On The Edge Blog

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eagles’ resiliency makes up for sloppy play

The Eagles escaped from the Linc on Sunday afternoon with a victory despite curious coaching decisions and three more stars needing the help of their overworked trainers.

Beginning with Andy Reid’s decision to try an onside kick to start the game, finishing with DeSean Jackson and Brodrick Bunkley on the sidelines, and Brent Celek dropping three passes along the way, this game had loss written all over it. Then suddenly, Donovan McNabb, Jason Avant and LeSean McCoy decided that a loss to the lowly Redskins was not in the cards.

For the second week in a row, McNabb flawlessly executed a fourth quarter comeback victory to keep the Eagles in a wild-card spot, and just one game behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

I know that this was an ugly win, but regardless, it is still a win, and last year, this would have been a loss. In fact, last year, this game actually was a loss, as the Eagles squandered a golden opportunity, losing 10-3 to the Redskins in week 16.

However, lately, the Birds seem to have some fourth quarter magic, as they have scored 32 points in the final period in the last three weeks.

Against the Redskins, McNabb was 5-for-7 for 115 yards on the final two drives of the game, but the key to both drives, besides Avant’s fearless ability to go over the middle, was the running game. McCoy and Leonard Weaver combined for 41 yards on eight carries on those drives, which opened things up for a greatly depleted group of wide receivers.

Over the last two weeks, the Eagles have battled inconsistency and injuries, but at the end of the season, these comeback wins over the Redskins and Bears could be the difference between us fans watching football in January or ignoring football in January.

Quick thoughts and observations:

* After Asante Samuel’s interception late in the first half, the Eagles’ offense took over with 19 seconds left in the half, and was able to take the lead on a field goal. The amazing part of this situation is that Philadelphia had all three timeouts with 19 seconds left in the first half! I can’t remember the last time the Eagles went more than 29 minutes without using a timeout.

* Speaking of Samuel, I keep asking this, but I haven’t found an answer, so I’ll ask again: Why does Samuel play football if he doesn’t want to hit anyone? When Samuel goes for a tackle, he slaps at the player or simply falls down. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the two interceptions he had against the ‘Skins, but his “tackling” technique has already cost Philadelphia a victory against the Raiders, and I would bet that it is going to cost the Eagles in a big way at some point in December or January.

* The Redskins converted on eight of their first 12 third-down opportunities mostly because guys like Sheldon Brown and Macho Harris were nowhere near the wide receivers before the play. On 3rd-and-4, Brown should be at the line of scrimmage to play press coverage on Santana Moss, but for some reason, he was beyond the first-down marker, and Moss caught a slant for eight yards. If Philly is going to blitz against the Redskins’ sixth different offensive line combination of the season, everyone should know that the quarterback will take a three-step drop and quickly get rid of the ball before getting clobbered. If the defensive backs play press coverage, then the Eagles can get more sacks on third down, and actually get off the field. The exact same thing happened early in the second quarter on Moss’ four-yard touchdown reception. Harris and Jeremiah Trotter were both standing in the end zone, instead of playing closer to the line of scrimmage, so Moss split the two defenders on a quick slant route. Harris never made it out of the end zone to even attempt to cover Moss, who had his easiest six points of the season.

* While I seem to be ripping on the defensive backs a lot, I will commend them for being on the field more than usual, and not complaining about playing different positions. With Joselio Hanson (suspended) and Ellis Hobbs (injured reserve) not on the field, Quintin Mikell, Quintin Demps and Harris have been playing several different positions, including cornerback. The results have been mixed, but the more game-day repetitions they get at cornerback, the more Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott can mix up his blitzes later in the season.

On Sunday, the Eagles will take on the Atlanta Falcons, who are trying to avoid falling out of contention for a playoff spot, but have announced they will be without their quarterback, Matt Ryan, who left last Sunday’s game with a toe injury.

Prediction: Eagles win the battle of the birds, 31-16.

Like the "On the Edge" column? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show.


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Name: Matthew Fleishman, Yardley News Editor
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