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 – Divisional Playoff Weekend: And So It Begins…

If things had gone according to form of even the most optimistic prognosticators, the Birds would have finished their 2017 season at 9-7, which would have earned them the title of  NFC East Division winners in a weak division or an invite to the playoffs as a Wildcard team. And whether they would have played a home playoff game last week in the friendly but frigid confines of Lincoln Financial Field or not, a playoff birth for the first time in four years is something that most fans would have been ecstatic about, as it would have signaled that this team was trending upwards and making great strides to becoming a contender in the near future.

But somewhere around Halloween, all those predictions were thrown out along with that deformed pumpkin sitting on your porch.

Somewhere along the way, a team that most expected to go 8-8, 9-7, or 10-6 as a stretch, started out 7-1.

Somewhere along the way, the steady improvement that we hoped to see in a 2nd year quarterback from a state most Eagles fans knew very little about turned into a franchise quarterback blossoming before our very eyes.

In 2017, Carson Wentz became the kind of quarterback that we had previously watched and envied from afar, as the kind of rare talents he displayed were always found on other teams, but never our own. And his play made those around him look better as well.

But saying that all of this team’s success was strictly due to the quarterback would be an injustice.

The general manager definitely deserves a good amount of credit as well.  And his story his one of persistence.

Howie Roseman was sending letters to various NFL teams in the hopes of getting his foot in the door any way he could.  And when the Eagles finally gave him that opportunity in 2000, he started his Eagles career as an unpaid intern who had to share the side of a desk as his workspace.

But the kid from Marlboro, NJ, who grew up a Jets fan and eventually moved up the Eagles ladder to the general manager position, had to move up not once, but TWICE in the 2016 NFL Draft to acquire the quarterback he coveted.

And not only does it seem that he got the right guy, but he got his franchise quarterback some help in areas that were vastly deficient just a year ago.

While the Eagles finished 7-9 just a year ago, it was fairly evident that the areas of wide receiver, the secondary, and the defensive line needed to be vastly improved in order for this team to make a playoff run.

It was Roseman who signed Alshon Jeffery & Torrey Smith, and traded a reliable receiver in Jordan Matthews to acquire cornerback help in Ronald Darby.

It was Roseman who traded for Tim Jernigan, who has become a stalwart on the defensive line.

It was Roseman who traded for running back Jay Ajayi, who is expected to be the workhorse against the Falcons and help take the pressure off of Nick Foles.

But while the Eagles were flying high after a tough December win on the road against a quality playoff opponent in the LA Rams, that win was tempered by the knowledge that the Birds had lost their franchise quarterback for the remainder of the year.

But while the loss of Wentz was a huge blow to the Eagles Super Bowl chances, the “lucky” part to what was an unlucky situation was that the injury took place so late in the season.

Backup Nick Foles, who ironically was the starting quarterback for this team the last time they made the playoffs in 2013, not only played admirably in the 2nd half of that game, but the win had the Birds at 11-2 and NFC East division winners.

With only two games remaining against subpar competition, the team was able to play just well enough to secure the #1 seed and homefield throughout the playoffs.

But with Foles and the offense looking mediocre over the last few weeks, naturally questions have arisen as to whether the backup has what it takes to get this team to the Super Bowl.

Everyone knows that Nick Foles is not Carson Wentz.  But the good news is that he does not need to be.

And Foles does not need to replicate his 2013 season either…a season where he threw 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He just needs to manage the game and let the other pieces around him do their job.

The most important aspect of the Eagles chances to win their next two games and advance to the Super Bowl is that both games will be played in the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field.

At approx. 4:25 PM this Saturday afternoon, right around the time that the Eagles players are introduced on the field, the excitement at the Linc will start to build.  And by the time the coin toss is completed and Adrian emerges from her coma on the big screen to tell Rocky that the only thing she wants him to do is “WIN”, the noise level will have reached a crescendo.

 

Four years is a long time to wait for a playoff game, especially for a fan base that is on 57 years and counting for a championship.  And just as Adrian emerged from her coma, this team, whose offense has played in a comatose state for the last two games, will have to emerge and fight for their playoff lives.

Most outsiders do not expect them to succeed.  The Eagles are the first #1 seed in history to be considered underdogs in the playoffs against a #6 seed, which is what the Atlanta Falcons are.

Much like the City of Philadelphia is treated like an illegitimate stepchild that sits in between the glitz & glamour of New York and the omnipresent lobbyists of Washington, DC, the 2017 Eagles and their city are the NFL’s version of  Rodney Dangerfield – they just get “No Respect”.

One would think that coach Doug Pederson has hammered this point home to his team.  At least it certainly seems that way based on his rather curt press conferences this week.  And that’s all good in my opinion…a “chip on their shoulder” mentally is just what this team might need.

As pointed out by 97.5 morning show host Anthony Gargano, it was Phillies fans who, in the 2008 National League Division Series (NLDS) against the Brewers, got into their ace pitcher C.C Sabathia’s head to the point where he walked starting pitcher Brett Myers, which led to Shane Victorino following that up with a grand slam.

At that point, even though it was only game 2 of the NLDS, you knew that the Brewers were done, and the Phillies went on to win the World Series for the first time in 28 years.

Today, on what will be a cold, windy day with temps in the 30’s, Eagles fans will be more crucial to the outcome than any other game in recent history.  This is a game where the fans will not only have to play the role of the “12th man”, but they will essentially have to make up for the loss of talent at the quarterback level by getting into the psyche of the opponent.

The Eagles have had two weeks to prepare for this game and are playing a team that is used to the comforts of a climate controlled dome.

Two weeks to digest and dissect what went wrong.

Two weeks to figure out how to put their backup quarterback in the best position possible to succeed and move on to the NFC Championship.

And with their fans in a frenzy, there is no reason why they can’t do so.

Eagles win and sit on the doorstep of a Super Bowl in this enchanted season.

And so it begins…

Divisional Playoff Schedule:

Falcons at EAGLES  4:35 PM  NBC (Sat)

Titans at Patriots  8:15 PM  CBS (Sat)

Jaguars at Steelers  1:05 PM  CBS (Sun)

Saints at Vikings  4:40 PM  FOX (Sun)