As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #9: All Treats, No Tricks

After the Eagles began the first of three straight home games with a convincing win over a division foe in the Washington Redskins, many felt that last week’s game against an 0-7 49ers team would be like feasting on “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat.”

Instead, with the Birds struggling on offense for most of the first half and nursing only a 3-0 lead at the 2-minute warning before halftime, it looked more like the visit from the winless Niners would end up a trick instead of a treat.

But this is not your father’s Eagles team (or any Eagles team from the recent past for that matter).  A team that had actually lost four of its last six games when they were favored by double digits has now learned how to win even when they are facing an inferior opponent.

Before the fans even had time to contemplate whether to stand in line for crab fries or nachos, the Eagles scored two touchdowns in the last two minutes before halftime to turn a nervous 3-0 lead into a 17-0 comfortable one.

All the treats continued in the 2nd half, as the Eagles built a 33-7 lead with ten minutes left in the game, resulting in the fans heading for the exits before the rain, which was off and on during the game, finally began to get heavier and continue through the night.

But while the skies looked quite gloomy overhead, and over the rest of the 49ers season, there was nothing but sunny skies for the Birds at the halfway point of their 2017 campaign.

To their credit, the team did not go into the locker room with any bombastic swagger.  They knew they had won only because they were facing a winless team that they allowed to hang around in the first half.

San Francisco was the team of the decade in the 1980’s and was once a model franchise that others, like the Eagles, sought to emulate.  But in their current state, they are a wretched team that is at one of its low points in their 72-year history, which explains why they just traded a 2nd round pick in next year’s draft for Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Speaking of trades, the Eagles pulled off one of their own as well before Tuesday afternoon’s NFL trade deadline, sending a 4th round pick to the Miami Dolphins for running back Jay Ajayi.

The trade for Ajayi is another smooth move by general manager Howie Roseman, who seems to have a penchant for fleecing the Miami Dolphins whenever possible.  It was Howie, after all, who engineered a trade before the 2016 season to move up from 13th to 8th in the NFL draft, which was later used to move up to the 2nd overall spot to draft Carson Wentz.

Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last season, but he fell out of favor with Miami’s head coach Adam Gase, and the one worry with him is that he tends to pout when he doesn’t get the ball, even after games when his team wins.

One would suspect that in the Eagles locker room, such a disruptive attitude would not be tolerated.  The Eagles do seem to be a very unselfish team, which is a rarity in this day and age of big contracts that are earned based mostly on stats.  But perhaps Ajayi realizes that he has a chance to win a Super Bowl here, and could be the focal point of the running game in the future with LeGarrette Blount unsigned beyond this season.

Either way, it is currently a crowded backfield, with Ajayi, Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and Kenjon Barner all at the running back spot.  Most likely, it will be Barner as the odd man out, who will be mostly relegated to the punt return duties with the addition of Ajayi.

As for the team, they have the Denver Broncos at home this Sunday before embarking on their much deserved bye week.

The Broncos started the season 3-1, but have since lost three in a row to fall to 3-4 and currently sit 2.5 games behind the division leading Kansas City Chiefs.  Along with their current losing streak, the stock of their quarterback, Trevor Siemian, has concurrently fallen as well, and Siemian was benched this week in favor of backup Brock Osweiler.

The Broncos have outgained their opponents in all four of their losses, but turnovers continue to kill them, as Siemian has thrown 10 interceptions on the year, including three last week against the Chiefs.

Last Sunday, the Eagles faced a 49ers quarterback (C.J. Beathard) that would never be confused with either Joe Montana or Steve Young.

This week, they  will face a quarterback (Brock Osweiler) that would never be confused with John Elway or Peyton Manning.  As such, it is another chance for the defense to tee off and pad their stats, before taking a week off to tee off at the golf course.

Birds head off to their bye week on a high note, defeating the Broncos, 27-17.  And the enchanted season rolls on…

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Falcons at Panthers  1:00 PM  FOX

Broncos at EAGLES  1:00 PM   CBS

Chiefs at Cowboys  4:25 PM   CBS

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #8: The Enchanted Season continues

The quarterback, about to be pancaked to the turf, throws a pass into the corner of the end zone with the perfect trajectory and accuracy.  Undrafted rookie Corey Clement, who is not only living out his dream of playing in the NFL, but doing so for his hometown team, makes a difficult, against the shoulder catch in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

The Enchanted Season continues…

Rookie kicker Jake Elliott, sitting on the Cincinnati practice squad because he could not win their placekicker’s job, joins the team and makes eleven consecutive field goals, including a 61-yarder with no time left on the clock to defeat the New York Giants as the crowd erupts into a frenzy.

The Enchanted Season continues…

Injuries continue to decimate this team, especially on the defensive side.  The situation gets even worse last Monday night, when nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters, a stalwart on the offensive line, and Jordan Hicks, the quarterback of the defense, have to be helped off the field with what turn out to be season ending injuries.

The team that had the least number of injuries in 2016 has now had the law of averages catch up to them.  Yet, the “next man up” philosophy has continued to operate effectively, with the injuries not causing the team to skip a beat.

The Enchanted Season continues…

With the Eagles nursing a precarious seven point lead at the start of the 4th quarter, the quarterback drops back to pass and is met with a ferocious pass rush in a play that surely looks to be a sack.  Suddenly, out of a pile, the QB miraculously  appears like Houdini, turning what should have been a 9-yard loss into a 17-yard gain.  Even one of Jon Dorenbos’s magic tricks never looked so good.

The Enchanted Season continues…

With a 6-1 record, the Eagles sit atop the NFL with the league’s best record, while visions of a Super Bowl slowly began to dance in their fans heads.  But even a 16-game season is a long one, and there still remains nine regular season games left to be played.

Nine games for more injuries to mount.  Nine games for the Eagles to have a letdown.  Nine games to allow the Cowboys to beat them twice and creep back into the NFC East race.

The Eagles currently hold a 2.5 game lead in the NFC East, with both the Cowboys and Redskins in their rearview mirror at 3-3.   A division title is certainly in the Eagles grasp, which guarantees you a #4 seed at worst and a home playoff game in the first round of the playoffs.  But while the Eagles would have been thrilled with that at the beginning of the season, their aspirations are much higher considering what has transpired thus far.

The race to a Super Bowl begins with securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  And in a sport where playing at home gives you an advantage unlike any other, having that #1 seed is the best way to do so.  But even with a 6-1 record, the Eagles have both the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams hot on their tail at 5-2, as well as the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks at 4-2 (since they’ve both already had their bye week).

The Eagles will have a tough stretch of road games come December, when they will face the Seahawks on December 2nd followed by the Rams the following weekend.  These two games could be HUGE in determining the NFC playoff picture, assuming that all three teams continue at their current rate of success.

This week, the San Francisco 49ers will come to town, which will mark the 41st time in NFL history that the team with the best record in the NFL will face the team with the worst record.  San Francisco is not only one of two teams in the league that still remain winless (the other being Cleveland), but they have also lost 19 straight games played on Sundays, a losing streak which is also second only to the Browns, who have lost 24 straight on Sundays.

But even though the Niners are still in search of their first win, they are also the only team in NFL history to lose five straight games by 3 points or less.  That last stat reveals that the Niners are not to be taken lightly.  They are a team that has not yet learned how to win, much like the Eagles from last season.

The Birds will have Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle filling in for the injured Jason Peters (say that name three times over without screwing up). “Big V”, as he is known for simplicity purposes, had extensive on the job training filling in for Lane Johnson last year and, after some first game jitters, performed admirably for the Eagles.  He may have to fill the void for the remainder of the season with Peters being out.

On the defensive side, the Eagles, as they usually do, will probably go with only two linebackers on the field for the majority of the snaps, with Nigel Bradham taking over Jordan Hicks’ spot as the quarterback of the defense and Mychal Kendricks most likely taking the other starting spot.

Kendricks was not getting as many snaps as either Hicks or Bradham, but whenever he has been in the game, he has had a favorable impact.  And while the only time Bradham had the responsibility for making sure the defense was in the right alignment was when Jordan Hicks was hurt in the Panthers game, he actually played pretty well in Hicks’ absence.

Once again, I don’t think this game will be a blowout (I know, I know…I always say that) as the Niners have played it close in so many games.  Expect a wet and stormy day filled with the natives in ponchos and some rain soaked Chickie & Pete’s crab fries, as the Birds win, 28-17, and go to 7-1.

The Enchanted Season continues…

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Steelers at Lions  8:30 PM  NBC

Broncos at Chiefs  8:30 PM  ESPN