This week's observations from the Eagles' win over the 49ers:
1. Juqua Parker was the Eagles' best defensive player yesterday, and the same can probably be said for the entire season. Even before his interception return for a touchdown, Parker was making a difference all game. In the fourth quarter, he blew up a trick play to 49ers tight end Delanie Walker for a 10-yard loss. And he was constantly in J.T. O'Sullivan's face. In the last four games, Parker has 4.5 sacks
2. We've found a coach who's worse at using the challenge flag than Andy Reid. Last week we ripped Reid for issuing a challenge during Clinton Portis' touchdown pass. The week before, he was ripped for keeping the flag in his pocket. This week, Mike Nolan didn't challenge an early pass to Hank Baskett that looked questionable. Then later he challenged a DeSean Jackson catch even though it was pretty clear the rookie had both feet in-bounds. Nolan also challenged David Akers' field goal even though the announcers told us the play wasn't challengeable. It's amazing how little everyone seems to know about the replay rules. And my question is, who is recommending these challenges to Nolan? Is there one guy whose job that is? This would seem like a pretty important position, but maybe I'm crazy here.
3. The opposing field-goal kicker phenomenon (not starring Tony Danza) continues. Joe Nedney connected on all four of his field-goal attempts yesterday. Opposing kickers are now 13-for-13 on the season against the Eagles. Four of those kicks are from 50 yards or more and seven are from 45 yards or more.
4. The announcers mentioned it during the broadcast, so I had to look it up. No offense Sam Rosen. It just sounded so unbelievable I had to see for myself. Ex-Eagle and current 49ers linebacker Takeo Spikes now has an interception in three straight games. Last year with the Birds, he had zero interceptions, and the team had a league-low 11. Unbelievable.
5. The 49ers coaching staff confused me a couple times yesterday. The first was in the second quarter. San Francisco had been driving, largely on the back of running back Frank Gore, and was faced with a third-and-one at its own 41-yard line. The call? Handoff to DeShaun Foster for no gain. Earlier in the drive, Gore had carries of 4, 4, 7, 3 and 4 yards. And it's not like he was bouncing runs outside. Gore was knocking over Eagles defenders all game. Why go away from one of the most physical backs in the NFL in favor of Foster, a guy who hadn't touched the ball yet?
6. The other time was in the fourth quarter. The 49ers' offense took over at its own 27-yard line after the Eagles made a field goal to cut the lead to 26-24. The three plays that followed for the Niners: Incomplete pass, incomplete pass, pass for minus-7 yards. No running plays to Gore? Really? Mind-boggling if you ask me.
7. The optimist says...
The Birds are back in this thing. 3-3 after six, and both the Cowboys and Redskins lost yesterday. The bye couldn't come at a better time. In two weeks against Atlanta, the Eagles will have Shawn Andrews, Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis back. Not to mention Brian Westbrook will be healthy, and Correll Buckhalter showed he can give 36 a breather when necessary. The defense is forcing turnovers, and the schedule eases up with the Falcons, Seahawks, Bengals and Browns still to go. There's no question this is a playoff team.
8. The pessimist says...
Whoop-de-doo. The Eagles have to claw back from behind against a terrible 49ers team. At one point, they allowed 20 unanswered points. The Niners dropped some gimme interceptions by Donovan McNabb, and the Birds were going up against a quarterback making his sixth career start. If not for a couple boneheaded decisions by the Niners' coaching staff, the Eagles would be staring at 2-4. Will Andrews ever be healthy? How come we don't know the nature of his injury? And are you really counting on Brown and Curtis? Don't forget. McNabb hasn't gone down yet. You know that's coming. And the defense got pounded on the ground once again. I almost wish they would have lost so we could stop kidding ourselves.
9. Not hard to see where this game was won (or lost, depending on how you look at it). 49ers fourth-quarter possessions: punt, punt, interception, fumble, interception. The Eagles' offense didn't exactly seize the opportunity, settling for three David Akers field goals to go along with McNabb's touchdown pass to L.J. Smith.
10. A few notes from the chat. Every week someone asks about the fade to Hank Baskett. We finally saw it yesterday after hearing so much about how the Eagles practiced it during training camp. Every week someone asks about Chris Clemons. He recovered a fourth-quarter fumble yesterday. And finally, comment I liked from The Commish: Trevor Laws looks like the cavemen from the Geico commercials.