheless it will be hard to put aside the feeling that given the way the defense played it will be near impossible to beat Minnesota or New Orleans in the playoffs.

That aside, like I say week in and week out DeSean Jackson is the engine that makes this team go. When he scores the Birds win! Two touchdowns, both of which were big plays over 50 yards; 6 receptions with a 29.7 yard average per catch and let’s not forget the 72 yard punt return which continues his reign as the NFL's leading punt returner.

On the other side the Eagles defense was atrocious and a total no show yielding 512 total yards, 3 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, the sloppiest tackling all season and a 130.5 passer rating for Eli Manning.

No big surprise that my Ed Lover "C'mon SON!" of the week goes to the Eagles defense. Fredo Manning had a 130.5 passer rating? C'mon SON!

Yes the officiating was a disgrace that bought New York a few breaks but that does not excuse the fact every single one of the Giants drives that didn't end in a turnover was a score with the exception of 2. The Giants were 4 for 4 on 4th down conversions.

C'mon SON!

The defense has to tighten up and not just in the red zone. Don't get me wrong, I love the bend but don't break attitude but it shouldn't have to come to that. Tackling was worse than it has been all year and that’s saying a lot considering it is the defense’s biggest problem.

Enough on the defense.

Everything else wasn't so bad.

Yes the Giants receivers were open but they have a lot of young fast talent that is not by any means easy to deal with especially with all of the injuries the birds have.

The good news is that it was quite a shootout that ended with another win for the Eagles and they are now standing alone on top of the NFC East.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Wild Night in the Meadowlands


Wild Night in Meadowlands Ends With Birds Atop NFC East

A cold and wet night in the Meadowlands had everyone believing that a low scoring defensive struggle was about to take place between the NFC rivals, the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

Guess we were wrong.

Eighty-three points later, the Eagles had won a wild one, 45-38 and took sole possession of first place in the NFC East with three games left in the regular season.

The Eagles started off quickly on their first drive of the game, going 67 yards on six plays, capping it off with an eight yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to Brent Celek.

The Birds extended their lead when Sheldon Brown caught a fumble in mid-air gift wrapped by Brandon Jacobs and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. It began to look like a repeat of the earlier matchup between the two teams earlier this year, in which the Eagles rolled the Giants.

It was anything but that.

Late in the first half the Giants cut the lead to seven after an impressive drive and left the Eagles less than two minutes on the game clock. However, that was more than enough time for the Eagles. McNabb drove the Eagles down the field and then gave way for the new red zone weapon, Michael Vick. Vick scored on a one yard roll out with 16 seconds to go in the half to push the Birds lead back to 13 after the extra point was blocked.

That extra point would come back to haunt the Eagles as the Giants scored 14 consecutive points to take a 31-30 lead, their first of the game.

The lead was short-lived however.

On the Birds very next offensive play, McNabb exploited the shaky Giants secondary, and connected with star wideout DeSean Jackson for a 60 yard catch and score to put the Eagles back in front. Jackson also had a 72 yard punt return earlier in the game.

With that receiving touchdown, Jackson tied the NFL record of eight scores of over 50 yards in one season. The scary thing is, he still has three more games to break it.

Besides the big play, the Eagles proved that they are quite capable of engineering long, sustained drives. McNabb took the Birds on a very methodical and well executed 91 yard drive that took up seven and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. The drive ended with the new backfield weapon, Leonard Weaver punching it in for a touchdown. The Birds then completed a two point conversion to take a two touchdown lead.

After the Giants scored, the Eagles recovered an onside kick, but gave the ball back to the Giants with 28 seconds to play. On the second play of the drive, Manning was hit from behind and fumbled the ball and which was recovered by Joselio Hanson essentially ending the Giants comeback hopes.

With the win and the Cowboys loss earlier in the day, the Eagles now hold a one game lead on Dallas in the division and now they control of their own destiny. With two of their final three games at home, their chances improve greater by the day to get back to the top of the NFC East.

Funny how only a month ago this team was left for dead and the line of fans on the ledge was growing larger by the second.

Now the line has possibly moved to the Linc ticket office, with fans looking for playoff seats.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

BATTLE PLANS: Eagles @ Giants


Offense

1) Vertical game: The Giants continue to struggle against the pass, as they have given up an average of nearly 300 yards in their past three games.

Clearly, this is the most distinguished mismatch of the game, as the Eagles specialize in the big play. Even without DeSean Jackson in the lineup against Atlanta, the pass offense had little trouble racking up yardage.

The Eagles will have to turn up the heat and test out the depleted New York secondary downfield.

2) Blitz recognition: Part of New York’s renewed success against the Cowboys stemmed from their ability to keep quarterback Tony Romo guessing. Although Romo had a solid game, he was pressured in some key situations, as the Giants brought a variation of blitzes from the outside.

If the Eagles operate from a primary spread offense, the Giants will try to counter using coverage formations. In turn, they will use their defensive backs to get after Donovan McNabb, just as they did against Romo.

The Philadelphia line will need to identify the blitzers and keep the pocket clean for McNabb. If they struggle, the Giants could force enough incomplete passes or negative plays to win the down-and-distance battle.

3) Quick draws: The Eagles will have to keep the pass rush duo of Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora honest, especially in obvious pass situations. Draws and delays should go through the B gaps that Tuck and Umenyiora vacate as they get up field to bring down McNabb.

Defense

1) Anticipate play-action: Quarterback Eli Manning uses the play-fake as much as any passer in the league. Manning has tremendous ball skills, and his play-fakes mirror his handoffs.

The Philadelphia defenders can’t react too strongly to Manning’s run action. They need to wait before coming downhill to stuff the run. If they get caught biting, Manning will pierce the windows they leave open.

2) Sound tackling: There have been times this season when the Philadelphia defense has been a poor tackling outfit, especially at the second and third levels. Tackling cannot be an issue against New York, as the offense boasts a group of backs and receivers that gain yards after contact.

In particular, the secondary has to play physically and provide support in case the ball carrier gets past the first layer of the defense.

3) Force Manning to throw on third down: Given that Manning is dealing with a planter fasciitis injury, the Giants will try to protect him by running the ball on early downs, potentially setting up manageable third down situations in which there is a run or pass option.

On the other hand, the Eagles want Manning to face third-and-long. In order to get Manning in a pass mode on third down, Philadelphia will have to play stout against the run on early downs. If the Giants run the ball well on first and second down, they will be able to neutralize the Eagles’ heavy pass rush in passing situations.

One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Asante Samuel versus Steve Smith: Smith has had one the quietest breakout seasons to date. The other Steve Smith has transformed into a go-to option for Manning. He is a crafty route runner and possesses deceptive speed. Opposing cornerbacks have a tough time reading Smith’s routes because his release always looks the same. Meanwhile, Asante Samuel specializes in reading routes. He anticipates well and understands where the ball is going in certain situations. This will be a tremendous chess match between two elite players.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eagles Score With Deadline Trade


PHILADELPHIA – Rarely are football trades made during the course of the season, and even less seldom do the ones that are made provide any immediate help.

Just a year ago the Dallas Cowboys tried it by acquiring wide receiver Roy Williams from Detroit for about half of their 2009 draft, and you saw how that worked.

The Eagles, under Andy Reid, never made a trade deadline deal until this year, and boy are they glad they did.

Linebacker Will Witherspoon might not have saved the season for the Eagles, but he sure did help turn it around.

“That was one hell of a move they made getting that guy,’’ an executive for another NFC team said. “They should send St. Louis a big thank you for that one.’’

Decimated by injury at the linebacker position after Stewart Bradley, the starter in the middle, went down during the preseason and his replacement Omar Gaither shortly followed, the Eagles needed help in the worst way.

Second-year man Joe Mays showed he wasn’t quite ready and the re-signing of Jeremiah Trotter has helped more in the locker room than it has on the field.

Rookie Moise Fokou? Again, not ready just yet.

So on the eve of the trade deadline, the Eagles called the Rams, inquired about Witherspoon and was able to pry him away for promising rookie receiver Brandon Gibson and a fifth-round draft pick in 2010.

“When they made the trade, I thought not a bad deal,’’ a personnel man for another playoff contender said. “But looking at it now, it was highway robbery. Yeah, I know that Gibson kid might be OK. But receivers like that are everywhere. And a fifth-round pick, big deal, (Witherspoon) saved their (butt). Where would they be without that guy?

“I don’t like to make comparisons to other sports, but it’s kind of like when the Lakers got Paul Gasol.’’

Gasol helped the Lakers to the NBA finals in 2008, the year they acquired him and then to the NBA title last year.

Witherspoon is looking to help the Eagles to their sixth NFC East title since 2001, and from there who knows.

“He’s added value to the defense and this organization,’’ defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said.

“When you trade for a player or you acquire a player that’s what you’re looking to do –
positively impact the team and the organization and he has done just that.’’

Witherspoon, who left the 0-6 Rams at the time to come to the Eagles was here less than a week when he started at middle linebacker against Washington on Monday Night Football. In that game he had nine tackles, a sack, an interception he returned for a touchdown and a forced fumble.

Yeah, that’s a positive impact.

“It was a whirlwind week,’’ Witherspoon said. “I spent a lot of time in the film room that week just trying to get ready. It kind of worked out all right.’’

Witherspoon, who will become just one of five players in NFL history to play in 17 games, he never got a bye week with either team, hasn’t had another game like the Monday nighter against the Redskins, but he’s been solid. And versatile.

When outside linebacker Akeem Jordan went down a month ago, he moved back to his more natural weakside position and started there.

This week with Jordan expected back for the Giants, Sunday night, he’ll be back in the middle.

“Wherever they want me,’’ Witherspoon said. “It doesn’t really matter much to me.’’

The Eagles should want Witherspoon back next year. He has two years remaining on the contract he signed with St. Louis and his play shows that he can still get it done at age 29 years old.

So with Bradley doing very well in his rehab, next year you can expect him in the middle and Witherspoon and Jordan outside. And you can cross linebacker off the need list for the Eagles.

“We need to keep in mind he’s only been here, the total keeps going up, but six or seven weeks now,’’ McDermott said of Witherspoon. “And he’s played two positions. He keeps a great attitude and he’s done well.

“Sometimes you forget that it’s only been six, seven weeks, whatever it is now. He’s done a very admirable job at learning two positions and being able to execute on the field. That’s not easy.’’

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Eagles Look to Strengthen Grip on Playoff Spot v. Giants


No matter what the circumstances are, when the Giants and Eagles play, it is always a big game. When the rivalry continues this week, there will be major playoff implications at stake for both teams.

If the season ended today, the Eagles would make the playoffs and the Giants would finish one game out. With four games left in the season, Sunday night’s game will prove to be crucial to both teams.

If the Giants win, they pull even with the Eagles with both teams holding records of 8-5. The win would go a long way in helping the Giants make a strong final push for the playoffs. After disposing of the division leading Cowboys last week, the Giants will need to come up with another strong performance to get past the streaking Birds. If they can get a win, they then play two teams with sub .500 records in Washington and Carolina before finishing their season on the road against a Vikings team that may be resting their players for the playoffs.

Therefore, they could possibly win out and maybe even sneak out a division title, let alone a playoff spot. However, a loss to the Eagles this week, and they will stand two games behind the Birds. Then they will have to watch to see what both the Packers and Eagles do the rest of the way out.

For the Eagles, a win on Sunday all but clinches a playoff spot for the team, and puts them in prime position to battle for the division. If the Birds can get a road victory in New York, they will be two games ahead of every team still fighting for a playoff spot with three games to play. They will have swept the season series against the Giants and they will own the tie-breaker against the Falcons, having beat them last week. A win could all but clinch a playoff spot for the Birds.

On top of that, the Eagles will have a very reasonable chance at winning the NFC East if they can head into the final three weeks with a 9-4 record. After the Giants, the Birds will have two straight home games against the average 49ers and the up and down Denver Broncos. They finish their season in Dallas in what could be the game for the division. However, with the Chargers and Saints still on the Cowboys schedule, if the Eagles can take care of business over the next three weeks, the last game of the season could be meaningless.

Yes it decreases the drama at the end of the season, but is that really a bad thing?

If the Eagles do go into one of those lulls that have become so familiar during the Reid tenure, however, it could go from great to the worst possible scenario. Although unlikely, seeing as though those lulls rarely ever take place in December for this team, it is still a possibility.

One thing is for sure. When the Eagles and Giants line up Sunday both have a ton to play for. Both need the win for different reasons. The Giants want to remain in the chase, whereas the Eagles would like to just about throw the last pile of dirt on the Giants while they put themselves in position to battle for the division title and a home playoff game.

So the already intense rivalry between these two NFC East foes will be a little bigger this Sunday night in December. The hits will be a little harder. The players will move a little faster. And the fans will be a little more hostile than normal (if that is possible).

Get ready for a battle on Sunday Night Football.

Eagles Take Battle of Wounded Birds


When looking at this game on the schedule at the beginning of the season, it seemed as though this would be a very tough game for the Eagles to win. They would have to go into a dome and face Matt Ryan, Michael Turner & Co. But by the time Sunday came around, there was no Matt Ryan, no Michael Turner, and two missing offensive linemen. However, the Falcons weren’t the only ones with problems.

The Eagles had no Westbrook again and were also missing receivers DeSean Jackson and, as has been the case for most of the season, Kevin Curtis. You can also throw in there that only three of the projected starting offensive linemen started the game, and one, Jason Peters, had to leave with an injury (big shock right?).

So with both teams battling injuries, the game was still going to be pretty even, with maybe a slight edge going to the Eagles, since they had their starting quarterback. The birds from Philly took that edge and blew it wide open, routing the Falcons 34-7.

The game could have been worse, had the Eagles taken advantage of their red zone trips in the first half. They scored one touchdown and went two for three on field goals on their first four trips inside the 20, to post a 13-0 first halftime lead.

The big moment in the first half, that pretty much dictated the rest of the game, was a late goal line stand by the birds’ defense. Instead of getting points before the half, Falcons head coach Mike Smith elected to go for it on fourth and goal. The Eagles were up to the challenge and stopped them short of the end zone with less than a minute to play in the half. The men in the middle all had a huge series, including Broderick Bunkley, Mike Patterson and Jeremiah Trotter.

The Eagles got it going on their first drive of the second half, going 80 yards for the score. But it was who scored that made it more interesting.

On third and one from the five, Andy Reid sent former Falcon, Michael Vick into the game. Vick took the ball up the middle and fell into a place he was quite familiar with: the end zone in the Georgia Dome. This marked his first touchdown since he returned to football after his jail sentence. He would throw a touchdown late to make it a great homecoming for him. He said it would be a day he would never forget.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles came one play shy of posting a shutout for the first time in over a decade. The Falcons threw a touchdown pass on the final play of the game. Other than that, the defense stepped up and looked alive all day.

Even Asante Samuel was TACKLING people.

The Eagles forced three more turnovers, including the game clinching interception by Sheldon Brown. With the Falcons driving to close the score gap late in the third quarter, Brown jumped a route by Marty Booker, picked off Chris Redman and took it 83 yards for the score to put the Eagles up 27-0 and pretty much end any chance for the Falcons to mount a late surge.

With the win, the Eagles moved to 8-4 and into a tie atop the NFC East after the Cowboys lost to the Birds next opponents, the New York Giants. The Eagles will travel up the turnpike for a Sunday night showdown in the Meadowlands. It will be the last time the Eagles will play there in the regular season, before the Giants move across to their new stadium next year.

As with so many of their games there, it is setting up to be a brawl that fans from both teams will be anticipating all week.

Status Quo


Here we come! Does this sound like a familiar scenario? First week of December, one game behind Dallas, Dallas falls on their faces, Eagles play about as good as they've played all season and continue on a 3 game winning streak.

"This is something that has been happening for us for years," said quarterback Donovan McNabb, who completed 14 of 25 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown.

"You go through the first part of the year where you are getting that chemistry and getting that timing and things going. This is the time of the year that people remember. You never remember September, October. You always keep your mind on November, December and January because, if you have that opportunity, you want to go into the playoffs and hit it rolling."

Yes, Atlanta is all sorts of injured but guess what, so are the Eagles!

Atlanta had a very rough time with Matt Ryan on the sideline because Chris Redman was what Merrill Reese called "atrocious", but that does not mean the birds shouldn't get credit where credit is due. They went out, played hard, did everything right, stuck to the game plan and destroyed the Falcons!

All just seems to be falling into place as it usually does for our boys this time of year. Hopefully they continue the trend.

By strength in schedule the Eagles have the easiest schedule in the NFC East where Dallas has the hardest. I'm not sure if that’s a good or bad thing considering the birds uncanny ability to play up or down to their competition. Although they really seem to be hitting their stride finally and it couldn't be at a better time. As Donovan said, "if you have that opportunity, you want to go into the playoffs and hit it rolling."

Well keep on rollin’ Donovan!

A win this weekend against New York will put the Eagles 2 games ahead of the Giants and with Romo's knack for December meltdowns Dallas could potentially and very easily lose 3 out of their last 4 games which puts our home town boys in the driver’s seat to win the NFC East for the 7th time in the past 9 seasons.

So I'll wrap this one up with my Ed Lover C'mon SON! of the week.

This week does not go out to anyone in Philly! Bravo Eagles! Flozell Adams! C'mon SON! You’re already a scum bag because you’re a Cowboy. You gotta be a double scum bag and throw cheap shots out all season? Roger Goodell should lock you in a room and make you watch the week 17 game from last season against the birds over and over again for the last 4 weeks of the season.

Flozell Adams YOU ARE A SCUM BAG LOSER!

C'mon SON!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vick Delivers!


Michael Vick finally got to show the rest of the league, or at least his old team, what he’s been showing the Eagles in practice all year.

Yes, this guy can still make plays.

In his return to the Georgia Dome yesterday, Vick for the 11th time in his career scored a touchdown on the ground and threw a touchdown pass. Both came from five yards out in the Eagles 34-7 dismantling of the Atlanta Falcons.

On his run, Vick lined up under center and showed some burst as he crashed into the end zone for the 22nd time in his career.

His first touchdown pass as an Eagle was a five-yard pass to tight end Brent Celek, in which Vick play-faked to LeSean McCoy, rolled to his left and then threw across his body to a wide-open Celek in the end zone.

Celek’s touchdown was catch was set up by Vick’s 43-yard completion to Reggie Brown.

For all those people who keep asking why the Eagles signed Vick, they saw why yesterday.

And keep this in mind, the only player who’s not with the Eagles because of Vick, is A.J. Feeley.

MORE ANDY: The Eagles finally confirmed the rumors that have been swirling for about a month and was reported by ESPN yesterday that head coach Andy Reid will get a contract extension.

The team did not give any details, just to say that they expect Reid to sign soon. Some feel it could happen by the end of the week.

In his 11th year as head coach, Reid’s contract was due to expire at the end of the 2010 season.

FOUR TO GO: As the season reached the ¾ pole, the Eagles win over Atlanta, entrenched the Eagles as at least a wild-card team, if not the NFC East title winners.

The Eagles, at 8-4, still have to go to divisional foes the Giants and Dallas, but have San Francisco and Denver at home. Not an easy slate, but 2-2 should be enough to make it.

Atlanta, now 6-6, and with losses to the Eagles, Giants and Dallas, could be in whole lot of trouble in trying to get back to the playoffs as a wild-card. And if quarterback Matt Ryan (toe) and Michael Turner (ankle) remain out, the Falcons have no chance.

IT’S DECEMBER: Which means it’s time for Dallas to fall apart. The Cowboys (8-4) began their annual slide yesterday with a 31-24 loss to the Giants to drop to into a tie with the Eagles for first place in the NFC East.

Dallas faces San Diego, winners of seven straight next week and New Orleans, winners of 12 straight the following week.

Meanwhile, the Giants (7-5) are right back in the thick of things and host the Eagles next Sunday night in another battle for first place in the NFC East.

IN THE AFC . . .: New England still doesn’t look right, but how did the Pats blow that game in Miami? They’re just not the same, now that they can’t film the opponent.

New England (7-5) holds just a one-game lead over both Miami (6-6) and the Jets (6-6) in the AFC East. The Pats should win out against Carolina, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Houston, but you never know.

Cincinnati (9-3), Indianapolis (12-0), and San Diego (-) look good, with Denver (8-4) leading the wild-card chase.

IT’S WHY THEY’RE THE SAINTS: Whenever a player refers to God, or Jesus, as to why his team did well, I always say if God, or his Son, really cared about the NFL, the Saints would have won a Super Bowl by now.

I’m starting to think God just might be paying attention this season.

After seeing how New Orleans kept its undefeated season going with a 33-30 overtime win over Washington yesterday, there had to be divine intervention.

YOU GOT A FRIEND IN PENNSYLVANIA: Oakland only has four wins this season and half of them are against the two teams from Pennsylvania, the Eagles and the Steelers.

Go figure.

SUPER, AND THEN . . .Speaking of the defending Super Bowl Champion, Steelers, Mike Tomlin’s team is now 6-6 and in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

If the postseason started today, Pittsburgh would be behind Denver (8-4), Jacksonville (7-5) and Baltimore (6-5) for a wild-card spot. And they would currently lose the tie-breaker to the Jets (6-6) and Miami (6-6).

Here’s the crazy thing after Pittsburgh last two Super Bowl wins before last year, 2005 and 1979, the Steelers failed to make the playoffs the following year.

JAKE THE FAKE: If you’re counting, the Carolina Panthers are 4-7 in games started by Jake Delhomme at quarterback and 1-0 in games Delhomme has not started.

If Panthers head coach John Fox gets fired, and those Bill Cowher rumors are gaining steam, it’s because he stayed with Delhomme too long.

Then again, whoever gave Delhomme a new contract after that playoff game last year, should really be in trouble.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Damage Control

Going down to Atlanta the Eagles are 5.5 point favorites to win this weekend. I'm sure the absence of Matt Ryan and his toe injury have something to do with that.

Aside from Matt Ryan the Falcons have 7 other players that are questionable and had limited or no participation on Friday. Those names include Michael Turner who is likely to play but also Michael Jenkins, Brian Finneran, Tony Gilbert, Harvey Dahl, Roddy White, and Sam Baker.

Granted the birds are still down Brian Westbrook and will have to deal with no DeSean Jackson there are some big names on the Falcons injury list that will certainly hurt them if they play or not because they all won't be playing at 100 percent.

This week marks the long awaited return of Michael Vick to his old home in Atlanta. You can count on Andy working on something sneaky for him in his home coming. I know I have been saying run the ball run the ball run fat boy run, but this is not a defense that you need to slowly chip away to beat. Atlanta is a team that you have to strike deep on and take big chunks of yardage by passing the ball.

The Falcons are ranked 27th in the league in defending the pass so please Andy by all means I give my full blessing. Go nuts! Atlanta is certainly going to be expecting it especially knowing Andy's offense and Donovan's ability to throw the ball. Strike deep, get the early lead and then let LeSean rack up the fantasy points and kill the clock.

After pass pass pass a run here and there will certainly catch a slow Falcons defense by surprise. Mix in a play action screen or slant pass across the middle to waste time and that should be all she wrote. Let's hope we see a lot of Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek coming off of his thumb injury and we'll all be able to sit back and enjoy and 3rd straight win.

Game time predictions Eagles: 33 Falcons: 16

Friday, December 4, 2009

Eagles Limp Into Atlanta for Pivotal December Game


With the NFL season now moving into December, this is the time where teams in this league really begin to separate themselves. Teams will start a run after Thanksgiving that could lead to not only a playoff run but in some cases, the opportunity to hold the Lombardi trophy as champions. The last thing teams hoping to make that run need are injuries to important parts of their team.

Unfortunately, both Atlanta and the Birds are going to have to try and do it the hard way.

The Falcons have lost four of their last six games and stand at 6-5, a game out of a Wild Card spot in the NFC. Making matters worse, Michael Turner is dealing with a nagging high ankle sprain, and Matt Ryan will miss at least this week’s game with a turf toe injury. Chris Redman, who before signing with the Falcons in 2006 spent three year out of the game, will start in place of the injured Ryan. In two stints of action this season, Redman has gone 23-41 for 243 yards and two touchdowns. But now he is the starter, which could be a whole different story.

As far as the Eagles, injuries have come in numbers this season. And when you thought things couldn’t get worse, last week happened. DeSean Jackson, who is in the midst of another stellar year, was hit hard over the middle in last week’s win over Washington. The prognosis: concussion. The “C” word is really starting to anger and put fear into this team and its fans hearts. Jackson has said that he blacked out after the hit, leaving his chances at playing as minimal at best.

Especially with the way the NFL is looking at concussions these days, it is pretty much a guarantee Jackson will not be out there come Sunday afternoon.

On top of that, Brent Celek tore ligament in his thumb last week. However, he is expected to give it a go. The problem is that it was clear that his hand injury bothered him last week, as he dropped some very catchable passes uncharacteristically. So even if he does play, the hope is that he does not look like he did against the Redskins.

Going back to Jackson, the question now is what the Eagles do. As well as Jason Avant is playing, it is unlikely to see Andy Reid move him out of the slot, where he is looking very comfortable these days. Which means one thing, Reggie Brown will step into the starting lineup.

Personally, I’d rather see Jordan Norwood, the Penn State alum who the Eagles signed off the practice squad this week.

That however will almost certainly not happen, so Reggie Brow will probably get the call. If he ever felt the need to prove something, now would be a pretty good time for him to do it.
It is no secret he and Donovan have never really gotten on the same page. But they better learn quickly!

The Eagles have very little room for error for the rest of the season. Sitting at 7-4, every game is as close to a must win as you can get. Regardless of injuries, if this year’s team wants to make a playoff run, they have to keep on winning. Lucky for them, in the past, it’s this month where the team has tended to hit its stride. Let’s hope this year is the same.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Eagles are in the playoffs...COUNT ON IT!


PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles are going to make the playoffs.

After that, well, who thought the Eagles and Cardinals would meet in last year’s NFC Championship Game.

First things first, and that’s the Eagles, despite an up-and-down season thus far, are about to make their annual late-season rush.

It started with last week’s road win in Chicago and should continue Sunday at home against an inept Washington Redskins team that has a hard time scoring in double figures.

Then that end of the schedule that at one point looked rather daunting now appears very manageable.

Consider that Atlanta, once 4-1, is now 5-5 and could still be without running back Michael Turner when the teams meet at the Georgia Dome a week from Sunday.

San Francisco, another team that got off to a quick 3-1 start, is now 4-6 and by the time the 49ers come to Lincoln Financial Field, in week 15 could be eliminated from the playoff race. They will almost certainly be eliminated from the NFC West race by that time.

And Denver, once 6-0, and the darlings of the AFC, is now 6-4 and has former Eagles star Brian Dawkins calling players only meetings as the Broncos prepare for their fifth straight loss tonight against the Giants.

Unless Dawkins can get his point across in a hurry to a Bronco team in complete freefall, Denver could be on an eight-game losing streak when they visit the Linc two days after Christmas.

So if the Eagles can just win their three remaining home games against Washington (3-7), San Francisco and Denver that would get them to nine wins.

That would mean winning just one of three road games at Atlanta, at the Giants and at Dallas to get to the magic 10 wins that it will likely take to get to the postseason.

All right Eagles fans say, so then what? Does this team have a chance in the postseason?

A year ago today the Eagles hosted the Cardinals in the Thanksgiving night game and blew them out to get to 6-5-1. The previous two weeks they had gotten blown out by Baltimore and tied Cincinnati.

Arizona, who was in control of the NFC West despite the loss, looked like a bad team in a very bad division.

Just about two months later the same two teams met for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

So you never know. I learned a long time ago not to judge what’s going to happen in the playoffs by what’s happened the first 10 or 11 weeks.

Wait and see what happens the final month, or so.

Again, a year ago everyone had the Giants and Tennessee in the Super Bowl at this point.

How did that work out?

Two years ago the Giants barely looked like a playoff team, never mind one that could go on the road and win three straight games and then knock off an undefeated New England team in the Super Bowl.

It happened.
The Eagles have the makings of a team that just might peak late. Their young players – DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek – should just get better. The offensive line should just get healthier.

Nickel back Joselio Hanson will be back from his four-game suspension, linebacker Akeem Jordan will be back from his knee injury.

Brian Westbrook?

Who knows?

Kevin Curtis?

Who cares?

In the NFC it’s pretty wide open again this year.

New Orleans and Minnesota are a combined 19-1 right now and the safe picks to meet in the NFC Championship Game.

But you’re talking about two teams that not only may have peaked too early, but have a terrible playoff history.

If Eagles fans want to talk about their postseason failures, they should talk to Vikings fans or Saints fans.

Hey, the Eagles have work to do. They need to be more consistent offensively and not just live on the big play. They need to be more physical defensively. And they have to stop committing so many penalties.

But they are going to be in the playoffs, and from there, well like Andy Reid likes to say, we’ll see.

POETIC JUSTICE: Was I the only one who found it interesting that on the same day the Eagles signed right tackle Winston Justice to a new long-term contract extension, the man he replaced Jon Runyan signed a deal to finish his career with the San Diego Chargers?

Speaking of Justice’s deal, that’s not bad for a guy who has played 10 games in his career. (We won’t count that one against the Giants a couple of years ago).

And again we’ll ask when are the Eagles going to take care of cornerback Sheldon Brown, who has never missed a game in his career and played last week with a torn hamstring?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eagles run hot and cold on and off field



Sometimes you see things coming, sometimes you don’t and sometimes you just really make a mess of things.

That kind of summarizes the Eagles offseason and why they faced what quarterback Donovan McNabb called a “must-win’’ game last night in Chicago against the equally desperate Bears.

Let’s start with the draft where the Eagles may have selected the best class since 2002 and it may even surpass that one in terms of depth and already has in immediate impact.

Knowing that running back Brian Westbrook was about to turn 30 – and that leftover hippie Joe Banner still doesn’t trust anyone over 30, especially a running back – and that he also had knee and ankle surgeries, the Eagles selected LeSean McCoy in the second round.

Also knowing that wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who turned 31, had seen his best days, or day, at it might be, the Eagles selected Jeremy Maclin in the first round.

Westbrook, as it turned out, was not only bothered by both the knee and ankle the first half of the season, but now faces the seriousness of two concussions in less than a month that puts his career in jeopardy.

Curtis played two games, caught five passes and hasn’t been seen since. The injury report lists him with a knee injury and head coach Andy Reid says he has no idea if or when he may play again.

McCoy, who leads the team in rushing and could break Correll Buckhalter’s rookie record for rushing yards, and Maclin, who is third on the team in receptions and a perfect complement to DeSean Jackson, have helped the Eagles stay in the NFC East race to this point.

On both counts the Eagles did the right thing and should be applauded for their foresight.

So, then what happened?

All right so the team couldn’t have known that middle linebacker Stewart Bradley was going to go out for the season with a torn ACL suffered on the fiasco called “Flight Night’’, but it happened early enough that they could have done something about it.

Instead, they signed San Diego castoff Matt Wilhelm and talked themselves into the fact that second-year man Joe Mays was ready to step in and replace Bradley.

This time they were wrong on both counts.

Wilhelm was released on final cuts and Mays was out of the lineup by opening day, although he was expected back in last night.

The team finally addressed the linebacker issue when it traded for Will Witherspoon at the deadline, which means they may have been able to do that before the season. Or at least they should have gotten someone better than Mays.

And the answer wasn’t Jeremiah Trotter.

Unless the question was who used to be a good linebacker.

If Mays, as expected, started in the middle last night, flanked by Witherspoon and Chris Gocong, it would have been the sixth different trio of linebackers to start for the Eagles in just 10 games.

As bad as the situation is at linebacker, what the Eagles did on the offensive line might have been worse.

The team signed lineman Stacy Andrews, Feb. 28, the first weekend of free agency and also the same day Brian Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos. Remember that was “Stacy Andrews’ Day’’ at the NovaCare Complex.

It’s been his last day, too.

Just two months removed from a torn ACL of his own, the Eagles again convinced themselves that Andrews’ health wouldn’t be an issue and that he would be the starting right tackle next to his brother, Shawn, the right guard.

By the time minicamp came around in May, the roles were reversed, Stacy was at guard and Shawn was at tackle.

That raised at least one red flag, but it was just the start.

See Stacy wasn’t just an Eagle to replace Jon Runyan, who had been at right tackle the past nine seasons; he was there to comfort his brother, who in 2008 battled both a case of depression and a back injury and spent the season on injured reserve.

Well, he went 0-for-2.

Stacy’s health has been an issue all season. The knee just wasn’t, and isn’t, right. He can barely make it through a full game at right guard and when he has played, has been far from good.

And Shawn is back on injured reserve, chillin’ in California, and making rap songs about swimmer Michael Phelps.

Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong, and sometimes you just make a mess.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

McNabb, Eagles face "must-win" in Chicago


As the Eagles face the crossroad of their season tonight with a game against the Chicago Bears, a team it has lost to each of the past two years, there are some issues that need to be addressed.

Let’s start with cornerback Sheldon Brown and left tackle Jason Peters.

I guess the way it works now is once you get your big contract, you don’t have to play when you’re hurt, but when you’re trying to get a new contract, you do.

This space has never and will never say a player who is hurt should play; only the player can decide that. But there are a lot of players who are not happy that Peters did not play last week at San Diego. Just as they were not thrilled he did not go back in the Oakland game when he also hurt his ankle.

The Eagles lost both games.

Peters, you might remember was unhappy with his contract in Buffalo, demanded a trade, got his wish and then the Eagles gave him about a billion dollars in a new contract.

Brown, who has never missed a game as an Eagle since the team drafted him in 2002, has been upset about his outdated contract since last offseason. He has a hamstring injury that has him listed as questionable for tonight’s game.

Think he’s going to play?

“If I don’t play, it won’t be my choice,’’ Brown said.

“A lot of time injuries are just mind over matter. You have to psyche yourself up to believe you can do certain things. But everyone has a different pain tolerance.’’
Just like they have a different paycheck.

*While I think the Eagles will win tonight and that quarterback Donovan McNabb will play well in front of his hometown crowd, if they don’t they will be 5-5.

And at 5-5, there may not be any more time for No. 5.

Especially since McNabb, in his Wednesday press conference, call this a must-win game. Nobody ever says what happens when you lose a “must-win’’, but it can’t be a good thing.

Wide receiver Kevin Curtis will miss his eight straight game tonight with a knee injury and asked Friday, head coach Andy Reid had no idea when, or if Curtis would be back.

So then isn’t it time to put him down for the year and get a player on the roster, be it a receiver a running back, or even a good special teamer, who can actually play and help the team down the stretch?

There are a whole lot of angles/reasons not to like the Eagles tonight.

They are 4-16 in Chicago, 3-7 at Soldier Field and 11-28-1 overall against the Bears.
Then there’s the stat being thrown around all week at how the Eagles are 0-7 on NBC TV and 0-8 in their last eight Sunday night games.

Still Jay Cutler is the Bears quarterback and well, you know what I think of that guy.

The Eagles defense, for the most part, has played better than expected this season. They are ranked ninth overall in the league, ninth against the run and 10th against the pass.

Except the Eagles defense has not stepped up big when it has needed to this year. Yes, it was great against the Giants in a game where everything worked.

But they didn’t stop Dallas when it had to, and last week against San Diego was the epitome of what’s wrong.

The Eagles scored to make it 28-23 with 7:11 left in the game. They didn’t get the ball back until there were 32 seconds to play.

Finally, Brian Westbrook has had a great career with the Eagles, surpassing everything the team thought it was getting when it selected him in the third round of the 2002 draft out of Villanova.

Westbrook is the second-leading rusher in team history, has the best average yards per carry of any running back in team history, is third in rushing touchdowns and third in receptions.

Last week he suffered his second concussion in four weeks and second in as many games as he played. He’s also battled chronic knee and ankle injuries and had surgery on both this offseason.

If it was just the knee and the ankle, you could hope and maybe take a chance that Westbrook could somehow come back and at least be a contributor, if not the star he was.

Now we’re talking about concussions, brain bruises. That makes football secondary as Reid said last week.

It’s time for Westbrook to realize that and walk away from a game he at times dominated while he still can.

Battle Plans: Eagles @ Bears


Offense

1) Attack the backers: The Achilles heel of the Chicago front seven has been its linebacker corps. The group has been decimated by the injury bug. Without All-Pro Brian Urlacher at the inside linebacker post, opposing offenses have gashed Chicago in the running game, and pierced the intermediate lanes that Urlacher used to occupy.
The game plan should be to test the linebackers’ coverage integrity by using misdirection plays. In addition, the backs should be involved in attacking the Chicago backers in-between the tackles and on short passes over the middle.

2) Dink and dunk: Part of the problem for the offensive ineffectiveness in the past two contests has been offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s inability to adjust. Against blitz heavy teams such as the Cowboys and Chargers, the Eagles tried to go downfield to hit the home run ball. That strategy didn’t work, as the protection consistently broke down.

While the big play is an integral aspect of the Philadelphia attack, it won’t work if there is no protection. Against a blitz heavy rush, the passing game has to be shortened.

The Bears are notorious for flooding the “A” gaps with blitzing linebackers. When the backers come, the middle should be wide open for quarterback Donovan McNabb to exploit.

3) Faster start: The Eagles have to get off to a better start than they did against San Diego. While the offense was able to chip away and eventually close the gap against the Chargers, they were too far back to make up the overall difference.

Against the Bears, the offense has to play quicker and with more precision from the jump. If the offense is unable to click early, they may be looking at another uphill climb.

Defense

1) Bait Jay Cutler in the red zone: When it comes to defending Cutler, it’s all about forcing him to make the big mistake. Thus far, Cutler has been unable to avoid these costly errors in critical situations.

Part of the problem has been Cutler’s inability to eat the play. Instead of throwing the ball away, or taking a sack in the red zone, he will force a pass into tight windows. The result of his decisions has been a total of eight picks inside the opposing 20-yard line.
The Eagles have to continue to press Cutler in the red zone. The defense will need to bluff the blitz to bait Cutler into making the wrong pre-snap read.

2) Seven man front: Against the Bears, stopping the run has become an easy feat. The line play has been dreadful, and as a result, defenses haven’t had to commit an eighth defender to the box.

With a safety free, the Eagles can play a coverage based scheme and compel the Bears to be a pass happy team. To stop the run with seven defenders, the defensive line has to be rock solid. They will need to get a push and play on the other side of the line.

3) Better technique: The defense has given up a number of big plays, due to blowing assignments and overall poor technique. It has to get its act together and play a more cohesive game against Chicago.

One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Broderick Bunkley versus Olin Kreutz: This will be a battle against two players headed in the opposite direction. Bunkley has emerged as an interior presence. He is a compact player who plays with power and explosion. Kreutz is still a good player, but not the best at his position as he once was. Although he is undersized, he is quick and technically sound.

Eagles' backs are against the wall


It's crunch time again and get used to it birds fans because it's going to be this way for pretty much the rest of the season. I'd say the Eagles can afford one maybe two more losses before the playoffs wave bye-bye birdie. Granted the Dallas Choke-boys are leading the way at the moment and you can always count on Tony Romo to fold like a house of cards in a wind storm but I just don't see 9-7 winning the division.

With two other teams in the NFC also 5-4 one of which is Atlanta who we're playing in two weeks it's too close. It’s time to find another gear and get rolling.

This team does not want to be fighting for a wild card spot. They need to lock down the division and do it soon. Once again there's another pass catching tight end on deck. One problem is that tight ends are usually the hot read on the blitz and the Eagles aren't shy about rushing the linebackers.

The Bears are very unpredictable, but one thing you can count on is that Greg Olsen will have leverage on the outside when the linebackers blitz and he will take full advantage of that leverage. If the Eagles are going to win they are going to need to play smart mistake free football. No penalties, get off the field on third down, convert first downs, create turnovers, and score in the red zone!

Hopefully when the blitz is dialed up pressure can be created quickly and get into Jay Cutler's face. Once the pressure is on you can count on him to make mistakes. Jay Cutler is leading the league right now in interceptions with 17. Pair that up with the birds leading the league in takeaways and hopefully you'll see some fireworks and turmoil for Da Bears in Chi-Town.

Either way it's time to step up and bring the heat to the windy. If the Eagles can play takeaway and McCoy kill the clock this should be an easy win and hopefully the start of a winning streak!

Game time prediction: Eagles: 17 Bears: 10

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unlike the birds, fans show up strong in San Diego


So here I am fresh off of a late night flight back from a great weekend in San Diego. It was a weekend which showed people in the city of San Diego just what passion the fans of this city have for their beloved Eagles. Yes, there are some who give the Philly fans a bad name. But those select people cannot take away from just how special this past weekend was to people who experienced it first-hand.

There will be no stats in this article (Except for how irritating it is that Andy Reid passed the ball just under 80% of the game). This article will be more of a testimonial to the support these fans show a team, even if the guys at the top continue to create a divide from them. Yes, that includes the coach, who is becoming more and more irritating to watch week in and week out.

For many fans, the weekend started either Thursday or Friday. As you walked around the city, around every corner were those in Eagles garb. Fans came from Jersey and all over Philly and wore their midnight green proudly. Eagles’ chants spread throughout the crowded streets every day and night and were met with shocked stares of the so-called “locals” of the area. I say so-called seeing as though I met almost more native Philadelphians who have moved out there, than actually being born and raised in San Diego.

The fan support did not go unnoticed by the restaurants and bars. Time and time again bartenders and waitresses spoke about how they were not prepared for this many people from the Philadelphia area. In true Philly form, many bars were sold out of one of the official beer sponsors of the Eagles, Miller Lite. The bars response: “We just were not prepared for this.”

Then it was game day. Fans arrived to their tailgates around 9:00 in the morning, just like any normal Sunday when the Eagles are at home. However, there was something extremely different from the scene around the Linc on a Sunday. The parking lots were practically empty. It seemed like a home game as everywhere you looked there was an Eagles jersey and only a few sprinklings of Chargers attire. The Birds fans had at least 90 minutes of tailgating before the supposedly home crowd began to show up.

Let’s move inside Qualcomm Stadium…

There is a little less than an hour until kickoff. In the upper level of the stadium, there is a roar growing larger throughout the crowd. It seems as though the fans up there are spelling something. Needless to say the letters that are being chanted over and over again are “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!” Chargers fans try and muffle the sound to no avail. The Birds fans are hungry and cannot wait to get it started.

Unfortunately the coaches and players who are PAID to be there and not PAYING a lot of money to be there did not come to play. Still, it was not until the last few minutes began to tick off on yet another bad loss for the Eagles that the fans left that stadium. They tried to will their team back, but it just was not to be.

It is my opinion that Andy Reid showing gratitude to the fans in his day after press conference was forced and meaningless. The way you show your fans gratitude is to show up and learn how to make adjustments in-game.

It’s about learning how to score from the one inch line.

It is not settling for field goals when you are already down two scores.

It’s about not continuing to coach out of arrogance, pretty much saying to everyone that you know everything and it will always work.

Andy, it is not working!

And if you do not drop the ego and start adjusting, not only will the losses continue, but those fans you were speaking about will not tolerate it. Then all of those chants you heard just above your heads 3000 miles away from Philadelphia will grow faint and distant.

And instead of having a tremendous road following, it might be your team struggling to fill their own stadium.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mornhinweg sinks in the red


The home locker room at Lincoln Financial Field wasn’t brooking any downers on Nov. 1, after a huge Eagles victory over the Giants. But the downers were there, in the media, doing their jobs.

Are you at all concerned, they asked offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, that the offense can’t move the chains, that all the touchdowns seem to come from big plays.

“I like to score,” Mornhinweg said with a dismissive smile. An offensive coordinator who hangs 40 points on the Giants, he seemed to say, doesn’t need to answer hard questions.

On Sunday, after a third straight trip to the red zone with no end zone, the FOX cameras found Mornhinweg on the sideline in San Diego. The smile was gone.

Using pressure and coverage in turn, the Cowboys and the Chargers shut off the Eagles’ big-play faucet, and the points dried up. All that remains is an offense that cannot run the football, cannot imagine success in tight quarters and cannot manage the clock.

Head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb will, as usual, share the blame for this turn in the team’s fortunes, at least in the eyes of fans. But the responsibility may lie with Mornhinweg.

Since he took over as coordinator after the departure of Brad Childress, Mornhinweg’s offense has gone from one of the most consistent in the NFL to one of the least consistent, and the team’s results have gone with it.

An unwillingness to run the ball has been a staple of the Reid era, but now that Brian Westbrook is past his prime, the ground game has atrophied further than ever. Serious red zone problems have been visiting Philadelphia in each of the last three seasons, and while Reid will always take the most heat for bad late-game decisions, Mornhinweg is famously poor in that discipline as well.

Andy Reid has never fired an offensive or defensive coordinator. He's been incredibly fortunate in his front-line delegations, starting with Jim Johnson and Rod Dowhower. Brad Childress was an unmitigated success, and Sean Montgomery -- at the very least -- has shown an ability to adapt on the fly.

By comparison to those guys, Marty Mornhinweg seems stuck in the mud.

I've always assumed that when Mornhinweg leaves the Eagles, he'll be gone before we know there's a fissure between him and Reid. However, it's possible we saw that fissure on Monday.

"I’m not going to sit here and hang people out to dry," the head coach said, in answering a question about the Eagles' red-zone failures. "I just want to get it better and I’ll do that in-house.”

Could Reid have been talking about someone other than his offensive coordinator? Sure.

But just as certainly, Mornhinweg isn't smiling much these days.

Eagles v Chargers Recap: Red means stop?


This is not Driver’s Ed birds! Get it together!

Normally when you have more total yards (decisively), more total plays, and almost equal time of possession you win right? Nope! There was something else that the Eagles racked up more of – field goals in the red zone.

Why are we still struggling with fundamentals in week 10? It seems so simple. Get off the field on 3rd down, convert 1st downs, score in the red zone, win the game. I really feel like John Madden these days stating the obvious but apparently it’s obvious to everyone except who counts.

It's becoming clear that DeSean Jackson is becoming our new T.O. I know what you’re thinking so just give me a second to explain…

Three out of 4 of the Eagles losses this season have come in games where Jackson was scoreless. It's kind of hard to score with DeSean when everyone and their mother knows it's coming. They have to start running the ball more.

And that brings me to my Ed Lover "C'mon SON!" of the week. YO ANDY! C'mon SON! THE WEST COAST OFFENSE DOES NOT WORK ANYMORE! You have to run the ball on first and second down. You have to work the corners. You have two dangerous running backs that can find holes, catch passes out of the back field and make guys miss. USE THEM! Wear down the cornerbacks and linebackers, open up the middle of the field and then strike deep to DeSean.

Am I seriously still saying this?

It's week 10 and you've gone from 3 games above 500 to just 1. I know there are a lot of injuries and I know the team is young but these are things that should be worked out in Pop Warner Ball boys. The Eagles put up 130 plus yards of offense more than the Chargers and lose by 5 points! What's wrong with this picture?

All I can say is Andy better be running red zone drills everyday this week because if Donovan has another 400 yard game on Sunday and they lose again against a Bears team that is just about as injury stricken as we are it is not going to be easy to get to the playoffs at all.

On a brighter note as I had predicted the Cowboys went to Green Bay and got worked which still leaves the birds a game back to be tied for the division lead. That being said I'd really like to see a repeat performance out of Jay Cutler on Sunday with another 5 turnovers. Going into the game Sunday the Eagles were at the top of the list in takeaways this season with 22 yet posted a big goose egg in that against the Bolts. Luckily they're still number 1 in that category.

The Eagles must find a way to get over this injury hump and settle into a grove because the only consistency we've seen out of this team has been their inconsistency. The next few weeks are going to be pivotal. If we can make it to week 15 without another loss the playoff picture will look a lot more attractive to us. Just one problem though – play calling, on both sides of the ball.

Coverage and tackling needs to tighten up considerably and we're running an offense that hasn't worked since Joe Montana shredded defenses in the city by the bay.
Run the ball, create turnovers, control the clock and I promise Andy you will win the game.

This story has been brought to you by Pete Visalli, not John Madden.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Despite loss, Eagles still in the playoff mix


In eight of the past 10 seasons, or since Andy Reid invented what we now call NFC East football, the division has sent at least two teams to the playoffs.

Over two of the past three seasons – 2006 and 2007 – the NFC East has sent the maximum three teams to the playoffs, the division winner and both wild-card teams.

As the 2009 season takes the clubhouse turn and enters its second half there’s a good chance the East will have at least two, and just maybe three, teams in the postseason again.

Right now, the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys are all in the thick of the NFC playoff race.

Yesterday results aside in which the Giants had the best day, by having the week off, the NFC East trio remains in pretty good shape.

The team that wins the division will obviously be in, and unless New Orleans (9-0) or Minnesota (8-1) collapses down the stretch run, will battle likely NFC West champ Arizona (6-3) for the No. 3 seed.

Whatever two teams fail to win the division will fight for a wild-card spot and there is not much else out there in the NFC.

Right now fading Atlanta (5-4) and up-and-down Green Bay (5-4) are the only other teams in the NFC currently over .500. There are three teams at 4-5 – Carolina, San Francisco and Chicago – but none of those three look like playoff teams.

Meanwhile, the Falcons have lost three of their last four and possibly running back Michael Turner to an ankle injury. And Green Bay’s offensive line makes every game an adventure for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The Cowboys already have the first tie-breaker on the Falcons, by virtue of their week 7 head-to-head win, but lose out to Green Bay because of yesterday’s loss.

The Giants, next week, and the Eagles, in three weeks, get to play the Falcons themselves. Neither gets to play the Packers.

The Eagles (5-4), despite their second straight loss yesterday are not in that bad of shape.

An aside here, the Eagles loss at San Diego continues the team’s ridiculous streak of not having beaten an AFC playoff team on the road ever under Reid.

Ray Rhodes never won one either.

The last time the Eagles beat an AFC playoff team on the road was at Houston in 1991, under the wizard Rich Kotite, in what has become known as The House of Pain Game.

Anyway, the Eagles should win their next two against Chicago (4-5) and Washington (3-6), before going on the road for two straight games at Atlanta and at the Giants.

If they can get to 8-5, or even if they don’t, they would have home games with San Francisco and fading Denver before the finale at Dallas. If they are 8-5, however, they would need to win two of the final three to get to 10-6, which should secure a playoff berth.

The Cowboys (6-3) are in decent shape as well, with home games with Washington and Oakland (2-8) the next two weeks, followed by their trip to the Meadowlands.

The final month is a bit tough for Tony Romo, who must have thought it was already December yesterday, as the ‘Boys face San Diego, New Orleans, get a break with Washington, and then the Eagles. They would need to go 2-2 in those four.

The Giants enjoyed the bye yesterday and if you’re a Big Blue fan you better hope the team solved its problems of the past month during the week off.

At 5-4, the Giants’ seven remaining games are against teams with a combined 37-26 record and they will face all three division foes again, hosting both the Eagles and Cowboys and traveling to Washington. They may need to sweep.

Of the four non-division games, only Carolina has a losing record, and the Panthers have played a lot better since a 0-3 start.

At Denver, Thanksgiving night and at Minnesota, especially if the Vikings are playing for something, the final week of the season is not going to be easy.

Next week at home against Atlanta won’t just be interesting, it could foretell the Giants season.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eagles @ Chargers Preview: Who's it gonna be?


This weekend’s matchup is going to be very similar to every other one this year with the exception of New Orleans. The Eagles are playing a mediocre team and depending on which side of Harvey two face we see it’s going to be another disappointing week or a good ole' fashioned beat down.

One thing the Eagles have done well after screwing up is recognizing their mistakes and then making the proper adjustments. Let’s hope that they can stay true to form and then develop some consistency because it's getting painful to watch them.

I don't want to see an 8-8 season. Win us a super bowl or get us a draft pick, but this freakin’ roller coaster ride has got to go!

I have to give the Eagles some credit though. They have to have one of the most impressive injury reports in the league. Preseason they had arguably the best and deepest offensive lines, a strong young linebacker core that was only getting better each year and by far the scariest group of four cornerbacks all on one team in the league. Now they are razor thin at all of the above!

It's kind of impressive if you think about it that they could easily be in first place right now with this group of second stringers, rookies and sophomores. Unfortunately it's not going to be any easier this weekend for them as Ellis Hobbs is on IR for the remainder of the season with a neck injury and Joselio Hanson gets my Ed Lover "C'mon SON!" of the week picking up a four game suspension for a banned diuretic.

Isn't this football? Joselio, C'mon SON! Get your weight up not down!

As hard as it is to say our two best CB's in my opinion are still on the field as Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown who will both start this weekend. The only problem with that is instead of having the depth of Joselio Hanson and Sheldon Brown to bring fresh legs and give Asante and Ellis a break or bring one in on a nickel or dime you now have Dimitri Patterson and Ramzee Robinson. Yikes!

Maybe one is a diamond in the rough but don't count on it.

These injuries could not have come at a worse time. Covering tight ends has hardly been a bright spot all season and on Sunday the Birds face one of the best in Antonio Gates. The defense will really have to put a lot of focus on him without somehow forgetting that Vincent Jackson has 722 yards receiving, 42 receptions and tied for the league lead with 7 touchdowns. Oh and by the way, they still have LaDainian Tomlinson and the always dangerous and very fast Darren Sproles.

It's going to be hard to rely on the offensive in this so my keys (or should I say key?) to winning this game is simply to outscore San Diego. (You’re thinking right now how insightful this is right?)

Working the corners with short passes to Brent Celek and screen passes to LeSean McCoy, Leonard Weaver and Brian Westbrook (who is listed as probable this week after missing two weeks with a concussion) is the formula for racking up points. That will open up the middle of the field for a deep strike to DeSean Jackson. Score early, score quickly and score often and we'll all wake up happy campers on Monday rather than last week which I feel no need to reiterate.

Game time prediction: Eagles: 34 Chargers: 27

GO BIRDS!

BATTLE PLANS: Eagles @ Chargers


Offense

1) Pound the inside: Although the Chargers have played better on the defensive side of the ball, they have still struggled in spots to stop the run. In particular, since losing nose guard Jamal Williams, the Chargers have become more vulnerable to an interior ground attack.

This is a game in which the Eagles – with its newfound power rushing game – will need to drive right at the undersized interior of San Diego. Tailback LeSean McCoy and fullback Leonard Weaver are capable inside runners, and they will need to find room behind the large duo of Jamaal Jackson and Nick Cole.

2) Locate Shawn Merriman: It has taken some time, but Merriman finally appears to be rounding into form. The once dominant pass-rusher was a non-factor for much of the first quarter of the season. He displayed none of the explosiveness and power he had before ripping up his knee in 2008. With Merriman missing some of his physical edge, and not using his hands to disengage blocks, he found himself routinely stoned at the line-of-scrimmage.

Merriman has bounced back to record four sacks in two games. The defensive coaches have done a nice job of moving Merriman to create better mismatch opportunities. In the game against the Giants, one of Merriman’s sacks came from the defensive tackle position.

The Philadelphia blockers have to be able to recognize where Merriman is on all downs and keep him contained.

3) Backs in space: One of the best ways to keep pass-rushers such as Merriman and Shaun Phillips from wrecking havoc in the backfield is to run screens to their side. Opposing running backs have exploited the two linebackers in coverage at various points in the season.

This is a game in which Brian Westbrook – who is listed as probable -- would be a matchup nightmare for San Diego. Look for the former Pro Bowl performer to be a primary target on outs and flare passes underneath, in addition to well-timed screen plays.

Defense

1) Keep the safeties back: Normally, the Philadelphia safeties are a big part of the blitz package. However, against the San Diego passing attack, they will need to be more involved in deep coverage support.

The Eagles will have to mix up their coverages, but for the most part, the safeties will have to help out as much as possible against Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. The corners are not big enough to defend these giants on their own.

2) Nickel package: Given San Diego’s ability to pass the ball, and its inability to run the ball, the Eagles would be better off defending from coverage formations. Specifically, the nickel will need to be in play early and often to slow down the Chargers’ wide open attack.
Nickel back Dimitri Patterson will have the task of checking either Antonio Gates or the No.3 receiver, Legedu Naanee. Both players will have a tremendous size advantage over the 5-foot-10 Patterson.

3) Win the one-on-one battles: In this game, the Philadelphia front four will need to come strong against a San Diego front that pass blocks very well. While the linebackers will be active as pass-rushers, it will still be on the defensive linemen to break down blocks and get to Phillip Rivers.

In particular, if this front line is able to pressure Rivers without help, the backers will be in better position to help cover Gates and tailbacks LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles.

One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Trent Cole versus Marcus McNeill: Cole heads a front four that has to be able to win its matchups against the San Diego offensive line. He is having another outstanding season, with four sacks in his last four games. Cole is an elite edge rusher who can turn the corner in a hurry. McNeill remains a better pass blocker than a run blocker. Cole will need to force McNeill to chase him all day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Miles away from Austin


Well I can honestly say that I’m anything but surprised to be writing this right now. Welcome back Harvey Two Face. That’s going to be my nickname for this team for the rest of the year.

Are we going to see the normal clean cut flawless side of the Eagles that effortlessly whooped New York like a stepchild at Wal-Mart or are we going to see the hideous dilapidated acid cover ugly side that lost to Oakland?

I don’t have to tell you which side we saw on Sunday night despite doing battle with such a poorly assembled team as the Dallas Cowboys. Granted they are now in first place but honestly who have they beaten? High school teams and an injury-riddled Eagles’ squad reaching down the depth chart.

So mark it down – I’m giving Dallas NO CREDIT because they aren’t worthy. They played poorly and left the door wide open for the birds to take advantage and the Harvey Two Face squad did what they do best: roll over and die when anything is on the line.

For the life of me I can’t begin to understand it. The last time the Eagles looked as bad as they have lately was when they finished 6-10 in 2005 and Correll Buckhalter was quoted saying, “As long as I’ve been here the team has always had a certain character and for some reason we just don’t have it.”

That’s how I feel this year!

That normal character and swag just isn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong some games they’ve had it at points, but New Orleans, Tampa, Oakland, Washington and Dallas they’ve played poorly at best. Win lose or draw (and YES DONOVAN YOU CAN DRAW) they aren’t flying as high as usual. They aren’t getting beat. They are beating themselves.

I mean correct me if I’m wrong but am I the only one out there that knew at half time that the Eagles were not going to win? How could they? They weren’t converting first downs, they weren’t creating turnovers, and they couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. You’ve got to be kidding me! Against the Dallas Cowboys?

Against Tony “I’m good for at least one interception a game in the red zone and can’t win a playoff game because I’m a scared little fruitcake who’s more worried about who I’m dating than winning football games” Romo? Give me a break!

You know what time it is. Time to quote to my boy Ed Lover again: “YO EAGLES! C’mon SON! You lost to the Dallas Cowboys at home! You know they suck! Get outta here with that bull stuff!”

Next week is the Chargers in San Diego. Let’s hope we see the other side of Harvey because a win on the road with New York on a bye after four straight losses, Dallas up for a spanking in Green Bay and Washington (barely even a team they’re so bad) would be a huge help in taking control of this division.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

THE BLIND SIDE: The Michael Oher Story


Like just about everyone I enjoy a good movie and human interest stories are among my favorite. I like the plight of an underdog, the protagonist who perseveres, tackles seemingly insurmountable obstacles and scores a glorious victory.

Now granted those things more times than not happen in fairy tales and in Hollywood or both, but regardless of whether or not they are in fact fictional, if I walk out of a theatre or pause my DVD player feeling good and feeling entertained, the flick gets my thumbs up.

Earlier this week, thanks to the nice folks at Warner Bros, I was able to catch the sneak preview of The Blind Side: The Michael Oher Story.In this movie not only do you get the feel good human interest story, you get the added value of knowing that the tale isn’t all bubblegum and cookies.

The incredible journey of Michael Oher’s life happened (it is NON-fiction)to the first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.

If you are reading this blog, chances are you are a fan of the NFL and consequently I have little doubt that you will applaud at the end of the picture even if it does include some over the top Hollywood embellishing. That said for me, the meat and potatoes of the picture – the part that resonated as I walked out of the theater with my son was the underlying kindness that is really the glue that holds not only the movie, but Michael Oher’s life together.

This film very well could have been called Colorblind. Leigh Anne Touhy played by Sandra Bullock is the star. She is a take charge, A-type personality who runs a high end interior design company. Coupled with her husband who operates a chain of fast food restaurants, the Touhy’s are an affluent family living in the high end district of suburban Memphis.

Leigh Anne feels for the homeless Oher and takes him in – a gesture that her snobby friends label “white guilt.” When she passionately explains why she has become what amounts to as an ambassador Good Samaritan, her friends swallow humble pie as one friend concludes, “You’re changing that boy’s life.”

Her reply…“No, he’s changing mine.”

You watch each member of the Touhy Family embrace Oher on different levels and in different ways. Their collective selflessness that enabled each to look into the heart of Michael Oher and not at his size, destitute lifestyle or his skin color is the shiny diamond of the movie that rises up from the ashes and teaches something to us all.

If you are looking for a hard-core football movie,
The Blind Side is not for you. But if you want to be inspired by heartfelt and wonderful acts of kindness and the bonding of the human spirit, go see this movie.

The Blind Side won’t win any Oscars but it will win your heart.

The Real Test?


Last weekend I’ll admit on Saturday night I was a little worried after the way the Eagles had played the previous three weeks. After the game the story was altogether different. I don’t know what Andy Reid did last week but let’s hope he does it again this week.

This story really can’t be written any better -- Eagles (5-2) v. Cowboys (5-2) on Sunday’s Football Night in America to determine who really is the best in the NFC East.

Once again this week is going to fall on our defense’s shoulders. The birds are going to have to hit the Cowboys’ offensive line and hit them hard. With the way Miles Austin has been playing you do not want to leave him time to get open. And we are all well aware of what Marion Barber and Jason Witten are capable of.

I’d say the key to this one will be keeping fresh legs on the defensive line to get into Romo’s face quick, keep a nickel on Witten and send Witherspoon in to plug up the whole to keep a lid on Barber. Most important though is getting to Romo while keeping a spy on him at the same time. Romo is very good at creating plays with his feet. The Eagles do not want to overly focus on the Cowboys’ weapons and lose sight of Romo because he can and will take off.

Even though a lot of weight falls on the defense’s shoulders in this one the offense would take a lot of that pressure off by doing exactly what they did against New York – score early and often. Donovan McNabb has more weapons this year than he ever has and if he wants to expose the Cowboys defense he’s going to need to use all of them. A balanced attack of rushing and passing will confuse Dallas and open up the field for a big play or two. Don’t force the ball to DeSean just because you want to use him. Pound the ball with Weaver and McCoy, use Celek as your safety valve and wait for them to fall asleep on DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Then hit em where it hurts and drop the deep ball on them.

It seems kind of fundamental but with a threat at almost every position on the offense Dallas can’t cover everyone so someone will be open. It’s all about finding the mismatch and taking advantage.

Game time prediction: Eagles: 27 Dallas: 13