As Broad & Pattison Turns: From Hapless to Hopeful

Looking back now, it’s hard to believe just how many times this team has been on the verge of playoff extinction.

On Nov. 25th, as running back Saquon Barkley raced down the field en route to a touchdown, the Eagles season was on the verge of playoff extinction.

One week prior, the Birds were throttled by the Saints, 48-7, in a game in which they were never in it from the start and looked totally overmatched.
And while injuries played a big part in the Eagles lack of success that day, it was hard to believe just how hard and fast the defending Super Bowl champions had fallen.

Now, the Birds faced a 19-3 deficit against the New York Giants, with one more Giants score basically ending the game and rendering the last five games meaningless as far as most of the fans were concerned.

It’s hard to say what went through the players’ minds at that point, but the Birds drove down the field to score a touchdown and then, with the Giants driving once again, Malcolm Jenkins made what may have been a season saving interception.

Stepping in front of Odell Beckham at the 2-yard line, Jenkins interception not only prevented New York from going back up by two scores, but catapulted the Birds to a comeback victory.

A win the following week against the Redskins put the Eagles at 6-6 for the season, but a loss in Dallas the following Sunday, in a game in which both Lady Luck and the referees seemed to conspire against the team, made their playoff chances a precarious one at best, especially with tough games against both the Rams and the Texans looming.

But the Birds surprisingly defeated the Rams on the road, and then, facing a one point deficit against Houston with 2:04 left and starting a drive at their own 11-yard line, drove down the field with Jake Elliott kicking a 35-yard field goal with no time left to give the Eagles the victory.

Elliott seems to miss the kicks that any good kicker should regularly make. Yet, he is as clutch as they come when it counts, and his game winning field goal had, once again, prevented the nail from being driven into the Eagles coffin.

With one week left to go in the regular season, and facing the Washington Redskins, a team that was now on its 3rd string quarterback, most had no doubt that the Eagles would be victorious.

But a victory alone would not be enough, as the Birds needed a Bears win over the Vikings in order to keep their season going into January.

Luckily, Chicago still had a shot to earn a bye on the final week of the season, should the 49ers upset the Rams. But what if the Rams got off to a big lead? Would Bears coach Matt Nagy decide to rest his players in the 2nd half, knowing that he had nothing to play for?

The Eagles did their part, and the Bears played most of their starters in the 2nd half, even when it was evident that their victory would be for naught.

Perhaps it was because Eagles coach Doug Pederson and Bears coach Matt Nagy are friends, having both worked on Andy Reid’s staff in Kansas City?

Whatever the reason, the Birds and the Bears had hooked up and conceived a playoff birth for the City of Philadelphia. Who needs those bees anyway…

The Eagles knew that to reach the Super Bowl again, they would have to take a much more difficult path this time, needing three straight victories on the road. And the first stop was, ironically, Chicago, to face the same team that helped them get an invite to the playoff party in the first place.

And once again, the Birds faced a one score deficit late in the 4th quarter with Nick Foles needing to drive them 60 yards for the go-ahead score. And once again, the team was one play away from their season ending when they faced 4th & Goal at the 2.

Enter Golden Tate, who had been acquired in a mid-season trade, which many questioned as a bad move. But on this day, it was Foles pass to Tate that resulted in the go-ahead touchdown.

But a short kickoff gave the Bears a great opportunity to drive down the field from their own 42, and with 10 seconds left it was up to Bears kicker Cody Parkey to win the game.

And as the kick went up and straight down the middle, the Eagles season seemed to finally have come to an end. But wait…Doug Pederson had called a timeout to ice the kicker right before the kick took place. Surely, that stuff never actually works does it?

But as Parkey kicked again following the timeout, this time, the ball did not go straight down the middle but started to slice to the left. And as a tri-state area watched with bated breath, the ball hit the goalpost and started to make it’s way downwards.

There was still the chance that the ball could fall in, away from the end zone side of the lower post, resulting in a Bears win. A few inches here and there would make the difference, but as the ball bounced back toward the end zone, Philadelphia exhaled.

Once again, the Eagles had avoided the nail in their coffin and had survived to see another day. And a fan base which had finally witnessed its first Super Bowl victory in amazing fashion just last season started to wonder if lightening could strike twice.

But the next hurdle to be overcome for the Birds will not be easy. The Saints may be the toughest test the Eagles will face should they continue this amazing journey, and the crowd inside the New Orleans Superdome will do everything in its power to make sure the Eagles next game is their last.

The Birds are an improved team, and a healthier one, from when they faced New Orleans back in Week 11. But the Saints are well rested having earned a bye last week, and motivation will not be a factor in playoff time.

If the Eagles 2018 party were to end down in the “Big Easy”, no one would be surprised. This team, after all, has been playing with house money for some time now.

But just as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady needed some good fortune bestowed on them on the way to three Lombardi trophies in four years (2001-2004), perhaps it is Doug Pederson and Nick Foles that are now riding the wave of good fortune?

If anyone can pull off an upset, it is this Eagles team that somehow, someway, always seems to escape elimination.

A team that looked hapless just a few weeks back is now hopeful that this amazing journey will continue.

E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES.

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #11: Difficult task in the Big Easy

The Philadelphia Eagles, one year removed from their first ever Super Bowl title, have been doing a lousy job of defending their status as champions.

A record of 4-4 halfway through the season, with three of their four losses coming in excruciatingly painful fashion, have the faithful pulling their hair out and wondering if 2017 was simply a mirage that never really happened.

With the team opening up the 2nd half of its season against the Dallas Cowboys, a team that has been mired in mediocrity not only this season but basically since the turn of the century, this matchup seemed like the perfect tonic for whatever has been ailing the Birds.  And the oddsmakers must have felt the same way, as the Eagles were seven point favorites going in.

But when Philadelphia went on offense to start the game and promptly went three and out, I couldn’t help but think of Han Solo in those classic Star Wars movies looking over at Chewbacca and stating, “I’ve got a BAD feeling about this”.

That bad feeling continued for the first thirty minutes as the Eagles went into halftime down 13-3.  This team’s ineptitude at the beginning of games is puzzling, as they have now scored a total of 21 points during the 1st quarter all season, with 14 of those points coming in one game against the lowly New York Giants.

The Birds did manage to crawl out of their hole to start the 3rd quarter and eventually tied the game at 13-13.  But on the two occasions that they clawed their way back into a tie, Dallas’s offense, which was held in check for most of the first half, would drive down the field without much resistance to retake the lead. 

Down 27-20, the Birds reached the Dallas 30 yard line at the two-minute warning of the 4th quarter.  But on 3rd & 2, a swing pass to Corey Clement was sniffed out for a 5-yard loss, and the following play, a pass to tight end Zach Ertz, fell just one yard short of the first down. 

And while the Eagles did get the ball back with 38 seconds left, it was too little, too late.  That’s the kind of season it’s been my friends.

This team, instead of resembling a Super Bowl champion, looks very much like the 7-9 team of two years ago.  That was Doug Pederson’s first year as head coach, and that team also had the habit of losing close games that they could have won had one or two plays gone the other way.

Sitting at 4-5, the Eagles now find themselves heading to New Orleans to face the Saints, who just happen to be the top team in the NFC, a spot that the Birds held for most of last season.

Add to that the fact that the New Orleans Superdome is not an easy place to play, and the Saints feature one of the best current coach/quarterback combinations in Sean Payton & Drew Brees (second only to Tom Brady & Bill Belichick in my opinion), and one can see why the Eagles started off as nine-point underdogs.

The good news (if there is any) is that the Birds should be able to score on this defense.  The bad news is, can they actually stop the Saints offense?

Both starting cornerbacks for the Eagles (Ronald Darby & Jalen Mills) are out, with Darby out for the remainder of the season.  2nd year man Sidney Jones will return this week, and will have to earn his paycheck as the starting outside corner for the first time since his college days against a dangerous Saints offense.  Opposite him will be his fellow 2017 draft pick Rasul Douglas, who allowed eight catches last week in his first starting gig.

For some reason, I think that the Eagles will play with a lot of pride, and actually keep it close.  The question is, is this team good enough to win?

Birds lose this game, 28-24.  And let’s hope the Redskins & Cowboys do as well.  Otherwise, we may be throwing the 2018 Eagles season out with the trash on Monday morning.

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

Texans at Redskins 1:00 PM CBS

Vikings at Bears 8:20 PM NBC

Chiefs at Rams 8:15 PM ESPN (Mon.)

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #10: America’s “Mediocre” Team Comes to Town

On Tuesday, voters flocked to the polls to determine the balance of power in Congress.

Meanwhile, the race to determine the balance of power in the eastern division of the NFC conference is also heating up.

With two months to go, two of the four “candidates” are locked in a virtual dead heat, while a third’s poll numbers have been slipping as of late.

The fourth candidate, from the NY/NJ/CT district, is so far behind in the polls that they have already conceded defeat in this election, and are formulating a strategy to regroup and energize their “base” in order to have a better showing next year.

In Congress, the political party of the President usually does not fare well in mid-term elections, losing an average of 30 House seats since World War II (the President’s party lost approx. 35 this year, which falls right in line with historical trends).

In the NFC East, being the “incumbent” does not fare well either, as there has not been a repeat champion in the division since the Eagles of the Philadelphia district won four straight elections from 2001-2004.  With half of their season still left, the Birds are hoping to buck that trend and get into the playoffs as a division winner, though they are too far behind in the “bye/homefield advantage” poll to end up as a #1 or #2 seed.

In addition, the Birds schedule does not help their cause.  While the Redskins remaining eight games feature only one opponent that currently has a winning record, the Eagles have two road games left against the top two teams in their conference (the Saints & Rams) as well as the Houston Texans at home in late December, which may not be as easy as it once looked.

Assuming the Eagles lose on the road against the Saints & Rams, they would have to win their six remaining games just to go 10-6, which, with the exception of the Texans game, are all against divisional foes (two each against the Redskins & Cowboys, one against the Giants).

If they were to win five of those six, they would end up at 9-7, which may or may not be enough to win the NFC East.  In such a scenario, they would probably have to sweep the Redskins to win the division with only nine wins.

While the Eagles defense was criticized in their close losses (giving up two long 4th down conversions which resulted in the team being 6-2 instead of 4-4 will do that), the defense is not playing any worse than last season when it comes to points scored against them.  It’s actually the offense that has regressed.

Last season, the Birds averaged 30.5 points/game (excluding the last regular season game, in which they had nothing to play for).

This season, the team is averaging only 22.3 points/game, which represents a significant  drop of more than 8 points/game from last year.  With the exception of the Giants game, they have not scored 30 or more points all season, something that they did nine times in 2017.

The arrival of Golden Tate from Detroit in a trade should help those anemic offensive numbers somewhat. Tate has averaged 93 catches per season over the last four years, and his presence on the field should help to open up the ball to other pass catchers as well.

The injury bug continues to plague the Birds, however.  Darren Sproles, who seems to have the longest nagging hamstring in the history of the NFL, is out once again, and injuries in the secondary to cornerbacks Jalen Mills & Sidney Jones won’t help matters either.

Interestingly enough, this will actually be the first relevant Eagles – Cowboys contest at home in three years.  Both in 2016 & 2017, they faced each other on the last week of the season, in a game that was irrelevant to both teams.

In ’16, the Cowboys had already clinched home field advantage and were using the game to get Tony Romo back up to speed after recovering from injury.  The Birds won that game and finished up their season 7-9, heading into the offseason with questions about whether their coach, Doug Pederson, was NFL quality caliber.  We all know how that turned out.

In ’17, it was the Cowboys playing out the string and winning the game, while the Eagles were using it to figure out whether Nick Foles was good enough to get them through the playoffs and to their first Super Bowl title in team history.  We all know how that turned out.

Dallas is in a more precarious position than the Birds are.  They lost at home to Tennessee last Monday night, and come to the Linc on a short week and on a short lifeline, with a record of 3-5 on the season.

But while the Cowboys have been struggling this season,  they are still hated in these parts with that stupid “America’s Team” label, which really needs to change to “America’s Mediocre Team”, being that they haven’t been relevant for most of this century.

Being a Sunday night game, the crowd will have had all day to feast on tailgate food and drink, and thus, will be thrusting for blood by the time the 8:20 PM kickoff rolls around.

I expect the Eagles to come out looking much better on offense, and with the addition of Golden Tate, to win this game, 34-20.

I also predict that the stoic, confused look on Jerry Jones’s face will be shown often on national television, with the Sunday night broadcast team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth continuing to kiss his “gluteus maximus” instead of being critical of his football decisions in any aspect.

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

Panthers at Steelers 8:20 PM NFL Network/FOX (Thurs.)

Saints at Bengals 1:00 PM FOX

Patriots at Titans 1:00 PM CBS

 

 

 

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

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)

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #15: The Wentz Wagon Derailed

On the road to the Super Bowl, even the most fine-tuned automobile can encounter some setbacks.

Sometimes the setbacks are nothing more than standard maintenance…an oil change or a tire rotation every now and then to keep the car driving smoothly.

Sometimes it may be something that requires a little more time and effort to fix, but still is nothing more than a temporary delay (a set of new tires comes to mind).

But if there are more serious matters, such as if the engine or transmission goes, suddenly what was a smooth drive to one’s destination suddenly becomes a major hassle, detour, or an altogether cancellation of one’s plans.

Carson Wentz, in only his 2nd year of quarterbacking the Eagles, was the engine of this football team.  And it had been speeding down the “Autobahn” of the 2017 NFL season at warp speed, while others such as Jerry Jones and his car with the star painted on the side were in the slow lane looking on with envy.

At one time, it was Jones and his automobile which was revered on the highway.  But now, while he does his best to keep his Mercedes looking shiny and new, the truth of the matter is that it is old and clunky, and always seem to be in the shop for one reason or another.

But I digress (as I often do).  Surely, there are other key components that have helped to keep the Eagles in the fast lane.  And even after some of those parts were lost for the season (Jordan Hicks, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles), the “replacement parts” all seemed to be of genuine quality, making the car hum without skipping a beat.

But this, my friends, is different.  This isn’t just an ordinary part that can be easily replaced.  The Eagles had been searching far and wide for this part for much of their history, and seem to have finally found it.   But losing it puts a huge damper on what was an exhilarating win on the road against a very determined Rams team.  It was a victory that not only gave the Birds the NFC East championship with three games still left to play, but also catapulted them back into the top spot for the conference, thanks to a Vikings loss to the Panthers earlier on Sunday.

On Wentz’s final play of his season, he stood in the pocket and waited, waited, waited, until he found Alshon Jeffrey  open in the end zone.  The quarterback actually had an opening to run it in for a touchdown…an opening he would have normally exploited and taken the ball in himself.  Thinking back now, it was probably painful for him to move.

So the replacement engine has been installed and is ready to go.  And while everyone is aware that it is not as good as the original, that does not mean that it cannot do the job.

Nick Foles has been here before.  In 2013, it was Foles who led the Eagles to their last NFC East title, and did so while throwing 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.

But much like Thomas Dolby’s  one-hit wonder, “She Blinded Me With Science”, the fear is that Foles could be a one-hit wonder on the football field as well.

After his breakout season in 2013, Foles threw 13 TD’s and 10 INT’s for the Eagles the following year before he broke his collarbone in mid-season and missed the last seven games.  Still not bad numbers, but after he was traded for Sam Bradford before the start of the 2015 season, his stint as the then St. Louis Rams quarterback did not go as well, as he finished with more interceptions than touchdowns (13 INT’s vs. 10 TD’s), and was ultimately benched for Case Keenam, who is having his own career season with the Vikings this year.

The hope is that his lack of success in St. Louis was due to the team around him not being very good.  Foles will now be the maestro for a team that has a lot of quality parts around him.  And while he does not have the ability to elude the rush like Carson Wentz did, he still has good football smarts.

At the end of last week’s game, when the Eagles needed a first down to secure a victory, it was Foles who, on 3rd & 8, threw a pass to Nelson Agholor in a spot that only Agholor could catch it.  And to his credit, he did.  That is where the football smarts of Foles can shine through, especially when he is surrounded by skilled players around him.

Back in 1999, when the Rams lost starter Trent Green for the season in a preseason game, their coach, Dick Vermeil, stood in front of the media and announced, rather prophetically, that the Rams would “rally around Kurt Warner…. and we WILL play good football”.  And they did, winning the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.

Is Nick Foles on par with Kurt Warner?  Absolutely not.  But Eagles coach Doug Pederson was basically relaying the same message to his team this week (minus the crying of course).

Carson Wentz is a huge loss for this team.  But while Nick Foles is no Wentz, he WILL play good football, as the Birds win 31-13 this week against the Giants.

The engine has been replaced and the automobile is ready to go.  And while the road to the Super Bowl just became a little more treacherous, it does not mean that the new engine won’t get them there.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Chargers at Chiefs  8:30 PM  NFL Ntwrk  (Sat)

Packers at Panthers  1:00 PM  FOX

Rams at Seahawks  4:05 PM  FOX

Patriots at Steelers  4:25 PM  CBS

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #5: Carson Takes over Carson

In a city ironically named Carson, it was the quarterback with the same first name who showed why the Eagles moved up in the draft to pick him #2 overall.

Carson Wentz methodically moved the offense up and down the field last Sunday, changing the plays at the line of scrimmage when needed and looking more like a seasoned 10-year veteran than a player who is only in his 2nd season and still learning the ropes of playing quarterback.

The result was a 26-24 victory, putting the Birds at 3-1 on this young season.  And while skeptics may point to the fact that this team had the same record last season before going 4-8 the rest of the way, this team does have a different look about them.

In 2016, after defeating the Chicago Bears in their first road game of the season, the Eagles managed to lose their last seven road games.  This year, the team has already surpassed last year’s road win total, going 2-1 thus far.

Last season, six of the Birds final eight losses were in games that were lost by a touchdown or less.  Change the result of a play here or there and perhaps the Eagles finish at 10-6 instead of 7-9.  But that was a young team that still had not learned HOW to win.

This season, the Birds are 2-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, defeating the Giants and Chargers in consecutive weeks after a close loss to the Chiefs in Week 2.  It is not only the quarterback that is growing before our eyes but the rest of the team around him as well.

And then there is the coach, who claimed he was still “learning” the world of coaching after the loss to the Chiefs in which he threw the ball much too often, much like his mentor, Andy Reid, was known to do.  Many predicted then that Doug Pederson’s coaching career would not only be a failure if he continues down this path, but that he would get his young quarterback knocked out of the game in the process.

But give Pederson credit.  He adjusted and started to use his horses in the running game more often over the last two weeks, resulting in a new “three headed monster” in the backfield consisting of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and rookie (and local product) Corey  Clement, who continues to shine when given the ball.

Much like the trio of Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, and Brian Westbrook before them, these three all offer a different dimension of the running game and fresh legs in the backfield.  Add to that a rejuvenated offensive line which gets to be on the attack in the running game, and you now have an offense which can use the run to setup the pass, as they did successfully last week.

The other intriguing part of last week’s contest was the crowd itself.  In a stadium designed for soccer but housing football, it also became a stadium meant for Chargers fans but housing Eagles fans.  The announced crowd was 25,000, of which approximately 15,000 were Birds fans.

A sport played in the wrong type of venue, fans cheering for the wrong uniform, and a team in the wrong city.  Not quite a three headed monster, but more like a “three headed misfit”.

One can only surmise that the NFL must have hired some consulting firm to do a study,  and that they came to the conclusion that football in Los Angeles would be a rousing success.  But then again, I’ve never heard of a consulting firm telling their client that their idea is completely stupid, have you?   Sort of like an insurance agent telling you that you don’t need life insurance…these things just don’t happen.

This week, the Birds return from the “CaliLinc” to the real “Linc” to face the Arizona Cardinals, a team that currently sits at 2-2 in the NFC West.

The “RedBirds” enjoyed a streak of three consecutive winning seasons until last season, when they finished 7-8-1.  And while they have a good coach in Bruce Arians (who also coached Temple football once upon a time), their quarterback, and the rest of their team, is quickly aging.  And not aging like fine wine, but aging like that half-gallon of milk in your refrigerator which you should have thrown out five days ago.

Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer can still be dangerous though, and still has weapons like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is a class act and most likely, a hall-of-famer one day.

What should also be interesting to watch is the Eagles running game against the Cardinals run defense, which is one of the stingiest in the league.

The Birds would do well to not overlook this opponent, especially considering that they have a quick turnaround, with a Thursday night game coming up against the Carolina Panthers.  This contest will be close in the first half but Birds will win, 27-17.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Patriots at Buccaneers  8:30 PM  CBS/NFL Ntwrk (Thurs)

Panthers at Lions  1:00 PM  FOX

Ravens at Raiders  4:05 PM  CBS

Packers at Cowboys  4:25 PM  FOX

Chiefs at Texans  8:25 PM  NBC