As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #17: A December Snoozer

The expectation was that Old Saint Nick would bring presents to all of the good little boys and girls on Christmas morning, while a young “Saint Nick” would deliver the #1 seed and homefield advantage to all of the Eagles fans, both naughty and nice, come Christmas night.

But while Old Saint Nick delivered on his promise, young Saint Nick almost delivered a bag of coal instead.

Clinching the #1 seed in your conference is usually a cause for celebration, but as the Eagles trotted off the field last Monday night after a victory over the Raiders, they looked more like they were walking out of a funeral.

And who could blame them?  What we witnessed last week was a less than stellar performance by the offense. What makes it even more concerning was that it was against a team that flew cross country into the cold weather with absolutely nothing to play for save pride.

After the close win against another bad team in the Giants two weeks back, the feeling was that the offense would be fine with Saint Nick at the helm, especially after he threw four touchdowns in the process in his first start this season.

The area of concern was how easily the defense was getting torched against a bad offensive team like New York, but against the Raiders, everything got flipped.

The defense redeemed itself somewhat, but it was the play of Foles and the whole offense which was doing anything but making spirits bright for the 70,000 fans who braved the cold to watch that Christmas Night snoozer.

Foles was hitting them low, hitting them high, but no one was watching the Eagles fly.  More like limp into the postseason.

To be fair, not everything that was happening to the offense was Foles’ fault.  The receivers, who have been quite an improvement from 2016, seemed like they were trying to untangle themselves from a string of Christmas lights, and were unable to get any kind of separation from the defenders.

Two wins in two weeks against two bad teams, yet the way the Eagles played has caused more consternation than optimism.

When the Eagles were blowing out their opponents back in October & November, I made the point that watching the Birds was actually getting somewhat boring.  By the 2nd half, I found myself sitting in my seat at the Linc in a very laid back manner, almost acting more like I was watching one of 162 Phillies game on a lazy summer day at Citizens Bank Park.

But all of the Bird watching boredom (a rarity I know due to all those one-sided contests) has now been replaced by a return to the “mean” for Eagles fans – the teeth clenching, fingernail biting, blood pressure rising is back and here to stay as long as the Eagles are still playing.

Things were just too good to be true back in the fall.  We can’t have it easy – the starting quarterback who seemed to be the golden child of the franchise and who’s play was elevated compared to so many others HAS to get hurt to make things interesting.

The one hit-wonder who once threw 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in a single season and who tied a record for most touchdowns thrown in a single game in that same spectacular season, HAS to come down to earth to make things interesting.  Otherwise, it would be just too easy for Philadelphia and we won’t know what to do with ourselves.

No, doing things the hard way is what we’re used to.  It’s what we thrive on, especially with the playoffs approaching.

If the Eagles play their first playoff game in four years at the same level as they did the last two weeks, their playoff push will be short-lived, regardless of whether they face the Vikings, Rams, Saints or Panthers.  And we’re now placing all our hopes with a quarterback who has the ability to throw four touchdowns…or kill a lot of worms while throwing the football.

When Carson Wentz first got hurt, I made the point that while the Eagles “replacement engine” is not as good as the original, it was still capable of doing the job.  And I still feel that way.

But if Wentz was starting last week, the Birds would have looked much more crisp on offense, as he had the ability to mask some of the deficiencies of this team with his play.  Unfortunately, Foles does not have that luxury, so the “wrinkles and grey hair” are starting to show.

The Birds will need to play better in all aspects if they want to make this a season to remember.    But before they embark on that quest, there is the matter of finishing out the string of the regular season first.

The Cowboys will come in with nothing to play for, but will play all of their starters for most of the game (I think) in order to finish the season at 9-7 and with a win.  The Birds would do well to give their starting offense a “tune-up” of sorts before the playoffs begin.

Ideally, the offense comes in and scores 10 or 14 points in its first two drives and is then lifted for the backups.  But if they struggle as they did last week, it will only raise the alarm bells as to whether this team can last even one round in the playoffs.

Hard to predict this game, so I won’t.  But let’s hope that the offense can get back on track and that the defense continues to play as it did last week against the Raiders.   Otherwise, what seemed to be a promising start to 2018 just a few weeks back may be another winter of our discontent.

Amit’s Marquee Matchup of the Week (only one this week):

Panthers at Falcons  4:25 PM  FOX

The Last Word:

Thanks to Amanda Moran for the pic from the Green Legion pregame tailgate at Santa Monica pier prior to the Eagles – Rams game.  With frigid temps in the forecast here at least through next week, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

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2016 Week #7: Eagles vs. Vikings

For the first three weeks of the season, the  Eagles and their fans were on a honeymoon of sorts.

Jetting off to a tropical destination together (Aruba, Puerta Vallarta, Hawaii, name your favorite spot here), their days were spent enjoying the heat of the sun, cool ocean breezes, and sipping margaritas poolside, while their nights were filled with scrumptious dinners, dancing all night, and “other” activities which I cannot mention in a PG rated blog.

But unfortunately the honeymoon is now over, and the credit card bill has come due.

On top of that, the wife is not happy that her new hubby snores at night, and the hubby is not pleased that his wife expects him to go shopping with her on Sunday afternoons while the NFL games are on.

Such is the new “reality” of the Eagles and their fans after the last two weeks have both resulted in losses, leading to the thought that maybe this love fest isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The Birds, to their credit, were still in a position to win, both against the Lions and the Redskins with 2:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  But consecutive weeks of the offense and defense (minus a Malcolm Jenkins touchdown for an interception) sleep walking through the first half made their 2nd half all the more laborious.

The glass half-empty crowd would say that the 3-0 start was based on teams not knowing rookie coach Doug Pederson’s and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz’s tendencies.  But with enough film out there for teams to “hack” into the Eagles schemes (sorry Wikileaks – no credit for you or Vladimir Putin on this one), their “trade secrets” are now out on the open market for other teams to exploit.

But while that may be the case, the glass half full crowd recognizes that all is not lost.  Football is a chess game of sorts, and the ability to change your tendencies after your opponent has changed theirs is what makes the good teams successful for so long.  Even someone like Bill Belichick, who’s major success has come from having Tom Brady as his starting quarterback (and playing unfair to some extent), is a master at putting the right people in the right places to succeed.

But before I turn my blog into a leadership management course, their is still the matter of the football game being played on the field, and most notably, in the trenches. The Eagles failed in both respects last week, as their offensive & defensive lines seemed to be outmatched or simply out-muscled all day.

The suspension of Lane Johnson, who wins the NFL’s “Stupid Man of the Year” award for 2016, led to rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai having to fill in at right tackle.  And while Vaitai struggled mightily in the 1st half against  a veteran defensive lineman like Ryan Kerrigan, I thought he settled down somewhat in the 2nd half.  In this game, there was enough blame to go around all over the line.

The defense, which had been a strength of the Eagles during their 3-0 start, also seemed to look lost and just physically over matched at the line of scrimmage.  The upside is that after giving up three touchdowns in consecutive weeks in the first half, the defense seemed to adjust and gave up a total of only nine points during the 2nd half.  The downside is that putting their offense in a hole by halftime isn’t a trend that winning teams seem to want to replicate.

Some of the blame for last Sunday must also fall on Golden Boy Wentz, who had his worst game of the year in my opinion.  Initially, I thought his tendency to hold onto the ball for too long (especially during his last drive) was his only negative, but upon further review, there were many instances when Wentz had tight end Zach Ertz open for a first down, but instead seemed to be looking downfield and not noticing that one of his best pass catching options were open.  If a few of those throws are made to Wentz, the Eagles would have extended drives at various phases of the game, possibly leading to more points and eventually, a win.

So where do we go from here?  The Eagles are at a crossroads of sorts, and face what is certainly a murderous schedule coming up, with none of their next six opponents holding a losing record currently.

The first of those is the Vikings, who come into the Linc on Sunday at 5-0 and are the only undefeated team left in the league.  Minnesota’s defense has been carrying them so far, but their offense leaves much to be desired, ranked 30th in yards gained and 32nd in rushing yards.

Sam Bradford has been the best “game manager” that the Vikings could have asked for, but even he can be rattled when pressured, in which case you’ll get a goofy “Keanu Reeves/deer in headlights” look from him.

The Eagles offense may struggle to put up points, but there is no reason the Birds defense can’t stop Minnesota’s offense as well. Then again, we said that about the Redskins, and look what happened.

This is a game that the Birds need more than the Vikings do, or the wolves will certainly be howling before Halloween.  The Birds settle down,  Halapoulivaati Vaitai & Carson Wentz settle down, and the Eagles win a tough fought defensive contest, 23-9.

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

Vikings at EAGLES 1:00 PM FOX – Game of the Week

Patriots at Steelers 4:25 PM CBS

Texans at Broncos 4:25 PM CBS