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: Wacky Wildcard Weekend

For the majority of NFL teams, the commencement of a new calendar year also represents the end of a long, grueling NFL season.

A season which began with so much promise back in the dog days of summer has unfortunately ended too early for 20 of the 32 NFL teams.  And along with the harsh cold weather that Mother Nature can provide this time of year, the harsh, cold reality has also set in that their dreams of hoisting a Super Bowl trophy come February 4th will remain unfulfilled.

Then there are the remaining twelve that have withstood…those that proved on the field that they deserved an invite to the playoff dance.

Of course, there are always the usual suspects such as the Patriots, Steelers, and Chiefs receiving an invite.  Including 2017, both Kansas City & Pittsburgh have made the playoffs in four of their last five seasons, while this season marks the 14th out of the last fifteen that New England has been in the postseason.

But what sticks out about the 2017 playoffs are the “newbies”.

The Jacksonville Jaguars & Tennessee Titans received an invite to the playoff party for the first time since 2007 & 2008, respectively, while the Los Angeles Rams will be making their first appearance since 2004.  But that still pales in comparison to the Buffalo Bills, who have not made the playoffs in 18 years, which was, until last week, the longest current playoff drought not only in the NFL, but in all of sports.

And while only the Rams, out of those four, look like they have a chance to be Super Bowl bound this season, a playoff appearance at least represents some success and an important stepping stone to the other three organizations, and something for their fans to get excited about.

So while the Eagles have the week off and are preparing for their divisional playoff game next Saturday against  what is a yet to be determined opponent, here is a look at the four games that will make up the NFL’s Wildcard weekend:

Titans at Chiefs  4:35 PM  ABC/ESPN  (Sat)

The Chiefs began their season as gangbusters, starting 5-0 before faltering and losing six of their next seven, before ending the season on a 4-game winning streak.

But while 10-6 won Kansas City the AFC West, their midseason slump prevented them from getting a bye and made their playoff path much more difficult.

The Titans also limped to the finish line, ending the season 9-7 after being 8-4 at one point, which prevented them from winning the AFC South and playing at home this weekend.

Kansas City wins at home today and stays alive at least for one more week, while the Titans go home and their coach’s future hangs in the balance.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid dressed up as Santa Claus two weeks ago after the Chiefs won their division.  I predict that he will be dressed like a snowman after today’s game.

Falcons at Rams  8:15 PM  NBC  (Sat)

The Falcons are this year’s recipient of the “Super Bowl blues” hangover, given annually to the loser of the previous year’s Super Bowl.  But what made it even worse for Atlanta is that they suffered the worst collapse in Super Bowl history.

While their offense has remained mostly intact, they have not played up to par when compared to last season.  Ten wins is still a pretty good season though, especially considering they were 4-4 at the midway point.

Rams coach Sean McVay has not only turned the fortunes of his 2nd year QB, Jared Goff, around, but the Rams look to be a team that will be in the playoff picture for many years to come.

Atlanta has a chance only because they represent the team with playoff experience, while most of the Rams players have not experienced much postseason success.  The Rams also are a surprise 4-4 at home versus 7-1 on the road.  Having said that, I still think the Rams are the better team that will advance to the 2nd round.

Bills at Jaguars  1:05 PM  CBS  (Sun)

It is rare when two teams are facing each other in the playoffs, and yours truly hasn’t watched a single one of their games all season.  But that is exactly the case with Buffalo & Jacksonville.

With neither team coming off a successful 2016 season and both in relatively small markets (Jacksonville being the smallest in the NFL), seeing these two teams on a Sunday night or marquee late Sunday afternoon game is a rarity.

The Bills had to beat the Dolphins on the road last Sunday and then watch the Cincinnati Bengals defeat Baltimore in the closing minutes, knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs and sending Buffalo in.

Bills fans were so excited, they started partying like it was 1999 – which makes sense since that was the last time that Buffalo had actually made the playoffs.

While 2008 represented the year of the last major financial crisis, it also represented the start of a “football crisis” for Jacksonville, which went nine straight years without a winning record until 2017.

The good thing is that at least one of these teams will advance to the next round of the playoffs after suffering from losing for so long.  But that’s only because they are facing each other, not because they are Super Bowl material.

If I were a betting man, I’d place my bets on Jacksonville.

Panthers at Saints  4:40 PM  FOX  (Sun)

The Saints rebounded from three straight 7-9 seasons to go 11-5 and win the NFC South, while the Panthers are another team that has made the playoffs in four of their last five seasons.

New Orleans defeated Carolina  in both of their regular season meetings this season, but doing so three straight times is no easy feat, as the third time is usually a charm for the loser of the first two.  For that reason, I’m picking the Panthers as the only road team to win on Wildcard weekend.

Assuming the Falcons lose tonight, the winner of this game would come to Philadelphia next Saturday to face the Birds.  I’ll gladly take the Panthers as our opponent (or the Falcons preferably), as the Saints, with Drew Brees, would give us the toughest test in my opinion.

While Thanksgiving was two months ago, I’m thankful that the Eagles earned a bye.  Otherwise, I would be freezing my butt off in 5 degree weather at the Linc today to watch the Birds play.  Instead, I look forward to a balmy 38 degree Saturday next weekend.

But whether that will result in Nick Foles playing any better remains to be seen.

Enjoy the games everyone!

 

 

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.