As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #4: Music City Time

This team seems to be making a habit of this.

Three times in their last four home games dating back to last season, their opponent has gotten within ten yards of the end zone in the closing minutes of the game with a chance to win.

And all three times, the Eagles have come up victorious.

The first game of the three was the reason their playoff run continued last season, and one of the main reasons we can emphatically declare them Super Bowl champions for the first time.

But with the exception being the NFC Championship against the Vikings, the Eagles sit at 2-1 on this young season because their defense stiffened when it needed to, and stopped the Falcons and Colts when they were in danger of stealing the game.

The Birds could have easily been 0-3 right now, and contemplating what might have been.  But good teams find a way to win these games, which is what the Eagles are.

But how long can this go on?  How many weeks can this team expect their defense to pull a rabbit out of their hat?

To be fair, they were playing with their backup quarterback (Nick Foles) the first two weeks, though the “devil’s advocate” in me will say that this is the same backup quarterback who won them the Super Bowl last season.

In addition, the “chosen one” (Carson Wentz) was understandably a little rusty his first week back, as witnessed by his best Johnny Manziel impression, when he stared down Zach Ertz on a poorly thrown pass that was intercepted by the Colts Anthony Walker.  Luckily, Indianapolis could only muster a 31-yard field goal, which helped to mitigate the damage.

It also didn’t help that the Eagles were still playing like a “MASH” unit, with many of their starters, including wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and running backs Darron Sproles and Jay Ajayi, still out last week.  Luckily, Wendell Smallwood came up big in their place, and Bucks County rookie Josh Adams and 2nd year back Corey Clement played admirably as well.

This week, the Birds travel to Nashville to face the Titans and maybe catch a country music concert while they are there.  Not sure if Elvis will be making the trip from Graceland for the game, but it does look like many Eagles fans are hoping to make it a grand old party at the Grand Ole Opre, as many are expected to travel out to the “music city” to cheer on their Birds.

As of now, it looks like Alshon Jeffrey should be back in the lineup, which will help the Eagles and Carson Wentz get their groove back in the passing game.

It has been a long time since the days of the “Music City Miracle” for the Titans, but they currently stand at 2-1 as well and are hoping that Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota can be their future savior…if he can actually stay healthy.

This will not be an easy game for the Birds on the road, but Wentz and the crew will prevail 24-16, before partaking in any country line dancing.

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

Vikings at Rams 8:20 PM FOX/NFL Network (Thurs)

EAGLES at Titans 1:00 PM FOX

Buccaneers at Bears 1:00 PM FOX

Dolphins at Patriots 1:00 PM CBS

Bengals at Falcons 1:00 PM CBS

Ravens at Steelers 8:20 PM NBC

Chiefs at Broncos 8:15 PM ESPN (Mon)

The Last Word:

Ladies & gentlemen, meet “Gritty”, the brand new mascot that the Flyers unveiled this week.

gritty flyers mascot

At first glance, this looks like a character from “Fraggle Rock” gone awry.

Plus, as opposed to endearing (e.g the Philly Phanatic), this creature looks like something that my six year old niece and two year old nephew would be terrified of.

If this is a harbinger of things to come, the Flyers may be in for a very long season….

 

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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)

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