Here are my 10 observations from the Eagles' 48-20 win over the Cardinals:
1. With the game less than four minutes old, it seemed like maybe things would be different, for one night at least. The Eagles' offense faced a dreaded third-and-one. I do these observations every week, and every week at least one is dedicated to a failed short-yardage attempt. Enter Kyle Eckel. The local kid, who was active for the first time all season. Right up the middle. Two yards. Standing ovation. What if this is all the Eagles needed all year to solve their short-yardage woes? A 237-pound bruiser. Now, maybe the short-yardage problems will start back up again next week against the Giants. But maybe not. Being a sports fan is maddening sometimes, isn't it?
2. It seemed like the Eagles were running on first down early much more than they have in previous weeks, so I decided to look it up. Out of 21 first downs in the first half, they ran nine times and threw 12 times. Seems like a much better ratio than last week against Baltimore, right? Not exactly. Against the Ravens in the first half, the Eagles ran on first down six times and passed five times. I was stunned when I saw those numbers. I guess sometimes you have to take an inch back to go a mile forward.
3. "They're just gonna run it all night," said Cris Collinsworth after a first-half Brian Westbrook touchdown. On the list of "Least likely things you thought you'd hear during last night's game," where does that rank? By the way, loved the announcing team of Collinsworth and Bob Papa. Gotta be one of the best out there right now.
4. A couple game balls to players that might otherwise go unnoticed. On offense, the line and specifically Todd Herremans. Any time you actually notice (in a positive manner) an offensive lineman that much, you know he's doing a great job, including a big block on Westbrook's fourth touchdown. In fact, the line was as big a key as any to the offensive precision. And on defense, safety Quintin Mikell, who's really come on as of late. He stuffed J.J. Arrington on a third down at the beginning of the second quarter and had an interception in the first.
5. The optimist says...
So this is what it looks like when everything's running the way it's supposed to, huh? Offensively, the line showed that talent is not the problem. A commitment to the ground game. A performance from Brian Westbrook that reminded all of us why he's one of the all-timers to ever play for the Birds. And Donovan McNabb responding. Defensively, pressure on the quarterback once again and a great performance from the secondary despite Asante Samuel being sidelined. And don't forget special teams. David Akers is in a groove, and the Eagles have return men who are a threat to score every time they touch the ball. Back in 2006, there was a certain Eagles team that was 5-6 entering Week 12. Five straight wins, including three on the road against NFC East opponents, led to a playoff berth. The key was a balanced offense and an efficient quarterback. Does that sound like a formula you might be interested in?
6. The pessimist says...
Everyone relax and take a deep breath. It was one win. The Cardinals have beat up on a weak NFC West all year. Anyone who thinks they are legit isn't paying attention. Westbrook had a great game, but do you really think he's staying healthy through this stretch run? Now Max Jean-Gilles is out for the season? That leaves us with a third-string guard in the starting lineup. Good luck blocking the Giants next weekend.
7. DeSean Jackson chest bumping Reid might be my favorite moment of the year. Watching this team has become a chore at times this season. But for one night at least, you allowed yourself to give a little fist-pump, and at least in the back of your mind say, 'Hey, maybe it's not over quite yet.'
8. Not specific to the Eagles game, but have to get something off my chest. Jesse McCartney and The Jonas Brothers? Really, NFL? Did your audience just shift to 14-year-old girls? I don't get it. I imagine every household without girls between the ages of 7 and 16 was thoroughly confused at the entertainment choices. My Dad and I were trying to decide who weighed more -- the fella with the "Big Rob" jersey or the three Jonas Brothers combined. I'd really like to hear your thoughts on this one.
9. To take a page out of Bob Brookover's Up-Down drill, thumbs down to Marshall Faulk. On NFL Network's pre-game show, he continued the national media's streak of mentioning Santa Clause before an Eagles game. When talking about Reid's decision to bench McNabb, Faulk said:
"I'm thinking he felt pressure from these fans because these fans are something special. I mean they booed Santa Clause."
Thank you for this original and creative analysis Marshall. It's nuggets and insights like this that make us want to tune in.
10. And finally, a Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. The comments and readership have really picked up over the last month. We kept firing and are getting into a nice rhythm. I realized that I needed to get you guys in a better position to voice your opinion. Are we satisfied here at MTC? Not at all. But we're headed in the right direction. If there are things you like/dislike about the blog, please e-mail me or comment below and I will try to adjust accordingly. Thanks again.