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

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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 #7: Eagles Bye Week

Eagles-Giants games at the Linc usually represent a tight fought, down to the wire contest that is never decided until the final gun sounds.  Last Sunday was not one of those games.

The Eagles took control from the start, playing their first complete game en route to a 27-0 spanking of the New York Giants.  It’s hard to fathom that a team that holds a 5-1 record could not have played a complete game up till now, but such is the case with the Birds, and with the NFL in general.  The days of dominating teams leading the league are behind us.

The only “hiccup” (if you could call it that) were two Nick Foles interceptions that looked awful from the moment the ball left his hand.  After six games, Foles leads the league with seven interceptions, and while no one thought he would match last year’s numbers (27 touchdowns, 2 interceptions), his tendency of throwing INT’s is a cause for concern.  In a playoff game in January, two throws like that could doom the Eagles season.

But I’ll save that for another time and be positive after a nice Eagles win against a division foe.   The Eagles will now enjoy their bye week and take some time to recharge, retreat, and relax, while this Sunday is also a good day for fans to catch up on the usual weekend chores like raking the leaves, cleaning out the garage, trips to Home Depot, etc.

In addition, if you (or your significant other) is planning on giving birth any day now, this Sunday is as good as any to do it.  At least that way, if the father of your child is yelling “Go! Go! Go!” in the delivery room, you can have the peace of mind of knowing that he’s doing it to give you moral support and not because an Eagles’ player is running into the endzone for a touchdown.

On second thought, even with an Eagles bye, there are a ton of good games to be watched starting from 1 PM eastern time and going all the way up to the conclusion of Sunday Night football.  So without further ado, here is a quick preview of this week’s marquee matchups (all games on Sunday):

Bengals at Colts 1:00 PM EST (CBS) – The Bengals always look like they are on the verge of greatness and then end up falling flat on their face.  The Colts have rebounded from an 0-2 start to win four straight and look primed to win the AFC South once again.  This will be a good test for the Bengals on the road.

Panthers at Packers 1:00 PM (FOX) – The Panthers seem to have lost their stout defense from a year ago and were lucky to get out of Cincinnati with a tie last week.  Carolina still leads the NFC South with a record of 3-2-1 (sounds more like a countdown instead of a record) but will be facing the Packers at Lambeau with Aaron Rodgers at the helm at quarterback.  The Panthers would be lucky to get another tie this week but don’t bet on it.

Chiefs at Chargers 4:05 PM (CBS) – Andy Reid’s teams are practically automatic after their bye week, but they face a tough road test against the Chargers who look to be a real threat to knock off Denver from the top of the AFC West.  Even if the Chiefs grab a big lead, Reid will probably not run the ball enough and the Chargers will come back to win it.

Giants at Cowboys 4:25 PM (FOX) – For Eagles fans, this game is the equivalent of choosing between two evils, sort of like when Darth Vader faced off against the Emperor in “Return of the Jedi”.  The Cowboys are 5-1, which no one expected, so I will be rooting for the Giants in this one (in a painful sort of way).

49ers at Broncos 8:30 PM (NBC) – This game takes the title of marquee matchup “Game of the Week” as the Niners head to the Rockies to face off against the Broncos in a rematch of Super Bowl XXIV (that’s 24 if you don’t recall your roman numerals).  In that contest, the Niners throttled the Broncos, 55-10, but not too likely that the same will occur this Sunday.

I’m betting on a 1) Broncos win and also that 2) Niners coach Jim Harbaugh will spend Saturday looking for coaching jobs at the 1) University of Colorado, 2) Colorado State, and 3) Anywhere else in the state of Colorado that will possibly hire him.  Who knows…if the Michigan job falls through, Harbaugh may even be selling marijuana at one of the state’s legal marijuana stores.  Seeing how intense and crazy he is on the field, he may need to use some as well…

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #3 2013: Eagles vs Chiefs

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #3 2013:  Eagles vs Chiefs

The Honeymoon is Officially Over….

Chip Kelly and the Eagles fans were on a week-long getaway to a remote resort island which included sun and fun, a plethora of activities, dinner and dancing in the evening, and romance at night.  Then, after returning home, Chip forgot to clean the dirty dishes left in the kitchen sink overnight, and chaos ensued.

Talk of a long and joyful union turned to frustration on a sun-soaked Sunday afternoon, as the Birds lost in the closing seconds, 33-30.

While the offense ran up and down the field, scoring on six drives, their three field goals that couldn’t be converted to touchdowns eventually sealed their fate due to a porous defense that couldn’t stop the Chargers for most of the day.

In Week #1, the Redskins began to mount a comeback but eventually ran out of time.  The Chargers, showing no signs of rust, ran roughshot up and down the field from the 1st quarter, as if there were only plastic tackle dummies standing in the secondary.

The good news is that the Eagles won’t have to let this loss linger in their minds for long, as the Chiefs come into town for a Thursday night affair.  The bad news is that there might not be enough time to figure out exactly what went wrong.

Not only will Thursday’s game feature the return of former coach Andy Reid, but also a ceremony to retire former quarterback Donovan McNabb’s number, which will no doubt add some intrigue to Reid’s return.

When Terrell Owens returned to Philadelphia as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, the slogan was “Get your popcorn ready”.   So perhaps this week’s slogan should be “Get your cheeseburgers ready”?

When Andy Reid was the head coach in Philadelphia, he never hid his affinity for an all beef patty on a bun, invoking memories of Wimpy from the Popeye cartoon.  And while the Birds had a great run for most of their fourteen years with Reid at the helm, whenever it came to the NFC championship, it seemed that the opponent was eating Popeye’s spinach to bypass the Eagles on the way to the Super Bowl.

And while Donovan was one of the greatest quarterbacks in Eagles history, perhaps it was the “special sauce, lettuce, cheese” that caused him to get sick during the two-minute drive in the Super Bowl, which seemed more like a five-hour drive to Boston in rush hour traffic.  Either way, those two will forever be joined at the hip, as Reid drafted McNabb and both enjoyed success together during their early years in Philadelphia.

As for the game itself, the Chiefs come in at 2-0 and are much improved from their 2-14 season of a year ago.  The Eagles have an offense that is capable of winning the Super Bowl, but a defense that is capable of going 0-16.  With only four days to prepare, the Birds will score a lot of points but will fall short, losing 37-34 to “Big Red”.  Andy Reid heads back to KC with his team at 3-0 and celebrates by enjoying some Kansas City barbecue.

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

Packers at Bengals  1:00 PM FOX – The Cheeseheads invade the Queen City in a intra-conference matchup.

Texans at Ravens 1:00 PM CBS – The Ravens probably won’t repeat as Super Bowl champions, but at least the number of statements made by a Ravens player that make absolutely no sense will decrease significantly now that Ray Lewis has retired.

Falcons at Dolphins 4:05 PM FOX – Buckhead vs South Beach.  Miami is usually a favorite hotspot for fans of the road team, but not sure if that applies to Atlanta, where Georgia Tech and any SEC team is more popular than the Falcons.

Colts at Niners  4:25 PM CBS – The coach of the 49ers plays against the team that he almost guided to the Super Bowl as a quarterback.

The Last Word:  Chris Berman of ESPN, who seems to have a “man crush” on Andy Reid, went out of his way last Sunday to mention that Chip Kelly should thank Reid for all of the playmakers he has on offense.  Berman conveniently forgot to mention that Kelly has no playmakers on defense due to a series of bad drafts when Reid was the coach of the Eagles.