On a weekend that the Phils clinched their second straight NL East championship, we didn't really think that we'd be twice blessed with an Eagles victory on the road, did we? Without Brian Westbrook?
Despite the text messges I received upon landing in the Pacific Northwest last night ("Don't even bother watching the game"), I plowed through the tape of the game, and the Birds weren't terrible. The defense, in fact, was excellent in the second half. McNabb was fine -- not great, but certainly on his game. But you pile up a couple injuries and stumble on a couple important plays and voila! You lose to the Bears!
(I hate to admit it, but I was a little Nancy Negative ahead of this game, and it looks like my anxieties weren't completely unfounded. SIGH.)
The thing is, most NFL games are close, and you have to expect to lose a couple close games each year. Last year's team probably lost about 1.5 more close games than the league average (Packers, Bears, Seahawks and second Giants game come to mind); previous years' teams lost fewer of the close ones. We'd like to believe that the Eagles are so formidable that they won't even be in very many close games, but that's just not true. They blew a close one last night; let's hope that the next couple break their way.
My observations upon viewing last night/ this morning on my PC screen via Slingbox:
The Birds need some sort of Team-minus-36 plan. This will be the most obvious and pedestrian thing I write all week, but man, it sure does look different without the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook out there. Andy Reid needs to start working on the binder of plays for when they don't have the best back in football on the field. Cause it doesn't seem like he tends to have very many good ideas. Also, they miss Westbrook in a ton of ways -- not just running the ball and scaring people with his placement in the formation, but the blitz pickups and blocking as well. Buck whiffed a bit last night on those. We won't talk about Booker, other than to say....
...Booker isn't there yet. Seems like a decent situational/ once-in-a-while substitute, but this guy is not serviceable as a first-down back in the NFL. And suddenly we're a bit thin at that position. The portions of the second half when Buck was out were horrfying. Horrifying.
We've found the weakest link. Another solid game from the young linebackers. Gocong even got into it a bit more this week (good for him on the sack), though I think Gocong might be sticking out on film as the "one you can beat if you want to" -- that first touchdown was on him, and looked pretty similar to the Marion Barber TD catch from two weeks ago.
Question I'd like someone to answer. I'm wagering against the Eagles in prime time games until further notice. I'm desperate to be disproven on this, but they've just been awful in night games for too long now. Is there some sort of Kerry Collins-on-the-sauce-with-the-Giants thing at play here? (My theory on Kerry Collins on Sunday night games with the Giants was that since it was a night game he'd clear himself to have a few extra drinks on Saturday -- since the game wasn't until later and he wouldn't have to get up early -- and this would inevitably snowball and leave him in terrible shape for the whole day Sunday. Yeah, you'll see me in hell for that one.)
And suddenly DeSean Jackson is our best offensive player? I mean, that was it, right? No B-West and suddenly Jackson is the number-one option? Is that really the deal at this point? Nice to see Reggie Brown catch some balls last night, though. He looks like he's getting back up to speed, and he's had some great games against the Skins in the past -- they'll need that Sunday.
Marvels on the defensive line. Someone who actually knows something about football needs to explain to me how a little dude (all characterizations relative, of course) like Dan Klecko keeps getting to the quarterback (and why Broderick Bunkley can't). I could not have been more wrong about Dan Klecko all summer. And he keeps making plays. Remarkable. Also, at what point can we admit that Juqua Parker is playing really well and isn't some sort of undersized liability?
I agree with Les. Should have used Dunavin down on the goal line. He's the most gifted guy on the field. Let him win it for you.
Don't discount the other injuries. The running game missed Westbrook, obviously, but it also missed The Big Kid and L.J. Smith (editor's note: we're about 3 mm away from affixing "much maligned" to the front of L.J.'s name in the Word Press templates). Probably wouldn't have hated having those guys out there for the goal-line offense. Ultimately, the offense probably looked crappy because it was missing four ostensible starters -- and that was before Buck got dinged up.
Yeah, this one sooked. The B-West injury watch vigil will continue all week ahead of a tough division game against a confident Redskins team. Yikes! On the upside, I bought myself some tickets to that one and will get to see it firsthand.