As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #17: Eagles at Cowboys

Last Sunday, the Eagles and their fans embarked on a “3-hour tour” (as they used to say on Gilligan’s Island) which turned out to be a roller coaster ride that swung across virtually every gamut of emotions.

On two separate occasions, it looked like the Cowboys were on the verge of losing, yet both times, Dallas managed to keep the game alive, which eventually made the difference in a 24-23 victory over the Redskins.

With Washington holding a 23-14 lead approx. midway through the 4th quarter, and the Cowboys faced with a 4th & 6 at the Redskins 40, quarterback Tony Romo completed a 20-yard pass across the middle to keep the drive alive.

More importantly, it looked like a Cowboys loss was imminent after Dallas went from a 2nd & goal at the 1 to a 4th & goal from the 10 with only 1:16 left to play.  Instead, Romo found DeMarco Murray at the 2 yard line, and, with just enough momentum to carry him into the end zone, kept the Cowboys alive for at least one more week.

Eagles fans, jubilant at the thought of clinching the division on Sunday night against the Bears when the Cowboys faced 4th & goal, must have felt as if their “buzz” turned into a hangover almost instantaneously, with the knowledge that last Sunday’s game suddenly did not mean nearly as much.  Now, the Eagles had to win at Dallas no matter what happened last Sunday night at the Linc.  And later we found out that it was Chicago who had everything to play for, while the only advantage the Eagles could gain was for seeding purposes…which only holds importance IF the Eagles win this Sunday.

But it was the Birds who played as if everything depended on the game, while the Bears looked like THEY were the ones who rested their starters and trotted out a high school junior varsity team as replacement players.

Chicago looked disinterested, disheveled, and just plain discombobulated, and by the middle of the 3rd quarter, Eagles fans, while enjoying the offensive prowess of their team, still held their collective breath, hoping, PRAYING, that LeSean McCoy or Nick Foles would not lay motionless on the field because of an injury that would take more than a week’s recovery time.

Perhaps it was to remove the bad taste out of their mouth after last week’s loss to the Vikings.  Perhaps coach Chip Kelly, after watching his team practice to play a meaningful game, wanted to give them the chance to do so.  Or perhaps it was to gain a #3 instead of a #4 seed, which the Eagles will capture if they win their division come Sunday night.

There is validity to that argument.  While both the #3 & #4 seeds play at home in the 1st round and on the road in the 2nd (assuming they win their first game), the #3 seed, in theory, plays the worse of the two wild card teams.  Win that game, and you go on the road to play the 2nd best team in your conference and not the first (again, in theory).

By holding the #3 seed, the Eagles would currently play the New Orleans Saints (an awful road team) at home in the 1st round as opposed to the San Francisco 49ers, who are more adept at playing on the road outdoors.  Win that game, and the Birds would currently go on the road to Carolina in the 2nd round (a very winnable game) as opposed to going to Seattle and its “Monsters of Rock” concert decibel level at CenturyLink Field.

Make it to the NFC championship, and the Birds could play at home if the #4 or #5 seed also advanced that far.  Start the playoffs as the 4th seed instead, and you have to hope that the #6 seed advanced just as far (not very likely) to have that same opportunity.

Sure, I’m getting ahead of myself, as the Eagles first need to win this Sunday, but why not dream a little with the way this season is going?

As for Dallas, Santa dropped a lump of coal into the Cowboys playoff stocking, when it was discovered that QB Tony Romo may be out for the game (and for an extended period of time) with a herniated disk.  But while all the “Romo-sexuals” (the Tony Romo supporters) may be crying in their eggnog at hearing such news, the Eagles would do well not to relax and take this game lightly.

While Cowboys backup Kyle Orton may not be as elusive as Romo, he also may not have the “chokability” (is that a word?) of Romo either, who has gone 1-6 in playoff and regular season elimination games. ..nothing to write home about.

With the Eagles offense as potent as it is, if the defense can hold the Cowboys to 21-24 points, there is no reason they shouldn’t win this game and become NFC East champions for the 1st time in three years.  As long as the Eagles remember the Vikings game from two weeks back and don’t plan to sleepwalk through it…

Birds win 35-20 Sunday night and Birds fans will be singing “Fly Eagles Fly” in Old City, Rittenhouse Square, the Graduate Hospital area, and of course, Frankford & Cottman…

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

Ravens at Bengals 1:00 PM CBS – The Bengals have won the AFC North and have an outside shot at a bye.  The Ravens need a win and a partridge in a pear tree to make the playoffs.  A game still meaningful for both teams…

Niners at Cardinals 4:25 PM FOX – Had the 49ers lost to the Falcons on Monday night, this game would have been, essentially, a playoff game for both teams.  Instead, the Niners are already in the playoffs, with a chance to get a bye, and possibly home field advantage as well, for which they will need three French hens & two turtle doves along with a partridge in a pear tree.  The Cardinals need a win and have to hope that Tampa can pull off an upset in New Orleans…otherwise, the Cardinals could end up 11-5 or 10-6 and be watching the playoffs at home in the land of the cactus.

Packers at Bears  4:25 PM FOX – For the Bears sake, hopefully they can snap out of their sleepwalk just in time to get up for this regular season winner-takes-all game against the Pack, who might have Aaron Rodgers back and could make a deep run in the playoffs as the #4 seed.  If that is the case, I’ll be singing  “I’mmmmm dreaming, of an Eagles-Packers championship…just like the one in 1960″….

Eagles at Cowboys 8:30 PM NBC   – Based on comments they made during last week’s Eagles-Bears Sunday night game, the NBC broadcasting duo of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth seem to have a “bro-mance” going with Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.  Or maybe it was the oversized picture of the Phillie Phanatic used to send in offensive signals that had them smiling?  Either way, they both do a great job, though I will always defer to putting down the sound and putting on Merrill Reese and Mike Quick on the Eagles radio network…It’s GOOOOOD!

The Last Word – From the crack staff and research department here at “As Broad & Pattison Turns” (namely, me), I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, & Season’s Greetings (the “trifecta” of famous December phrases).  And to celebrate, I leave you with a Christmas jingle sung to the tune of Wham’s “Last Christmas”:

Last Christmas, the Eagles were lousy, 

And the very next day, they fired Andy,

This year, to save us from tears,

I’d give the ball to someone like Shady,

Yes, I’m a dork I know…and to all a good night…

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As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #14: Lions at Eagles

Like a cheetah, they move faster and in short bursts than anyone else on the field, lining up quickly after the last play has ended.  Fleet of foot, much like the Road Runner in those “Looney Tunes” cartoons, they leave the opponent gasped and often in the wrong place at the wrong time, moving up and down the field at will.

And then, suddenly, after three quarters of football has ended, like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, they transform, not into a pumpkin, but into a little old lady (or old man so that I’m not being gender-biased) driving 25 miles per hour in the left lane of the highway with frustrated motorists honking their horns and shouting obscenities  at them.

Is this one of those Snickers commercials where someone is acting different when they’re hungry?   No, this is your Philadelphia Eagles during their recent 4-game winning streak, which they will try to extend this Sunday when the Detroit Lions visit the Linc.

While the Birds have given life to their season and hope to their fans, going from a 3-5 start to a current 7-5 record, the team has been unable to score a single point in the 4th quarter during their last four games, which makes it even more remarkable that they were all victories.

Against the Raiders, the Eagles held a huge lead and had no reason to score any points and run up the score.

Against the Packers, they controlled the ball and ran out the clock to conserve a 27-13 victory.

But the last two weeks, against both the Redskins and the Cardinals, the Eagles have managed to let what was a comfortable lead slip away into a one score affair, before holding on and winning thanks to their defense, which bends constantly in yardage but doesn’t break and allow points.

But while the winning ways have continued as of late, the Eagles inability to put the opponent away in the 4th quarter is a disturbing trend which could come back to haunt them as they enter, ironically, the 4th quarter of their season.

What is the answer, short of giving coach Chip Kelly a snickers bar at the start of the quarter?  For starters, I don’t think the Birds slowing down the game and letting the play clock run down is throwing off their rhythm.  The opposing defense still can’t change personnel due to the fact that the Eagles never huddle so there still remains a possible mismatch in formation.  The difference is that teams are now lining up to stop the run in those situations, leading to LeSean McCoy carries on 1st & 2nd down that generate little or no yards.

On 3rd down, with the Eagles in a sure passing down, they either play conservative and run the ball or are forced to try to get too many yards through the air on one play.

Perhaps the Eagles need to take a risk and throw the ball downfield on 1st & 2nd down to keep the defense honest while still allowing the play clock to bleed down to 5-10 seconds as they have been doing?  If the Birds throw an incomplete pass on 1st down, that would stop the clock to their disadvantage, but they could then start the next play right away, leaving the defense unprepared for what could be a big gain on 2nd down.

While no one will be anointing me as the offensive coordinator based on my advice above, I had to put in my two cents yo!

While the Birds had it tough last week facing Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, this week, they will face even a tougher receiving threat in the form of Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who’s 6 ‘5 height and frame will give defensive coordinator Billy Davis some sleepless nights heading into the game.

If this game was played on a sun-splashed Sept. day, the Detroit offense may give the Eagles defense some fits, but the possible wintry mix in the forecast for Sunday will help to disable the Lions somewhat, who are used to playing in the friendly confines of Ford Field.

Of course, that same wintry mix may disable the Eagles passing game as well, forcing LeSean McCoy to run the ball more against a Lions defense that is prone to stopping the run.

The Birds would do well to protect Nick Foles as well, as Lions defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley could make things difficult for the 2nd year passer, who has 19 touchdowns and no interceptions, and is two touchdown passes away from breaking Peyton Manning’s record (set last season) of 20 TD’s and no INT’s to start the season.

The Birds win this week 27-20, if only for the fact that the Lions always struggle playing in Philadelphia.   Of course, we made that same statement about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once, and it didn’t seem to play out in the NFC Championship….

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

Lions at Eagles  1:00 PM FOX – The Eagles are a marquee matchup for the 2nd week in a row.  At the start of the year, didn’t think they would have any in 2013…

Colts at Bengals  1:00 PM CBS – A battle of two teams both leading their respective divisions.

Seahawks at Niners  4:25 PM FOX – The Seahawks have their sights on home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  An Eagles win coupled with a Niners loss and the Birds would be holding the final wildcard spot for the time being.

Panthers at Saints  8:30 PM NBC – The winner of this game would lead the NFC South and hold the #2 seed in the NFC playoff picture.

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #6: Eagles at Bucs

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, your 1ST PLACE, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES!

Yeah, I know…it sounds better than it actually is.   If this was the NFC West, a 2-3 record gets you seated in the back of the classroom and facing the wall with a “dunce” cap on.   In the NFC East, a 2-3 record means you’re the valedictorian of the class.

But for years, the NFC representative in the Super Bowl came from our division, and a 10-6 record didn’t even guarantee you a playoff berth.  So if we are the “NFC Least” for a few years, so be it.

Last Sunday’s game, a barnburner featuring two teams with a combined 1-7 record going in, didn’t seem like much of a contest on paper, but by the end of it, there was enough intrigue to go around, especially when it came to the Birds and their quarterback situation.

Most of the Eagles’ offense in the first half was predicated by the running of LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick, while the passing game was as ineffective as a drive from Center City to Manayunk on the Schuylkill in rush hour traffic.  But when Michael Vick’s hamstring injury forced Nick Foles to come in cold off the bench, the passing game seemed to come to life, even though Foles running ability might be on par with a hermit crab race on the Ocean City boardwalk.

Foles doesn’t have the natural athletic ability of Michael Vick (very few do), but he has a strong, and more importantly, accurate arm, and gets rid of the football quickly, while Vick seems to hold on just a tad bit too long.

Foles will likely get the start this week against Tampa, which is a team in chaos and ready to implode any minute.  Bucs head coach Greg Schiano is most likely near the end of his coaching tenure, as his “RA-RA” attitude may have worked when dealing with wide-eyed college kids at Rutgers, but won’t work with grown men who are professional athletes and getting paid handsomely to play football.

But while Tampa may be winless on the season, they still have a very good defense, especially with Darrelle Revis anchoring one of the corner spots, and this game will be a good test for the young Foles to see if he is capable of facing more dominating defenses in the league with some level of success.

Birds win this game but it’s a close one (23-17) due to taking the Bucs too lightly,  and fans look forward to the following week and a showdown at home with the hated Cowboys for 1st place in the NFC Least.

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

Packers at Ravens  1:00 PM FOX – One of four intriguing intra-conference marquee matchups on this week’s docket.

Lions at Browns  1:00 PM FOX – You are not hallucinating….the Browns ARE one of the marquee matchups this week.  J.M. (a reader from Cleveland) will be thrilled.

Titans at Seahawks  4:05 PM CBS – The Titans are on the way up with head coach Mike Munchak at the helm, but this game, being played in the Pacific Northwest, is definitely a loss.

Cardinals at Niners  4:25 PM FOX –The “Cactus” vs the “Kaepernick”

Saints at Patriots  4:25 PM FOX  – Brees vs. Brady…what more can a football fan ask for??

The Last Word – Last year at this time, the “grizzly veteran coach” award as the longest tenured coach in Philadelphia went to Andy Reid, who was in the middle of his 14th season with the Eagles.  With the firing this week of Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette, that award now goes to current Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who has completed (drumroll please) a whole ONE-QUARTER OF ONE YEAR with the Eagles.

Kinda tells you how bad things are on the Phila. sports scene.  Broad & Pattison isn’t turning out champions or even winners these days…it’s on a recessionary track with no bailout in sight.   Except for Ed Snider’s quick handed bailouts, which are causing more pain than gain…