As Broad & Pattison Turns Week #1: Championship Edition

FINALLY!!!!!

After 58 years of frustration, mediocrity, some close calls, and a lot of heartbreak, the team from the city of brotherly love finally broke through the steel gates in grand fashion and brought their city what they have richly deserved for so long…the team’s first NFL championship of the Super Bowl era.

What made it even more special was that it was totally unexpected.  This was not one of those teams from the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb era of the early 2000’s when everyone figured that the Eagles would easily win the division and go to the NFC Championship game with a reasonable shot to make it to the Super Bowl.

If one were to go back to Labor Day 2017 and find anyone that predicted that this team would win it all, they would probably be labeled a dope or moron (and not just by Howard Eskin).

No, 2018 was a season in which a 9-7 record would have signaled a step toward respectability and a sign that the team’s 2nd year quarterback was progressing in the right direction.  But somewhere along the way, someone forget to tell this team that merely earning a winning record was good enough.

A 61-yard field goal by kicker Jake Elliott as time expired gave the Eagles and their fans an exhilarating last second win in their home opener and kick started a nine game winning streak, which put the Eagles at 10-1 and gave the league notice that they were serious contenders to become the NFC representative for the Super Bowl.

But a week 14 road win against a tough Rams team, which clinched the NFC East, was tempered by the fact that their star quarterback, Carson Wentz,  would be out for the remainder of the season.  And when his backup, Nick Foles, looked downright awful in his last two regular season games, many felt that the the Birds would be “one-and-done” in the playoffs, and that Carson Wentz’s injury was just another sign that this team was eternally cursed.

Most national prognosticators seemed to agree with that sentiment as well, as the Eagles entered the playoffs as the first #1 seed since the 1970 Colts to be underdogs in the divisional round of the playoffs.

But with coach Doug Pederson tailoring the offense to his quarterback’s strengths, and Nick Foles’s improved play, the Birds squeaked past the Falcons on a defensive stand, and then blew out the Vikings to earn the right to play in a Super Bowl that no one expected them to be in during the dog days of summer.

And who could have asked for a better opponent than the New England Patriots?  The same team, quarterback, and coach who had defeated the Birds in their last Super Bowl appearance 13 years earlier would be the foe they would have to exercise their past demons against.  And in a game that was one for the ages, the Birds played with an aggressive style that their former coach, Andy Reid, would never have done.

If Reid had still been the Eagles coach, the “Philly Special” would have been replaced with a field goal,  and the gutsy 4th & 1 when Doug Pederson gambled and went for the first down and succeeded with 5 minutes left in the game (which eventually resulted in the winning touchdown) would have been replaced by a punt and a 33-30 Eagles loss.

Pederson deserves all of the accolades for his play calling in the Super Bowl, and this team deserves all of the credit for rallying together as “underdogs” and jelling at the right time.

After what was nothing short of a miracle season, the Lombardi trophy is finally yours Philadelphia.  So without further ado (and before we began the 2018 season), I dedicate the 2017 championship season to the following:

  • Section 244 at the Linc (and a special shout out to Section 745 at the old Vet)
  • Abhi K., a longtime Philadelphia sports fan and his prized “We are #1” pose in many of our childhood photos.
  • My father, who had me change the channel to the Eagles game at 1 PM one Sunday afternoon when I was 7 years old.  The television has been replaced multiple times since but what is being watched has remained the same.
  • Longtime Eagles season ticket holder Steve M., who ironically happens to be married to a lifelong Giants fan.  I guess opposites actually do attract.
  • Janaki Maushi, who still follows all the Philadelphia sports teams even while living 8,000 miles away from Broad & Pattison.
  • My mom and her “halftime hoagies” all throughout my childhood.  They were always served with a smile, even on days when the Eagles had given you nothing to smile about.
  • Joe L., my season ticket comrade for 18 years.
  • Arun Kaka, who is always optimistic that the Eagles can go 16-0, even in years when it looked like they may go 0-16.
  • My sister, “The Neelj”, who’s knowledge of Eagles football is second to none.
  • Shashi Maushi, who’s smile is always missed when the Eagles win a big game.
  • Pathak Kaka, to whom I lost every Eagles bet I ever made.  Luckily, he never made me pay up and actually wash his car.
  • Merrill Reese & Mike Quick, who make it worthwhile to turn down the sound on your TV and turn up the radio.  Much like Harry Kalas before them for the Phillies, the game would not be as enjoyable to watch without them.
  • Anthony Gargano (the cuz) – a “4 for 4” Phila. sports fan & radio personality on 97.5.
  • Ray Didinger – the reason to DVR “Eagles Postgame Live” on my way home from the Linc.

Last but definitely not least, my uncle Kishor.  While he has not been with us since 2010, he was a huge Eagles fan who I had the pleasure of watching many Eagles games with in person.

While sitting at my seat at U.S Bank Stadium following the Eagles Super Bowl win, I couldn’t help but think that he was there in spirit, commenting about how awesome that “Philly Special” call was.

So what can we expect from the 2018 season?  Repeating as champions is never easy, as it has only been accomplished eight times previously, but this team has the talent to do it.

But so often, the fire to repeat is not the same as winning it the first time, and complacency can often get in the way.  The one difference with this team is that their star quarterback wasn’t able to be there during last year’s stretch run due to injury, and whether he says so publicly or not, he wants to win it with the team on HIS shoulders…not as a spectator on the sidelines.

Carson Wentz could be the reason this team repeats, but there will be a bullseye aimed at the Eagles by every team they face.  Week #1 will be a tough test, as the Atlanta Falcons are out for revenge, especially after falling two yards short of advancing in last year’s divisional playoff game.

Birds fans will be psyched to see the team’s first ever Super Bowl banner being hoisted at Lincoln Financial Field during the pregame ceremonies, but once kickoff takes place, that banner will become yesterday’s news as far as the game is concerned.

Luckily, the return of starters such as Darren Sproles, Jason Peters & Nelson Agholor will help to clear out the preseason cobwebs, and the Birds win their opener, 31-21, to get their season off on the right foot.

As for Broad & Pattison, it will continue to turn…but this time with it’s inhabitants as defending champions.  Has a nice ring to it don’t you think?

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

Falcons at EAGLES 8:20 PM –  NBC (Thurs)

Bills at Ravens 1:00 PM – CBS

Cowboys at Panthers 4:25 PM – FOX

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As Broad & Pattison Turns #4: Elliott “Phones Home” a Win

The general consensus in sports is that the hotter and more humid the weather is, the farther a ball will travel.  So it should be no surprise that, on what may have been the hottest regular season Eagles game in the history of Lincoln Financial Field, kicker Jake Elliott kicked the longest field goal in Eagles history to win the game.

In a home opener that resembled a playoff frenzy atmosphere more reminiscent of  a cold January day, the Eagles allowed a 14-0 lead to slip away, getting behind 21-14 & 24-21 before Elliott’s  game-winning kick.  The rookie, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals as a 5th round pick, but who’s career hit a pitfall of sorts when he didn’t win the Bengals job to start the season, was signed off of the Bengals practice squad to replace injured kicker Caleb Sturgis.

After the tense, game winning 61-yard field goal, the kicker was carried off the field by his teammates in a game that will be remembered for the ages, if only for how it ended.  Elliott hit the ball so far that if the pigskin was E.T., he would have been able to send him back without having to “phone home” first.

In the worst case scenario, Jake Elliott just experienced his fifteen minutes of fame…a moment he can proudly tell his grandkids about one day.

In the best case scenario, Elliott takes over the kicking duties permanently from Caleb Sturgis and becomes the Birds field goal specialist for years to come, much like little known David Akers eventually did during the Andy Reid era.  But for that, he will have to work on his consistency, which has been shaky.

As astutely pointed out by Eagles postgame analyst and hall-of-fame writer Ray Didinger, it was the “shank” punt by Giants punter Brad Wing on New York’s last possession, which only traveled 28 yards, that gave the Eagles even a shot to try a winning field goal to began with.  If Wing gets off even an average punt in that scenario, the game most likely goes to overtime.

The irony is that once again, it was a mishap by a Giants punter that enabled the Eagles to win the game.  As you may recall, it was Giants punter Matt Dodge who kicked to DeSean Jackson when his coach told him not to, that enabled the Birds to win on the final play in a comeback, miracle win against the Giants at the Meadowlands back in 2010.

But while the game and the excitement of the kick had the Eagles fans singing Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration”, the win masked what were some obvious problems that the Birds have.

For starters, Doug Pederson’s aggressiveness in going for it on a 4th down & 8 from the Giants 43 caused much consternation and understandably so.  The play resulted in Carson Wentz getting sacked, which enabled the Giants to drive down the field and almost score a touchdown, if not for the Eagles defense tightening up on 4th and goal.

Pederson was asked about his thought process in going for it there, in which he replied that he had consulted with his analytics guy before making the decision.  One can only assume that the analytics guy is a five-year-old who invoked the nursery rhyme “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo” as his analytical process?

If New York scores there, and the Eagles lose this game by seven points, the head coach would have understandably been on the hotseat by the media and the fans.  And while it’s one thing to be aggressive, it’s another to make foolhardy decisions, which is precisely why I don’t think that “Dougie P” will be the head coach when this team is ready to compete for a Super Bowl.

The luck of the Irish may have been on Pederson’s side last week.  But how long before his good fortune hits the stroke of midnight in a game that is being played for much higher stakes?

For now though, all is well in Eagles land with an upcoming trip to the land of sun, surf, and the famous “In-N-Out Burger” as the Birds face the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday (the football team formerly known as the San Diego Chargers).

The Chargers moved to Los Angeles (LA) from their longtime home of San Diego because someone is convinced that people in LA actually care about NFL football.  And ironically, after winning the game on a long kick, the Birds will now play in a stadium in which the predominate sport played there is with your leg (soccer).

Stubhub Center, the temporary home of the Chargers, seats 27,000, which is about 15,000 less than even most traditional baseball stadiums seat these days.

And while a road game on the west coast is usually a cause for concern for an east coast team, there may actually be more Eagles fans at this game than Chargers fans.  Because frankly, most LA residents would probably prefer to hit around a beach ball at a Dodgers game  than go see an NFL game in person.

Add to that the fact that the only fans that travel better than Birds fans are Steelers fans, and you have the makings of a west coast Eagles home game.  Just replace the crab fries and cheesesteaks with burritos and you’re all set.

For that reason, I think Eagles win, 27-20, though once again, it will be a close game.  And if you happen to be in the stands and are looking for the LA natives, just look for the ones with the beach ball.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week:

Panthers at Patriots  1:00 PM  FOX

Lions at Vikings  1:00 PM  FOX

Rams at Cowboys  1:00 PM  FOX

Bills at Falcons  1:00 PM  FOX

Steelers at Ravens 1:00 PM  CBS

Raiders at Broncos  4:25 PM  CBS