As Broad & Pattison Turns Superbowl Edition: Jack & the Beanstalk

The time has come for Jack to once again attempt to climb the beanstalk.

It’s not that Jack hasn’t tried before.  But such an opportunity has been very rare, with only two prior attempts in fifty-two years, both of which were unsuccessful.

The first time, back in January of 1981, most expected that Jack would be victorious.  But as we all know, the favorite does not always succeed, and Jack was wound up tighter than a yo-yo,  nervous and on edge, and it showed as he never had a chance, hitting the ground with a thump almost before he started the climb.

During his last attempt in 2005, Jack showed more resolve early on, and for a while, it looked like he might actually succeed.  But the giant not only had too much talent, but also seemed to use some unscrupulous methods against Jack, and with time eventually working against him, Jack did not display the urgency that many expected, which eventually resulted in his downfall and another lost opportunity.

And so it’s come to this.

Thirteen years have passed, and on Sunday, Jack will once again look up at the beanstalk and attempt to do what has failed him those two previous occasions – climb to the top and rightfully claim all the riches that await there.

Many will wait with bated breath as he tries, knowing that the giant that awaits to thwart him is not only a very formidable foe, but the same one he faced previously.  The giant has seen many attempt to try, and with the exception of one, all others have failed.

Shall he succeed, there will be more than just a bag of gold coins, a goose that lays golden eggs, and a magic harp awaiting him.

If he succeeds, the heart and admiration of a city, a city that has watched him come so close before only to fall short, will be in his hands.

If he succeeds, all the demons of years’ past will have be exonerated.  All of those years when others around him were successful multiple times while Jack could not succeed even once will have been forgotten.

The “Jack”, as you know by now, is your Philadelphia Eagles, an organization that has not tasted a championship since 1960.  Ironically, the “Super Ball”, a bouncing ball made of synthetic rubber, was created four years later, which was the basis for the coining of the NFL championship being called the Super Bowl.

But 52 years of the modern age of the NFL (the “Super Bowl” age) have passed, and while the other kids that play alongside the Eagles in the NFC East playpen (the Giants, Redskins, & Cowboys) have won 12 of the previous 52 Super Bowls, the Eagles still carry the shame of never having won even once, figuratively wearing a big fat zero on their chest like a scarlet letter.

But all that could change come Sunday night.  Much like the Patriots did back in the 2001 season, a win, in the best case scenario, could catapult this team into years of organizational success with Carson Wentz at the helm.

Win, and the Eagles have some bragging rights with their fellow NFL, and more specifically, NFC East brethen.

Once again, their opponent is the favorite, but would they want it any other way?  The prognosticators haven’t had the Birds favored in three straight games, but prognosticators are like meteorologists…they only seem to be right half of the time anyway.

The one area where the Eagles lack compared to their opponent is experience, but eventually, blocking, tackling, schemes, and talent win the game, and the Eagles have enough of it to succeed.

The strange thing is that while New England has won 5 of the last 16 Super Bowls, they’ve all been close games, with their five victories decided by a total margin of 19 points.  They’ve never dominated their opponents the way the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980’s and the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990’s did.

At some point, the clock did EVENTUALLY strike midnight for Cinderella.  Perhaps it’s now time for the Patriots championship carriage to turn into a pumpkin as well?

I think the Eagles will win for one reason and one reason only – it’s THEIR time.  This team has faced so much adversity in the form of injuries to key players, with the biggest one being the loss of their franchise quarterback.  Yet they have persevered and made it all the way to the doorstep of a championship.

If the Birds don’t attain their ultimate goal on Sunday night, we can look back at a very enjoyable season with much optimism for the future.  But if they were to win, aside from celebrating in frigid Minneapolis on Sunday night, I will ecstatically look forward to one thing – writing about it afterwards.

The writing part won’t be hard at all.  Frankly, it’s been in my head for 12 years since I started writing about the Eagles to my friends by email on the eve of the NFC Championship in 2005.

I just need the Birds to do their part and give me a reason to put it on paper….and I believe they will.

So fasten your seatbelts and, as an ex-Eagles wide receiver once said “Get your popcorn ready”!

Jack is primed to climb the beanstalk once again, and this time he is meant to succeed.

E-A-G-L-E-S!

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As Broad & Pattison Turns NFC Championship Edition: On the Doorstep

playoff pic 2017

In a wild and wacky game, in what has become a wild and wacky season, the Eagles survived and held on to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 15-10.

The win put the Birds on the doorstep of the Super bowl for the first time since the 2008 season and gave their fans their first NFC Championship game at home in thirteen years.

With the fans in a frenzy on every play, this game was a tight, hard fought defensive battle.  The Birds were actually  -2 in turnover differential (2 for the Birds, 0 for the Falcons) which, in the playoffs, usually implies that you’ll be cleaning out your locker and heading for the offseason the following day.

But in this incomprehensible season, perhaps none of that matters.

On the Falcons last drive, which started at their own 24 with just over six minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Falcons faced a 4th & 6 at their own 42, and a stop would have given the Eagles the ball back with just over three minutes left.

Instead, Atlanta QB Matt Ryan hit his #1 target, Julio Jones, for a 20-yd gain, and the agony was prolonged for a little longer.

Believe.

The Falcons eventually got all the way to the 9-yard line, but after two straight incompletions and facing third down, Ryan once again went to his favorite security blanket, Julio Jones.

Had the pass been at chest level, Jones may have been able to muscle his way into the end zone.  But the pass was low, and Jones was forced to dive for the catch, which enabled cornerback Ronald Darby to tackle him at the 2.

4th down & goal from the 2 and the season on the line.

Believe.

On that pivotal 4th down, Ryan rolled to his right, effectively taking away half of the field in the process.  But it didn’t matter…the Eagles defense and all of the 69,000 plus in the stands knew that Ryan was looking at Julio Jones and singing the classic Flamingos hit “I Only Have Eyes For You” in his head.

Ryan floated a pass in the air, hoping that the height of his #1 receiver would enable him to bring in a catch that no one could defend.

But Jalen Mills, who was only a 7th round pick but has become a solid cornerback in only his 2nd pro season, was right there in perfect position and the ball sailed harmlessly overhead.

The Eagles season had been saved, as total strangers began hugging each other as if they had been friends for decades.  Such is the impact the Eagles first playoff win in nine years can have.

The Birds now welcome the Minnesota Vikings to town for the NFC Championship, something no one would have thought fathomable both at the beginning of the season, and again after starting quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a season ending injury.

And if Wentz had played against the Falcons, the Eagles would have likely won with much less stress impact on their fans, as the offense was previously operating like a bullet train.

With Nick Foles, it’s become more like “The Little Train that Could”.  But that’s okay, because this defense has really stepped up its game.

That’s not to suggest that the Birds won in spite of Foles.  He was 23 of 30 for 246 yards, and while the Birds turned the ball over twice on the ground, he did not throw an interception.

The problem is that while Wentz would drive the offense down the field for touchdowns, this team seems to achieve more field goals with Foles, as last week kicker Jake Elliott was responsible for 9 of the Eagles 15 points.

In a tight game, the difference between putting 7 on the scoreboard versus 3 could make all the difference.

The Vikings also come in with a backup quarterback in Case Keenum, who was basically a journeyman until he joined the Vikings this season.  Keenum has been playing since week #2 when starter Sam Bradford got hurt, but while everyone has been waiting for him to screw up and revert to playing like a journeyman, it just hasn’t happened yet.

The irony is that both Foles and Keenum, and the Eagles, Vikings, and Rams, are interconnected in so many ways.

  1.  The Eagles traded Nick Foles to the Rams before the 2015 season for then Rams QB Sam Bradford, who is now the Vikings backup.
  2. Foles was the starter for the Rams in 2015 with Keenum as the backup.  Keenum replaced Foles halfway through the 2015 season.
  3. Right before the start of the 2016 season, the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings for a 1st round pick, as a season ending injury to Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater had them desperately seeking a starting caliber quarterback.
  4. As mentioned above, Keenum only got a chance to start due to Bradford getting injured.

If this chain of crazy events never took place, perhaps the participants in this year’s NFC Championship are totally different.

The Vikings come in with a very stout defense and the ability to muzzle the opposing offense.  It seems unlikely, at least based on paper, that the Birds would be able to garner 20+ points in this game, but the Eagles also have a stifling defense of their own in what looks to be a mostly defensive showdown.

If these two teams played on a neutral field 50 times, they may split the victories evenly.  But this is a perfect example of where the homefield advantage comes into play.

Minnesota is used to the friendly and climate controlled confines of it’s retractable dome stadium.  But put them outside in the elements, and even though temperatures should be in the 40’s for the game, the outdoors and the grass field should help to crimp the Vikings style.

Some other stats that bode well for the Eagles:

  • The Birds are 4-0 as home underdogs in the playoffs
  • The Vikings, since 1982, are 3-13 in road playoff games
  • Two of the Vikings three losses this season have come on the road on outdoor, grass fields
  • The two previous times the Eagles faced the Vikings in the playoffs at home, they went on to the Super Bowl (1980 & 2004 season)

None of the stats above guarantee an Eagles win of course.  For that evidence, every Eagles fan can look back to the final game at Veterans Stadium, which was supposed to be an easy Eagles victory against Tampa that propelled them to the Super Bowl.  Because, as we all know, Tampa could never win when the temperature was below 40 degrees right?  Right???

This will be another tough, hard fought game in which Eagles fans, who are waiting to erupt at the thought of their Birds making it back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 seasons, will be biting their nails for 3+ hours while watching this game.

But this Eagles team was built with this game in mind.  And while they have gotten there way ahead of schedule, there is no reason to think they cannot extend their season for one more game.

The opportunity to make it to the Super Bowl and give themselves a chance to play for the trophy is right before them.

Today is the reason why the #1 seed is so important.  Play this game in Minneapolis, and the Eagles probably have no shot.

But in South Philadelphia, where “Broad & Pattison Turns”, the Eagles shall turn the page on another chapter in their history.  No “Dilly, Dilly” today, just “Philly, Philly”.

Birds win 16-13.  And the Enchanted season continues.

Believe.

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 #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.

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #16: Santa Comes Early

If the Eagles were looking for an early Christmas gift from the NFL schedule makers, they got it in the form of the New York Giants.

The G-Men, in a game that meant nothing for them but everything for the Birds, got off to a 20-7 lead, while the Eagles played the first quarter as if they were nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads.

At least they managed to wake up after one quarter of play and realize that there were still a lot of presents left to be delivered to their fans before Super Bowl morning on February 4th.

In fairness to the Birds, they were on the 3rd leg of a 3-game road trip.  And after defeating a very good team in the Los Angeles Rams the week before, it was perhaps understandable that the team would not be at full throttle playing a New York team who’s season was effectively over somewhere in between Halloween & Thanksgiving Day.

But while the game ended up being a 34-29 Eagles victory which wasn’t decided till the waning minutes, it should hopefully serve as a wakeup call to the team that they can’t simply show up and expect to win.

If the Giants were not a 2-win team going in, the Eagles would have lost this game.

If the Giants were not a train wreck who had fired their coach a few weeks back, the Eagles would be looking up at the Minnesota Vikings for that coveted #1 conference seed instead of in the driver’s seat.

It’s hard to believe how much things have changed since these two teams first met back in Week #3.

The Giants were going in at 0-2, while the Birds stood at 1-1, having just come off a tough loss on the road against Kansas City after having defeated the Washington Redskins on the road in their opener.

That game not only resulted in an exciting, down to the wire finish, with rookie field goal kicker Jake Elliott kicking a 61-yard field goal with no time left to win the game, but it kick started the Eagles on a 10-game winning streak, which has put them in the enviable position to win the conference.

The Giants, meanwhile, will go into the offseason with a lot to fix, including the question of whether Eli Manning will continue to be their quarterback in the future.  In addition, they will have to search for not only a new head coach, but a new general manager as well after Jerry Reese, who held the job since 2008, was also let go.

I actually spent last weekend in Tampa and got to watch the game with the “Tampadelphia” group, which gets together to watch the Birds at the Crowne Plaza bar in the Westshore area.  Great atmosphere and great to watch the game with fellow Eagles fans.  A different kind of “road” game of sorts for me last week.

The Eagles will now come back to the creature comforts of home for their final two regular season games, which will be against the Raiders on Christmas night, followed by the Cowboys on New Years Eve.

This game is difficult to predict, if only for the fact that who actually plays for the Eagles might hinge on the outcome of the Vikings – Packers game, which will take place this Saturday night.

A Packers win would give the Eagles the #1 conference seed, and render their final two regular season games moot.  And since the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention last weekend, they will be resting Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of the season and going with 2nd year quarterback Brett Hundley, which should help the Vikings chances.

If the Birds have clinched the conference before they set foot on the field Monday night, expect the starters to play a quarter to a half before they start playing with their newly opened Christmas gifts on the sideline.

But if the Birds need a win to clinch the conference themselves, they will be facing a Raiders team that, at 6-8, is quite a disappointment considering that they had a chance to be the #1 seed in the AFC last season before losing both their 1st & 2nd string quarterback in consecutive weeks.

Part of me would like to see the Eagles needing to win the game, as opposed to watching Nick Foles’ backup Nate Sudfeld (who ironically looks like Foles) coming in for mop-up duty.

Frankly, that’s the only time Eagles fans should want to see Sudfeld on the playing field.  If Foles gets injured and he is forced to start, the Birds chances of making the Super Bowl would be severely hampered…unless Sudfeld can somehow turn into “Studfeld”.

Assuming the Birds need this game, they win easily, 34-17.  And Santa watches from the North Pole with a glass of eggnog in his hand and forgives three idiot Eagles fans for throwing snowballs at him some forty years ago.

The Last Word: 

R.I.P Dick Enberg.  While everyone remembers the #1 CBS crew of Pat Summerall and John Madden, Enberg was always my favorite as the #1 NFL broadcaster for NBC from 1980 to 1997.  Ironically, the first Super Bowl that Enberg called was the Eagles-Raiders Super Bowl in January of 1981.

More recently, Enberg served as the San Diego Padres play-by-play man from 2010-2016.  I still remember watching so many classic NFL games that were made even better by his voice, and his signature line, “Oh My!”, will surely be missed.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Bills at Patriots  1:00 PM  CBS

Falcons at Saints  1:00 PM  FOX

Rams at Titans  1:00 PM  FOX

Seahawks at Cowboys  4:25 PM  FOX

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #14: 1) Sloppy in Seattle & 2) He Went to Jared

What was one of the first things Sean McVay did when he became head coach of the Los Angeles Rams?  He went to Jared of course.

No, I don’t mean Jared, the “Galleria of Jewelry”, to buy his girlfriend a ring (sorry to disappoint you ladies).

Instead, he went to Jared as in Jared Goff, the Rams quarterback who had become somewhat of an enigma, to discuss what had taken place in his rookie season.

Goff, and Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, were both taken as the #1 & #2 overall picks, respectively, in the 2016 NFL draft.  And while rookie quarterbacks generally go through some growing pains in their first year, the general feeling around the Eagles at the end of last season was that the drafting of Wentz was the right decision.  Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Goff.

The Rams were dead last in the league in scoring last season,  with Goff starting the last seven games and throwing 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions with a passer rating of 63.6, which did nothing to inspire confidence that he was the bona fide future QB of the team (ironically, the starter for the first nine games was Case Keenum, who is leading the Vikings to a 10-2 start this year).

As for Sean McVay, he is not just another rookie coach, but was the youngest coach in NFL history at 30 years old when he was hired (he is 31 now) after spending the last three seasons as the Redskins offensive coordinator .  And while experience can be a big advantage in the NFL, McVay has proven that it can be overrated, as the Rams are tied with the Eagles for the #1 scoring offense in the NFL.

But to make sure that McVay has some quality experience around him, his defensive coordinator is Wade Phillips, who at 70 years old is old enough to be McVay’s father, and was the defensive coordinator for the Eagles from 1986-1988 during the Buddy Ryan years.

As for the Birds, I don’t know about sleepless, but their movie should be aptly named “Sloppy in Seattle”.

Perhaps it was the four consecutive blowout victories that preceded the Seahawks game that had them thinking they just needed to show up to win.

Or maybe there was too much attention paid to whether the defense would be doing the 1) Cha-Cha Slide or the 2) Cupid Shuffle as a follow up to the “Electric Slide”.

Whatever the reason may be, last Sunday’s game could best be described in three words:  SLOPPY, SLOPPY, SLOPPY.

But have no fear Eagles fans…there is no reason to jump off the bandwagon or cancel your flight to Minneapolis in February just yet.

The silver lining in all of this is that no team, in a 16-game schedule, comes fully prepared to play every week.  And it wasn’t a case of the Eagles being overmatched by a veteran Seattle team.  Even with all the sloppy play, the Birds had chances to win the game.

In the 1st quarter, Carson Wentz overthrew Nelson Agholor on a pass that may have resulted in a touchdown.  He usually makes that play.

Later in the game,  another pass to Agholor is caught but underthrown.  That same pass thrown in stride may have resulted in a touchdown.

In the 3rd quarter, Wentz, while going in for the tying score, fumbles the football, which results in a turnover and a huge opportunity lost.  Funny how, when you fumble the football while heading for the end zone against the “Bad News Bears”, the ball stays in bounds and is recovered by one of your teammates for a touchdown, but when you do the same thing against a good team like the Seahawks, it goes out of bounds and results in a touchback.   Good teams create their own luck it seems.

One pass overthrown, one underthrown, and a fumble at the goal line.  Twenty-one points left on the field right there.    Good teams like the Eagles don’t make those kind of mistakes.

The good news about this Sunday’s game against the Rams is that, while it is technically a road game, it may not actually feel like such.  Much like the game against the Chargers two months ago, it may be a stadium filled with rabid Eagles fans (including yours truly).

The Rams seem to think so, as they have been practicing with a silent count this week, which is usually only needed when playing on the road in a hostile environment.

The fact that the Eagles may have a home-field advantage out in LA is both a blessing for them, and a sign of how pathetic the idea of keeping an NFL team in Los Angeles really is.

The Eagles will gladly take all the help they can get, as after last week’s loss, they now find themselves playing in a game this Sunday that will have HUGE playoff implications.

Win, and they will keep their #2 conference seed with a chance to move back up to the #1 spot, should the Vikings slip up on the road against the Panthers on Sunday afternoon.

A first round bye comes with a week of rest and relaxation and the comforts of possibly never having to leave home.

Lose, and the Eagles will fall to the #3 and maybe even the #4 seed, if the Saints can defeat the Falcons on the road Thursday night.

Lose, and the result could mean a more precarious route to take on the road to the Super Bowl, with land mines at every turn.  That’s how important a win is this Sunday, even with four games left in the regular season.

The Eagles will win this Sunday because Carson Wentz will not repeat the same mistakes he made last week.

The Eagles will win this Sunday because their Prince Harry look-alike QB will carry this team on his shoulders.

Birds win 38-20.  And the Enchanted Season WILL continue.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Saints at Falcons  8:25 PM  NBC/NFL Ntwrk  (Thurs)

Vikings at Panthers  1:00 PM  CBS

EAGLES at Rams  4:25 PM  FOX

Seahawks at Jaguars  4:25 PM  FOX

Ravens at Steelers  8:30 PM  NBC

 

As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #12: Da Birds & Da Bears

When you were younger, your parents probably sat you down at some point to discuss the “birds and the bees”.   But did they ever teach you about “Da Birds and Da Bears?”

Probably not, because there is really not much to tell, save for the mid-1980’s when Buddy Ryan became the head coach of the Eagles after leaving his job as the defensive coordinator for the then Super Bowl champion Bears, and bickering with Chicago head coach Mike Ditka in the process, there is really not much history or bad blood between these two teams.

There was, of course, the infamous “Fog Bowl” playoff game back in 1988 in which a thick fog covered Soldier Field during the 2nd half of the game, which prevented the Eagles from mounting a comeback and advancing in the playoffs (speaking of fog, many parents I’ve talked to are sometimes in a “fog” as to how to approach the subject of the birds and the bees with their children, but I digress).

When the NFL schedule came out, most looked at this game just like any other in terms of the opponent.   And that’s all it is, save for the fact that the 2017 edition of the Eagles is very, very good.

So this week we have birds, bears, no bees, but a plethora of turkeys, being Thanksgiving and all.

Last week, after crossing the Betsy Ross bridge and driving down Route 90, I happened to spot not one, not two, but FIVE turkeys at the side of the highway (no joke), with two of them sitting on the highway railing as if they were waiting for an Uber to pick them up.  One can only assume that they were scrambling to get out of town before they became the main course at someone’s dinner table?

Then Thanksgiving came and while we now have three football games to watch if we desire on the holiday (which is probably not a bad idea just to distract us from having the “elephant in the room” conversation of whether you are pro-Trump or anti-Trump), only one of them was one I considered to be a marquee matchup going in (Vikings at Lions as the appetizer game).

Every time I think Minnesota is primed to lose, they keep winning.  And not only winning, but doing so with Case Keenum, who has been a journeyman mostly shuttling back and forth between the Houston Texans and St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams until this season, when he signed with the Minnesota Vikings to be their backup.

An injury to starter Sam Bradford (surprise, surprise) opened the door for Keenum, who has not relinquished his starter spot even though Minnesota’s previous starter, Teddy Bridgewater, has been cleared to play and is waiting in the wings for Keenum to screw up.

Even on Thanksgiving, which is Detroit’s chance to “be seen” (since the Lions don’t get much national TV exposure), the Vikings stole the show and won 30-23, staying on the Eagles heels for that highly coveted #1 seed in the NFC.

Next up was the Cowboys – Chargers game, and while those of us in the Delaware Valley usually have a rooting interest in the Cowboys losing on Thanksgiving, this year I was perfectly content to shut off the television and discuss more interesting subjects such as 1) Why politicians don’t want to give us the ability to buy health insurance across state lines & 2) Using your airline miles to fly in business class to far flung destinations.

This season, the Eagles are playing the role of the “Road Runner” with the Cowboys playing the role of “Wile E. Coyote”.  And while the head coyote (Jerry Jones) thinks he’s a “super genius”, his team has been left way back in the dust, even without the use of an “Acme anvil” like in the cartoons.

Then there was the Giants – Redskins contest as the nightcap, to which even most “New Yawka’s” were saying, “FUGETABOUTIT”!  This game used to be a regular NFC East classic featuring the likes of Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor facing off against Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann.  Nowadays, the closest you’ll get to intrigue between these two teams is watching these two in a strange commercial where Taylor asks Theismann if he wants a turkey leg, to which Theismann replies, “I’m ok, thank you very much”.

For those who may be too young to remember, this was a bizarre exchange, to say the least, because it was Taylor who broke Theismann’s leg in a Monday night football game 32 years ago, ending his career.

As for the Eagles, they probably got to enjoy Thanksgiving like the rest of us, feasting on turkey on Thursday while also hoping to feast on bears on Sunday.  Chicago, like the Eagles last season, come in with a rookie quarterback who was the 2nd overall pick in the NFL draft.  And while Mitchell Trubisky holds a lot of promise for the future, he is learning the ropes of the NFL in a “trial by fire” method.

After this game, the Birds will enter one of the toughest stretches of their season – three straight road games which will take them to Seattle and Los Angeles before ending with the Giants in the swamp lands of North Jersey.

A win against a “not ready for primetime” team with a 3-7 record like the Bears is something that good teams like the Eagles should pull off rather easily.  The Birds do so, knocking the stuffing out of the Bears in their last home game before Christmas night, winning 37-20.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Vikings at Lions  12:30 PM  FOX  (Thurs)

Saints at Rams  4:25 PM  CBS

Packers at Steelers  8:30 PM  NBC