Well, it certainly is a strange new world we're living in.
During the fourth quarter of the Giants-Titans game this afternoon, when the score was still 21-7 and the game seemed out of reach for Tennessee, Vince Young completed a short pass that went for a first down near the sideline. The crowd in Tennessee applauded and I remarked to a friend that it was interesting watching an up-and-coming team with fans who appreciated any signs that better days were ahead.
And you know what? That's exactly where the Eagles are. After five years of being at or near the top of the NFC, they just aren't that good, so what's important is how they start working their way back up.
By that standard, there was a lot to appreciate about tonight's game. Aside from a couple of fumbles, the Eagles backup quarterbacks did an admirable job filling in for Donovan McNabb. Jeff Garcia was 19-23, for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Those aren't MVP numbers, but they're good enough to win ballgames.
The rest of the offense showed a lot of life, particularly Brian Westbrook, who notched his third-straight 100-yard rushing game on only 20 carries. Reid and Mornhinweg crafted an excellent post-McNabb game plan that even included some new formation wrinkles. If there was a disappointment with the offense, it was a key drop by Donte Stallworth on a second-half post pattern where it looked like he short-armed it as he saw the safety coming.
On the other hand, the defense could qualify for federal disaster relief at this point. Colts' rookie Joseph Addai not only had the first 100-yard game of his career, but actually went for 171 yards and four touchdowns against an Eagles defense that got pushed around all night by the Colts, a finesse team not known for having much of an edge.
That's a little bit like getting bullied in high school by the drama dorks. Pretty embarrassing.
This is truly a bad defense. It might be better with rookie first-rounder Brodrick Bunkley on the field, but we wouldn't know since Bunk seems to have trouble with his alarm clock. The rest of the defensive line got pushed around all night, particularly the defensive ends, who had no answer to a Colts running attack that was based primarily on stretch plays to the outside.
The linebackers are flat-out terrible. Matt McCoy is too small. Jeremiah Trotter is too old. And Dhani Jones is too bad.
Sadly, Dhani looks like the best of the bunch these days. Trotter finished with 10 tackles, but I lost track of the number of plays where he was squared up on the hole and the blocker just swallowed him up. If Gocong takes Jones' job next season on the strong side, Dhani might be able to slide back over to the WLB position in place of the diminutive McCoy.
Sean Considine looks like he needs to get bigger too if he's going to stay at strong safety in this league. On all the Colts big running plays it looked like our LBs and most of our secondary were dancing with Colts blockers who just kept leading them down the field.
The worst sign for the Eagles defense was the last touchdown scored by Addai late in the fourth quarter. Dawkins had a free shot at the guy as he crossed the goal line and didn't even hit him. The old Dawk would have laid that guy out. The current version just sagged and looked beaten.
So what does it all mean? Well, as expected, the Colts are much better than the Eagles. No surprise there.
But the good news was that the team kept fighting all night. As bad as the NFC is this year, this team honestly has a shot to make a run at the playoffs. It won't be easy, nor perhaps is it likely, but the opportunity is there.
In the long-run, the issues with the defense are simply impossible to ignore and will have to be addressed. But that's an off-season project. For now, what matters is that these guys can wake up tomorrow and look themselves in the mirror, and that's the first step back to the top.
Good job, Iggs, keep on fighting.