As Broad & Pattison Turns #4: Elliott “Phones Home” a Win

The general consensus in sports is that the hotter and more humid the weather is, the farther a ball will travel.  So it should be no surprise that, on what may have been the hottest regular season Eagles game in the history of Lincoln Financial Field, kicker Jake Elliott kicked the longest field goal in Eagles history to win the game.

In a home opener that resembled a playoff frenzy atmosphere more reminiscent of  a cold January day, the Eagles allowed a 14-0 lead to slip away, getting behind 21-14 & 24-21 before Elliott’s  game-winning kick.  The rookie, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals as a 5th round pick, but who’s career hit a pitfall of sorts when he didn’t win the Bengals job to start the season, was signed off of the Bengals practice squad to replace injured kicker Caleb Sturgis.

After the tense, game winning 61-yard field goal, the kicker was carried off the field by his teammates in a game that will be remembered for the ages, if only for how it ended.  Elliott hit the ball so far that if the pigskin was E.T., he would have been able to send him back without having to “phone home” first.

In the worst case scenario, Jake Elliott just experienced his fifteen minutes of fame…a moment he can proudly tell his grandkids about one day.

In the best case scenario, Elliott takes over the kicking duties permanently from Caleb Sturgis and becomes the Birds field goal specialist for years to come, much like little known David Akers eventually did during the Andy Reid era.  But for that, he will have to work on his consistency, which has been shaky.

As astutely pointed out by Eagles postgame analyst and hall-of-fame writer Ray Didinger, it was the “shank” punt by Giants punter Brad Wing on New York’s last possession, which only traveled 28 yards, that gave the Eagles even a shot to try a winning field goal to began with.  If Wing gets off even an average punt in that scenario, the game most likely goes to overtime.

The irony is that once again, it was a mishap by a Giants punter that enabled the Eagles to win the game.  As you may recall, it was Giants punter Matt Dodge who kicked to DeSean Jackson when his coach told him not to, that enabled the Birds to win on the final play in a comeback, miracle win against the Giants at the Meadowlands back in 2010.

But while the game and the excitement of the kick had the Eagles fans singing Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration”, the win masked what were some obvious problems that the Birds have.

For starters, Doug Pederson’s aggressiveness in going for it on a 4th down & 8 from the Giants 43 caused much consternation and understandably so.  The play resulted in Carson Wentz getting sacked, which enabled the Giants to drive down the field and almost score a touchdown, if not for the Eagles defense tightening up on 4th and goal.

Pederson was asked about his thought process in going for it there, in which he replied that he had consulted with his analytics guy before making the decision.  One can only assume that the analytics guy is a five-year-old who invoked the nursery rhyme “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo” as his analytical process?

If New York scores there, and the Eagles lose this game by seven points, the head coach would have understandably been on the hotseat by the media and the fans.  And while it’s one thing to be aggressive, it’s another to make foolhardy decisions, which is precisely why I don’t think that “Dougie P” will be the head coach when this team is ready to compete for a Super Bowl.

The luck of the Irish may have been on Pederson’s side last week.  But how long before his good fortune hits the stroke of midnight in a game that is being played for much higher stakes?

For now though, all is well in Eagles land with an upcoming trip to the land of sun, surf, and the famous “In-N-Out Burger” as the Birds face the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday (the football team formerly known as the San Diego Chargers).

The Chargers moved to Los Angeles (LA) from their longtime home of San Diego because someone is convinced that people in LA actually care about NFL football.  And ironically, after winning the game on a long kick, the Birds will now play in a stadium in which the predominate sport played there is with your leg (soccer).

Stubhub Center, the temporary home of the Chargers, seats 27,000, which is about 15,000 less than even most traditional baseball stadiums seat these days.

And while a road game on the west coast is usually a cause for concern for an east coast team, there may actually be more Eagles fans at this game than Chargers fans.  Because frankly, most LA residents would probably prefer to hit around a beach ball at a Dodgers game  than go see an NFL game in person.

Add to that the fact that the only fans that travel better than Birds fans are Steelers fans, and you have the makings of a west coast Eagles home game.  Just replace the crab fries and cheesesteaks with burritos and you’re all set.

For that reason, I think Eagles win, 27-20, though once again, it will be a close game.  And if you happen to be in the stands and are looking for the LA natives, just look for the ones with the beach ball.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Panthers at Patriots  1:00 PM  FOX

Lions at Vikings  1:00 PM  FOX

Rams at Cowboys  1:00 PM  FOX

Bills at Falcons  1:00 PM  FOX

Steelers at Ravens 1:00 PM  CBS

Raiders at Broncos  4:25 PM  CBS

Advertisements

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #3: Home Sweet Home

When the schedule first came out showing an Eagles – Chiefs matchup on the road in Week #2, many figured that the Eagles would have a tough time winning in Kansas City. Most also assumed that the contest would feature the passing game since both head coaches (Andy Reid and Doug Pederson) like to pass the ball almost as much as Congress likes to pass the buck.

But in a game that was there for the Eagles taking, their coach’s reluctance to incorporate any semblance of a running game into the offense eventually became the difference between a win and a loss.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid, who is as likely to run the ball as he is to run a marathon, actually adjusted his game plan in the second half to feature a more balanced offense and take the pressure off of his quarterback, Alex Smith, who was getting pummeled by the Eagles defensive line in the first half.  This adjustment led to the Chiefs eventually breaking a 13-13 4th quarter tie and taking a 27-13 lead before holding on to win, 27-20.

And who says that old dogs can’t learn new tricks?  Looks like “Big Red” has actually gotten wiser with experience, though I wouldn’t hold your breath and expect him to run the Boston Marathon against some speedy Kenyans anytime soon.

There were a lot of positive vibes to take from this Eagles’ loss.  The team held its own quite admirably in a hostile environment against an opponent that has a legitimate chance to make a run at the Super Bowl.  And the Birds defensive line once again came out strong, limiting the Chiefs offense to 13 points through three quarters.

The blame for this loss belongs solely on the coach’s shoulders in my opinion.  Regardless of what he may think he sees schematically, dropping back with the intent to pass on 56 of 69 total plays (an 81% pass/run ratio) will do nothing but get your quarterback killed.

In the coach’s defense, he does not yet have a reliable running back that he can count on to carry the load.  Free agent LeGarrette Blount looks somewhat lost in this offense, and it could be that his best days are behind him.  Wendell Smallwood has come up “small” so far this season (no pun intended) and Darren Sproles, while being the only effective running back in last week’s game (10 carries for 48 yards), is best utilized by being used sparingly at this juncture of his career.

Another area of blame for the lack of a running game is the offensive line, which has not done its job of opening holes for the running backs.  Perhaps running back  Corey Clement , the local kid from Glassboro, NJ who made the team as a rookie free agent and is the Eagles “feel good” story of the year, needs to be more involved in the offense.  Or perhaps Dougie P. needs to stick to running the ball even when it doesn’t seem to work in the first three quarters of the game, in the hopes that it will wear down the opposing defense, eventually leading to sizable yardage come the 4th quarter.

While I’m not suggesting that a 50-50 run-pass ratio is what’s needed in today’s NFL that is geared toward the passing game, an 81% pass to run ratio when you are in a tie game in the 4th quarter should be worrisome for a head coach who has aspirations to build a championship team in Philadelphia for the long-term.

This week, the Birds return to the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field for their home opener in an NFC East joust against the New York Giants.  The New Yorkers’ have staggered to a 0-2 start, mostly due to their offense looking more like “lilliputians” than Giants.

The G-Men have scored a total of 13 points on offense, while their quarterback, Eli Manning, has been sacked a total of eight times thus far (contrast that with the Eagles, who have scored a total of 42 points on offense after two games).

The Birds would do well to apply continuous pressure on Eli Manning, causing him to get that usual bewildered look on his face (you know, the one where he looks like a squirrel in the middle of the road who’s just realized that there’s an oncoming automobile barreling toward him).

Even with the Giants offensive troubles, they still have a potent weapon in wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., who can wreak havoc on a depleted Eagles secondary if Manning has time to deliver him the ball.

Regardless of the Giants problems on offense, they still have a solid defense, and these NFC East games are rarely comfortable wins.  Expect the natives to be nail biting and restless into the 4th quarter, with some anxious moments for “Beak” (the guy in my section who wears an Eagles beak to each home game).

But have no fear – Birds win 20-16, and all the faithful, including Beak, go home happy.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Falcons at Lions  1:00 PM  FOX

Seahawks at Titans  4:05 PM  FOX

Raiders at Redskins  8:30 PM  NBC

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #2: The “My Tutor” Game.

If NFL games were a Disney movie, last week’s Eagles – Redskins contest could best be described as “Beauty & the Beast”.

There was beauty in the fact that the Birds finally got off the “schnide” and ended their five game losing streak to the Redskins while getting their season off on the right foot. But it was still an ugly win nonetheless.

The Eagles got off to a 13-0 lead and for a while, it looked like it could be a relaxing, smooth sailing kind of afternoon.  But Washington clawed back to take a 14-13 lead which began when a tipped Carson Wentz pass led to an interception for a touchdown, cutting the Birds lead to 13-7.

Whether Wentz had an open passing lane to throw on that play could be disputed.  But there was no disputing that his first touchdown was a thing of beauty.

The elusive “wiggling Wentz” somehow managed to evade three defenders and launch a pass to a wide open Nelson Agholor, who ran it in for the Eagles first score, bringing back memories of Randall Cunningham against the Buffalo Bills and Donovan McNabb against the Cowboys (both of which were also ironically for touchdowns on the road).

But while Wentz’s elusiveness on the play will make highlight films, his play at times was ugly.

There were at least 3-4 passes he threw up for grabs that could have easily been intercepted.  And he failed to connect with wide receiver Torrey Smith on two occasions when the free agent had outrun his defender, overthrowing him on one pass and not throwing it deep enough on another.

I do believe that Carson Wentz is the real deal.  And he will only improve with experience.  But we as Eagles fans will have to endure his growing pains along the way, which is perfectly fine with me, especially considering that the alternative was having Keanu Reeves (Sam Bradford) still here as the starting quarterback.

This week we move from “Beauty and the Beast” to “My Tutor” (which no one in their right mind would ever confuse with a Disney movie).  But it is the perfect title for what awaits this Sunday, as the pupil, Doug Pederson, squares off against his former coach, Andy Reid.

Reid, or “Big Red”, as we know him in these parts, was only the 2nd coach to ever guide the Eagles to the Super Bowl.  But his clock management and penchant for throwing the ball too often eventually got the best of him, and after a successful 12-year run as coach of the Birds, he moved on to Kansas City, where he has also turned the Chiefs into a winner.

I’ve said for a while that Andy Reid is the “Marty Schottenheimer of the Millennium”, a coach that will turn a team into a winner, but, for one reason or another, just won’t win a championship.

Schottenheimer made winners of the Browns, Chiefs, and Chargers, but would always come up short in the playoffs, much like Andy has been prone to do.  Reid does seem to have a Chiefs team that’s capable of going deep in the playoffs, especially after last week’s drubbing of the Patriots, but somehow Andy, poor Andy, will probably screw it up.

What he might not screw up is this Sunday’s game, especially considering that he would have had ten days to prepare his team.  For that reason, coupled with the fact that it is the Chiefs home opener, I was pretty steadfast on going with Kansas City.  But while writing this, I’m not so sure.

While Reid does know Doug Pederson’s tendencies, that argument can actually go both ways, as “Dougie P” used to be an assistant coach for Kansas City before he took the Eagles job in 2016.  Reid also doesn’t know this Eagles team that well, having been gone for five years now.  And being only one game into the season, he does not have a lot of game footage to go off of.

Pederson has something to prove to his mentor and his team will want to put on a good show for him.  The Chiefs could also be a little too high on themselves especially following last week’s game, and may be in prime shape for a letdown.  For those reasons (and the fact that I will be in attendance at Arrowhead), I’m taking the Birds, 28-27.

Afterwards, Carson Wentz celebrates by taking his lineman hunting on the prairie and barbecuing whatever they catch.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

EAGLES at Chiefs  1:00 PM  (FOX)

Titans at Jaguars  1:00 PM  (CBS)

Cowboys at Broncos  4:25 PM  (FOX)

Packers at Falcons  8:30 PM  (NBC)

Lions at Giants  8:30 PM  (ESPN) – Monday

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #1: A New Hope

Look up the word “hope” in the dictionary, and you will find its meaning to be “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”  In that sense, Eagles fans have been hoping for a very long time.

It has been fifty-seven years since the City of Brotherly Love last experienced an NFL championship.  The year was 1960, a year in which the United States had just entered the Vietnam War, and John F. Kennedy had just been elected President of the United States.

The Flintstones cartoon was shown on television for the first time, and Cassius Clay (who later took the name Muhammad Ali) would win his first professional fight and go on to become the greatest boxer of all time.

The Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers, 17-13, at Franklin Field on a cold December day that season to win the 1960 NFL Championship, in what would turn out to be the only playoff loss of legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s illustrious career.

Fifty-seven years is a very long time, especially when taken in the context that there are those who were crawling around and practicing the art of ‘babytalk’ on that December day who are now nearing retirement age and still haven’t experienced an Eagles championship.

And yet, Eagles fans continue to hope.  And hope.  And then hope some more, even when the team’s prospects seen daunting.

There have been Eagles coaches that have given the fans no hope, mostly during the lean years following the 1960 championship all the way up to 1975.

There were those who started out with promise, but whose early successes were merely a result of the leftover players from the previous regime (Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes, Chip Kelly).

There were those who had the roster of a championship caliber team, but who were more “bark then bite” once the playoffs arrived (Buddy Ryan).

And then there were those (Dick Vermeil & Andy Reid) who gave Eagles fans the most hope, taking them to the brink of the promise land, only to disappoint once again.

But through it all, Eagles fans continue to persevere, continue to hope, that one day, they will see the fruits of their devotion realized, much like all the other teams in their division have on more than one occasion.

The great Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Bill Lyon once remarked that Eagles fans could “teach loyalty to a dog”, which is probably the most accurate description one could give to this city’s rabid fan base.  And perhaps, they now have a  quarterback who has given them reason to believe.

The Eagles took a gamble to move up to the #2 overall draft pick last season to acquire quarterback Carson Wentz, who, on first impression, looks like he could throw an interception and, instead of cursing or yelling, would just say “AW SHUCKS!”

But one should not confuse Wentz’s small town, seemingly relaxed demeanor in any way to a lack of football acumen.  Wentz has a strong arm and seems to have a good grasp of the mental side of the game, which is essential to the success of an NFL quarterback.

Carson in his rookie season was very much like Luke Skywalker in the “Empire Strikes Back” movie.  Luke, as you may recall, was then a budding jedi knight who took his lumps (and got his hand chopped off by his father in the process)  while learning the ways of the force from master Yoda.  But Luke returned as a seasoned jedi in the sequel (aptly named “Return of the Jedi”) who could handle anything thrown his way while becoming a major force in helping the Rebel Alliance defeat the Evil Empire.

This season is Carson Wentz’s “Return of the Jedi” moment.  After one year of experience under his belt, it is now his time to be the unequivocal leader of this Eagles team.  And while he won’t have to worry about any familial violence on the field, he will have to be concerned with the pass rush from opposing defenders.

Wentz is the “New Hope” of the Eagles, and this team will only go as far as he can carry them.  To make his life easier, the front-office added some wide receiver weapons to his arsenal in the form of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, which were sorely lacking in 2016.

Assuming that the team can stay healthy, there is no reason to expect anything less than a 9-7 record at worst, and a possible playoff birth.  And while a Super Bowl may still be a couple years away, stranger things have happened in the NFL.

The Birds start the season on the right foot this Sunday, defeating the Washington Redskins, 30-20, for the first time in six tries.  In the meantime, Birds fans will watch with excitement and HOPE, that maybe, just maybe, this season will end with a different outcome then so many in the recent past…

What is your prediction for this Eagles season?  Feel free to post in the comments section!

As Broad & Pattison Turns 2017: The Great Recession of Philadelphia Sports

We are more than two-thirds of the way into 2017, and the “Great Recession of Philadelphia Sports” continues with no definitive end in sight.

The four professional teams that call this city home have been, at best, mediocre, and at worst, downright painful to watch.  But unlike the Great Recession of 2008, none of these teams were deemed “too big to fail”, as evidenced by the fact that they have failed in brilliant fashion as of late.

For evidence of such a sports calamity, one only needs to look at the records of the four teams since 2013.  Nineteen sports seasons completed or close to completion (five each for the Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and four for the Eagles) have resulted in only three winning seasons (two for the Eagles and one for the Flyers).  Three winning seasons out of nineteen makes for a winning percentage of 15.79%, which is a far cry from the mean of 50%.  And for you Flyers fans who may be questioning my math, overtime losses count as losses in my book, not as their own separate category.

Contrast that with a city like Boston who, over the same span of time, has amassed fifteen winning seasons (assuming that the Red Sox can win five more games over the rest of the month), giving them a winning percentage of 78.95%.  Add three championships in that span of five years, and one can see why we’re jealous.

And while the Great Recession of Philadelphia Sports has not resulted in low interest RATES over a prolonged period of time, it has resulted in, simply, low INTEREST over a prolonged period of time, which has teams scrambling to come up with creative ways to get their fans in the stands.

Some, like the Phillies, have figured out that the best way to disguise a bad product on the field is to have enough games that offer either a 1) Bobblehead giveway or 2) Dollar Dog Night.  Not sure why, but the allure of $1 hot dogs at a baseball game is very similar to free peanuts on an airplane.

Speaking from experience, I have a jar of peanuts in my pantry that I haven’t opened in three months.  But when I get on a plane in two weeks to fly out to Kansas City for Eagles- Chiefs, the sight of a 0.5 ounce bag of peanuts being handed out will no doubt have me salivating.

Add to that the various “cultural” nights the Phillies host during the season in this era of cultural diversity and you have marketing at its finest.  Let’s just hope that the “culture” of the Phillies long term rebuilding plan is to have more nights when they score more runs than they actually give up .  Until then, I’m holding out for “Maharashtra” night and a chance to dance on the dugout during the 7th inning stretch with some famous Indian Bollywood actresses.  And the Phillie Phanatic.  Because you can’t be dancing on the dugout without the Phanatic.

Then there are the Sixers, who embarked on the Hinkie “think tank” theory, which stated that if you lose enough, you will draft enough star players to eventually start winning. Problem is, former general manager Sam Hinkie never really stated how LONG one had to lose to accomplish such a feat, and was slowly inching his way to becoming a contestant on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” (for reasons other than the show’s purpose).

The NBA finally came to its’ senses and forced the team to bring in real basketball people to run the team.  But the damage had long been done, and while the team should be improved this year (as long as Joel Embiid can stay healthy), it may take some time to figure out whether there is championship material on the roster.

Meanwhile, the Sixers, in their attempts to actually get fans in the stands, keep reverting back to one of their famous ex-players for appearances at the arena during games.  And while that player brought great excitement and energy to the team for a number of years, his maturity level still remains that of your average fourteen year old, which has caused more consternation than positive feelings as of late.

The Sixers share the Wells Fargo Center with the Flyers, who are also embarked on their own rebuilding project (sense the theme here?).  The team used to spend money on free agent players faster than Donald Trump used to spend money on casinos, and while that did result in winning seasons, a championship continues to elude them.

Part of the reason was that while the Flyers used to spend on skill players, they would never spend on a top-notch goalie, even though that was the main reason they won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 1970’s.  The team is now using a more traditional, build through the draft method of stocking their team, but much like the Sixers and Phillies, this will take time…and Philadelphia fans understandably don’t have much patience after winning only one sports championship over the last 34 years (Phillies in 2008).

Luckily for the Flyers, they still have a strong, almost cult-like following.  But even your average cult member doesn’t want to sit around forever to watch a mostly average product.

Which brings us to the Eagles, who have been the most successful of the four sports franchises as of late, being the only team to post two winning seasons over the last five years.

Those two consecutive winning seasons came under the Chip Kelly regime in 2013 & 2014.   But by 2015, Chip Kelly had worn out his welcome, both by his relationship with his superiors and his team’s play on the field, and the Birds, much like the other three local teams, were “back to the drawing board” and in rebuilding mode.

But with the 2017 season now upon us, there is a “new hope” that resides with the Eagles. One that may finally end the Great Recession of Philadelphia Sports.  But more on that in my next post….