As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #2: Tampadelphia

While the threat of lightening before last week’s much anticipated season opening “raise the championship banner” game never came to fruition, lightening did strike once again in the closing seconds of an Eagles – Falcons game at home.

Much like the divisional playoff game last January, Atlanta managed to drive the ball all the way down inside the Eagles 10-yard line with time winding down, causing a lot of nail biting with the faithful who had come out on a surprisingly humid early Sept. night.

But once again, it was the Eagles defense that came up big when a pass that was intended for Julio Jones was ruled incomplete due to being caught out of bounds, and the local Birds escaped with a win in the opener that kept the “feel good” positive atmosphere that has surrounded  this team since last February alive for at least one more week.

That’s not to say that there isn’t work to be done.  The offense struggled, just as they did in last year’s playoff game, but managed to keep it close and score when needed.  But games like this on a consistent basis will not a Super Bowl repeat champion make.

On the positive side, the Eagles defense looks to be its strength, at least for now.  And there is no reason why Nick Foles cannot improve his play, just as he did in the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl.  The Birds really have no choice until Carson Wentz is cleared to play, which could be as early as next week at home against the Colts.

But first, the team must travel to Tampa for a contest that initially looked like a day at the beach (Clearwater beach to be exact).  But that was before the Buccaneers went down to the Big Easy and gave a spanking to the New Orleans Saints, who many had picked as their Super Bowl favorite.

Tampa quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has journeyed around the NFL more than Anthony Bourdain has journeyed around the world, ran roughshod over the Saints defense last week in a 48-40 Tampa win.

But while the “Fitz” hasn’t met a barber he actually likes, it seems that he does have a duo of quality receivers that get his beard all tingly, most notably Mike Evans and former Eagle DeSean Jackson.

The Eagles defense will have to come to play, and cannot afford to take Tampa lightly.  On the plus side, even though this is technically a road game, count on a “Tampa Takeover” as Eagles fans will be coming in from both near and far to soak in the sun and suds, and support their team like very few fans can.

Much like the Chargers game last year, there could very well be more Eagles fans than Bucs fan at this game, which would make it a surreal situation when a chorus of boos roll out when the home team is introduced.

But along with the Eagles strong travel contingent (including yours truly who will be attending a wedding in Sarasota the night before), there is already a legion of Eagles fans who are transplants from the Delaware Valley who get together every Sunday to watch their beloved Birds at the Crowne Plaza Tampa Westshore (near the airport).

The group is appropriately known as “Tampadelphia”, and when I was visiting Tampa last December and looking for a place to watch the Eagles – Giants game with fellow Birds fans, I happened to find this group with the help of a local Eagles fan.

Things got a little scary at the end of the game, but the Birds pulled it out by preventing the Giants from scoring after having 1st & Goal from the Eagles 9 (quite similar to last week’s Falcons game as well), which caused the Tampadelphia crowd to erupt…

While I think that the Eagles will face a tougher test this week than originally thought, they are still the better team, and should come out ahead, 31-17.

Let’s hope the sun shines on the Birds this Sunday.  Meanwhile, if the sun shines a  little in these parts as well, that wouldn’t be so bad either.  Six straight days of cloudy weather is getting to me…

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless noted otherwise):

EAGLES at Buccaneers 1:00 PM FOX

Panthers at Falcons 1:00 PM FOX

Chiefs at Steelers 1:00 PM CBS

Dolphins at Jets 1:00 PM CBS

Chargers at Bills 1:00 PM CBS

Patriots at Jaguars 4:25 PM CBS

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #1: Championship Edition

FINALLY!!!!!

After 58 years of frustration, mediocrity, some close calls, and a lot of heartbreak, the team from the city of brotherly love finally broke through the steel gates in grand fashion and brought their city what they have richly deserved for so long…the team’s first NFL championship of the Super Bowl era.

What made it even more special was that it was totally unexpected.  This was not one of those teams from the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb era of the early 2000’s when everyone figured that the Eagles would easily win the division and go to the NFC Championship game with a reasonable shot to make it to the Super Bowl.

If one were to go back to Labor Day 2017 and find anyone that predicted that this team would win it all, they would probably be labeled a dope or moron (and not just by Howard Eskin).

No, 2018 was a season in which a 9-7 record would have signaled a step toward respectability and a sign that the team’s 2nd year quarterback was progressing in the right direction.  But somewhere along the way, someone forget to tell this team that merely earning a winning record was good enough.

A 61-yard field goal by kicker Jake Elliott as time expired gave the Eagles and their fans an exhilarating last second win in their home opener and kick started a nine game winning streak, which put the Eagles at 10-1 and gave the league notice that they were serious contenders to become the NFC representative for the Super Bowl.

But a week 14 road win against a tough Rams team, which clinched the NFC East, was tempered by the fact that their star quarterback, Carson Wentz,  would be out for the remainder of the season.  And when his backup, Nick Foles, looked downright awful in his last two regular season games, many felt that the the Birds would be “one-and-done” in the playoffs, and that Carson Wentz’s injury was just another sign that this team was eternally cursed.

Most national prognosticators seemed to agree with that sentiment as well, as the Eagles entered the playoffs as the first #1 seed since the 1970 Colts to be underdogs in the divisional round of the playoffs.

But with coach Doug Pederson tailoring the offense to his quarterback’s strengths, and Nick Foles’s improved play, the Birds squeaked past the Falcons on a defensive stand, and then blew out the Vikings to earn the right to play in a Super Bowl that no one expected them to be in during the dog days of summer.

And who could have asked for a better opponent than the New England Patriots?  The same team, quarterback, and coach who had defeated the Birds in their last Super Bowl appearance 13 years earlier would be the foe they would have to exercise their past demons against.  And in a game that was one for the ages, the Birds played with an aggressive style that their former coach, Andy Reid, would never have done.

If Reid had still been the Eagles coach, the “Philly Special” would have been replaced with a field goal,  and the gutsy 4th & 1 when Doug Pederson gambled and went for the first down and succeeded with 5 minutes left in the game (which eventually resulted in the winning touchdown) would have been replaced by a punt and a 33-30 Eagles loss.

Pederson deserves all of the accolades for his play calling in the Super Bowl, and this team deserves all of the credit for rallying together as “underdogs” and jelling at the right time.

After what was nothing short of a miracle season, the Lombardi trophy is finally yours Philadelphia.  So without further ado (and before we began the 2018 season), I dedicate the 2017 championship season to the following:

  • Section 244 at the Linc (and a special shout out to Section 745 at the old Vet)
  • Abhi K., a longtime Philadelphia sports fan and his prized “We are #1” pose in many of our childhood photos.
  • My father, who had me change the channel to the Eagles game at 1 PM one Sunday afternoon when I was 7 years old.  The television has been replaced multiple times since but what is being watched has remained the same.
  • Longtime Eagles season ticket holder Steve M., who ironically happens to be married to a lifelong Giants fan.  I guess opposites actually do attract.
  • Janaki Maushi, who still follows all the Philadelphia sports teams even while living 8,000 miles away from Broad & Pattison.
  • My mom and her “halftime hoagies” all throughout my childhood.  They were always served with a smile, even on days when the Eagles had given you nothing to smile about.
  • Joe L., my season ticket comrade for 18 years.
  • Arun Kaka, who is always optimistic that the Eagles can go 16-0, even in years when it looked like they may go 0-16.
  • My sister, “The Neelj”, who’s knowledge of Eagles football is second to none.
  • Shashi Maushi, who’s smile is always missed when the Eagles win a big game.
  • Pathak Kaka, to whom I lost every Eagles bet I ever made.  Luckily, he never made me pay up and actually wash his car.
  • Merrill Reese & Mike Quick, who make it worthwhile to turn down the sound on your TV and turn up the radio.  Much like Harry Kalas before them for the Phillies, the game would not be as enjoyable to watch without them.
  • Anthony Gargano (the cuz) – a “4 for 4” Phila. sports fan & radio personality on 97.5.
  • Ray Didinger – the reason to DVR “Eagles Postgame Live” on my way home from the Linc.

Last but definitely not least, my uncle Kishor.  While he has not been with us since 2010, he was a huge Eagles fan who I had the pleasure of watching many Eagles games with in person.

While sitting at my seat at U.S Bank Stadium following the Eagles Super Bowl win, I couldn’t help but think that he was there in spirit, commenting about how awesome that “Philly Special” call was.

So what can we expect from the 2018 season?  Repeating as champions is never easy, as it has only been accomplished eight times previously, but this team has the talent to do it.

But so often, the fire to repeat is not the same as winning it the first time, and complacency can often get in the way.  The one difference with this team is that their star quarterback wasn’t able to be there during last year’s stretch run due to injury, and whether he says so publicly or not, he wants to win it with the team on HIS shoulders…not as a spectator on the sidelines.

Carson Wentz could be the reason this team repeats, but there will be a bullseye aimed at the Eagles by every team they face.  Week #1 will be a tough test, as the Atlanta Falcons are out for revenge, especially after falling two yards short of advancing in last year’s divisional playoff game.

Birds fans will be psyched to see the team’s first ever Super Bowl banner being hoisted at Lincoln Financial Field during the pregame ceremonies, but once kickoff takes place, that banner will become yesterday’s news as far as the game is concerned.

Luckily, the return of starters such as Darren Sproles, Jason Peters & Nelson Agholor will help to clear out the preseason cobwebs, and the Birds win their opener, 31-21, to get their season off on the right foot.

As for Broad & Pattison, it will continue to turn…but this time with it’s inhabitants as defending champions.  Has a nice ring to it don’t you think?

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST & on Sunday unless noted otherwise):

Falcons at EAGLES 8:20 PM –  NBC (Thurs)

Bills at Ravens 1:00 PM – CBS

Cowboys at Panthers 4:25 PM – FOX