Injury Report: "(RT Jon) Runyan and (RB Brian) Westbrook will not practice today. (WR Jason) Avant will do some things. (Avant) went through the walkthrough. Basically, they all went through the walkthrough. Avant will go through the practice."
But what of Jim Johnson's balky back and cane requirements? Surely this merits mention, no? Especially with a five-hour flight to Arizona looming? That can't do wonders for a 67-year-old guy with back issues.
Luckily for Jim Johnson, there are no known performance-enhancing drug restrictions for the coaching staff. So shoot that old guy full of happy juice and send him to Arizona! We're going to need him at the top of his game!
(Other fun facts about Jim Johnson that I picked up when reviewing his bio on PE.com: he was a college quarterback at Missouri (huh), and played tight end for two seasons in the pros (with Buffalo). Wouldn't have guessed that he'd played offense.)
Been quite an interesting 36 hours for your humble author. From a windswept and cold tailgate at the Meadowlands to the best Eagles game in recent memory to the Happiest Place On Earth (tm) and back, I can't certainly complain of a lack of variety in my stimuli. And as I return home this evening in my big-boy pants and assorted standard-issue Banana Republic work clothes (with my cold-weather Eagles costume furtively stuffed into my carry-on baggage like some sort of smuggled sports-feelings WMDs), I've still got a glow about me.
Surely that's the only way I made it through this little trip, which should have left me pretty worn out and haggard. (Certainly my decision to "celebrate" throughout the day alone should have left me a little slow.) Nope. I'm feeling great. Been feeling great all day. Such is the impact of this level of Eagles Awesomeness: it might have the power to cure hangovers and remove the need for sleep. We're having scientists, trained scientists, look into it right now.
My day-after storylines and bulletpoints (written mostly without my usual embarrassingly exhaustive review of the mainstream post-game content, but we'll take what we can get):
All hail the defense. Um, so at what point can we suggest that this is the best Eagles defense since 1991? What will it take? That defense, you might remember, didn't shine like this one has in the post-season, and were more consistently dominant. They also had a bit of mean-spirited swagger that doesn't seem evident in this team. For all the ferocity that this Eagles defense brings on the field, they're not bullies. They're not the Ravens. They just succeed, but without seeming to engender many bad vibes from opponents.
All that said, the worst thing I've ever heard uttered about Brian Dawkins. I actually heard someone a few rows back say, "I hope Brian Dawkins breaks his leg." Out loud! Doesn't he know that God might be listening and will surely punish him dearly for such a remark?
One of these weeks someone will figure it out. Westbrook doesn't have it. He doesn't. He'd love to prove us all wrong (like he did on the screen pass against the Vikings), but the jump isn't there. We probably won't get a straight answer on how hurt he is for a long time -- some knee thing, the dread high ankle sprain, the ribs -- hopefully at least three weeks. But he isn't the weapon that we imagine him to be. Part of that probably has to do with the defenses he's faced in the last month, but he just doesn't look quite as quick. Still, as long as he's willing to step on the field, folks will have to ignore him at their peril -- especially in a warm-weather game on grass.
So if B-West isn't carrying the offense, who is? Well duh. It's the quarterback and a suddenly consistent group of receivers. Is it fair to say that McNabb has entered a new stage in his career over the past two months? This might be worth it's own post, but it sure feels like he's bringing the polished passing skills he's acquired in the past couple years together with a determination and desperation (especially on third down) that he seemed to have last had in 2002. And I'm probably imaginging things here, but he actually seems more confident than he has in a while. Even when things haven't gone well the past couple weeks, he's been fairly unflappable. Makes me smile.
The things we carried. I took a commemorative white towel with Giants' logos all over it from a marketing/ promotions drone when I entered the stadium. The attendant looked at my Trent Cole jersey and Eagles hat and gave me a "Really?" "I want a souvenir to remember this by." Pretty happy with that decision. I'll put it on the shelf with my Phils towel from the NLCS and my plastic coffee mug from Fourth-and-26.
Stoppable (!). I couldn't tell who turned on Eli first: the fans or Tom Coughlin. Folks in section 108 were not happy with young Mr. Manning yesterday. The pick to Samuel prompted a chorus of anti-Eli haterade from the assembled Giants' fans. I cannot explain how happy this made me. To see them turn so quickly: it meant they were very much on edge heading into the game, and suggested that they were rightly terrified of the Eagles. And with so much time to play! It was truly glorious. Though I guess Coughlin wasn't far behind the fans, in that he essentially gave up on throwing the ball in the second half.
Speaking of, you know who loves to say, "I told you so?"Everyone. But mostly Derek gets to say it today. When he wrote this, I was just psyched that he was telling us the Giants wouldn't win the Super Bowl (I was happy with "anyone but the Giants" at that point). But to have the Birds be the ones to beat them, TWICE? Heh heh heh. Take a bow.
And one more shot at the Giants' fans. Dude, y'all certainly left that stadium puh-retty early -- certainly a lot earlier than I was personally convinced that the game was over. I guess my pessimism about games not being over until they are actually over -- which is what happens when your team surrenders two blocked-kick TDs at the end of the first half in a single season -- is stronger than your willingness to cheer your team, THE DEFENDING SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS, until the final whistle of the season. I mean, really, why bother?
Yeah, I'm still soaring with this one. Go Birds.
(Correction: I unforgivably misspelled Brodrick Bunkley's first name in an earlier post. No excuses. Bad form from me. Sloppy.)
I've got a treat on this go-round for all the sci-fi dweebs out there in the audience: how bouts Jim Johnson looks like the recently outed Cylon Colonel Saul Tigh from Battlestar Galactica. Beyond just looks, they both have a certain gruff, no-nonsense demeanor. No word yet on whether JJ shares Tigh's drinking problem, hot traitor wife, and general levels of pissedoffedness in re: Starbuck.
Of course, this could all be nonsense; as noted earlier, all white people look alike to me.
(Feel free to call me a giant dork in the comments. N.B. that I'm also super into the Terminator show, but that's mostly because I completely believe that killer robots will be the death of us all.)
In the game that was the inverse of last Monday's shootout against Dallas, the Eagles roughed up the Steelers in a tough-ass defensive struggle, 15-6.
Quick-hit reactions to a very satisfying TV show:
Jim Johnson and the defensive front, take a bow. Six days after giving up 34 points (I won't blame them for the special teams TD), the Birds' defense channeled the 1991 Eagles and just humiliated the Steelers. The ball was snapped, and the line immediately moved two yards backward on pretty much every down. It seemed like the Steelers gave up running the ball pretty early, and stubbornly instructed Roethlisberger to try to throw the ball. Nope. It wasn't just a couple plays worth of pressure, it was pressure on every single down. Darren Howard, Juqua Parker and Trent Cole were monsters. The body language from the Steelers' receivers was the most telling part -- you could tell they were sick of running routes and not even having the ball come out. Jim Johnson and the defense have officially made it up to us for the Dallas game.
Speaking of making it up to us after the Dallas game. I guess the Dawkins retirement can wait another week. His pterodactyl Makhtar (Editor's note: Makhtar is a slang term used to describe the act of violently smacking an object out of another's hand; derived from Makhtar N'Diaye and his proclivity for clumsy fouls) on Big Ben was the best Eagles' play of the season so far.
$57 million seemed like a lot, but, well, we like interceptions. Asante Samuel is definitely earning it after three weeks. I'll argue that he's actually been a little lost in the media shuffle so far, and that he'd definitely be a big story in most other towns, but given the unique, ahem, landscape of storylines amongst the local blathertariat, he's gotten off pretty easy. I can't say I'm anything but impressed by this guy.
I don't think I've ever been that excited about the punter. Get ready for a week of "This is the week it clicked for Sav Rocca" though he's been pretty good so far this season. He absolutely made a difference today.
And suddenly it's the third quarter of a preseason game. When Kolb checked in with Buckhalter and Booker in the backfield and Baskett and Avant split wide, well, it got pretty chill in my apartment. It got a little warmer when McNabb checked back in, but even that was an Eagles team without its starting backfield, Pro Bowl guard and presumptive top wideout. Yikes.
Booker is a liability in pass defense. Booker whiffed horribly on the McNabb pick, kind of fell down in the act of not even getting a finger on the blitzer. Not so impressive. Westbrook and Buckhalter don't miss like that.
Think happy thoughts. Let's pretend the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook isn't actually hurt and will be back at practice on Wednesday. Somewhere GCobb is working on a blog post about how Westbrook can't stay healthy.
Also, The NFC East still hasn't lost a game to anyone but an NFC East team. Though I hope the Cowboys lose in a barrage of injuries to fix that. Obviously.
I really wish I was a little more excited about the game this afternoon. The Birds' season is pretty much through, and I'm mostly concerned that the team has already quit -- meaning that I'm going to watch them capitulate to the Cowboys this afternoon with little to no resistance.
That would not be sweet.
All I can think of as kickoff approaches is the opening lines from the very fabulous A Season With Verona by Tim Parks:
"FACCI SOGNARE says the banner. Make us dream! Please!"
And really, that's what I'm asking for this afternoon. I know there are no playoffs (much less a Super Bowl) in the Birds' immediate future. I'm rational. That's all done.
I just want something to get excited about. Something to convince me that these guys are worth rooting for and that next year might be better than this one.
MAKE US DREAM!
Things that would make me dream this afternoon (which mostly have to do with young players doing exciting things):
1. Donovan McNabb hits a wideout (Reggie Brown would be ideal, though Curtis is more likely) for a deep ball, possibly even for a (gasp!) touchdown. We just haven't seen the deep ball at all. Seeing Dunavin fling it down the field a bit would make me happier.
2. Trent Cole faces a gigantic tackle and gets two sacks. It sure seems like young master Cole struggles a bit with the gigantic tackles. Be nice to see him take that next step.
3. J.R. Reed takes someone's head off on a crossing route. Since the safety position is completely in flux for this team, it'd be nice to see the guy that no one believed in step up and do something violent.
4. Tony Hunt makes someone miss in the open field. Since we're going to see Hunt out there a bit this afternoon, and since I'm not convinced he's actually quick enough to ever adequately replace B-West, I'd like to be pleasantly surprised. Tony Hunt, please be fast.
5. Brent Celek has four catches. Since it looks like Mr. Celek will be challenging for a starting job sooner rather than later (don't let the door hit you on the way out, L.J.), it'd be nice to see him make a couple plays.
6. Jim Johnson unveils his specialized Anti-Romo defense that confuses the Dallas QB into four turnovers. This feels like a stretch, but since it looks like we'll be dealing with this guy for a couple more seasons at the least, it'd be nice if we had some clever plans to screw him up.
7. Someone, ANYONE, make a play on special teams. Just this one time. Seriously. Just one play. That's all I'm asking for.
What's that gigantic tall thing over there in the corner?
Oh, that's right. It's Jim Johnson's oversized novelty mobile phone! The one he's going to use on Sunday to DIAL UP SOME BLITZES against the Dolphins and their rookie quarterback who'll be starting his very first NFL game:
"John Beck, the oversized novelty mobile phone is for you."
"Cool -- do you know who's calling?"
"Someone named Quintin Mikell. He says he wants to break your jaw on a safety blitz from the blind side."
"Oh cool, put him through."
Not that it really mattered who was starting on Sunday in the Ace Ventura Bowl -- Cleo Lemon wasn't inspiring any fear in the Delaware Valley -- but it does make us all feel 12 percent better about the game, and about a defense that's been struggling a bit over the past month (lovely effort against Adrian Peterson aside).