My 10 observations from the Eagles' 10-3 loss to the Redskins this evening:
1. At 3:34 p.m., I received a text from my buddy C-Nast. Lifelong Eagles fan, who is now living in Baltimore. The message read: yeah buddy. sorry jgarcia. Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia had just been picked off by San Diego's Antoine Cason, who returned it 59 yards for a touchdown, giving the Chargers a 41-24 lead. Going into this weekend, we all knew the scenario. Win out and hope for one loss from either the Bucs or Falcons in the final two weeks. It was setting up to be a perfect football weekend. The Cowboys turned the lights off on Texas Stadium with a 33-24 loss to the Ravens, and the Bucs came up short against the Chargers. Everything was set up perfectly. All the Eagles had to do was win their final two games, and they were in. This season, which has seen the benching of Donovan McNabb, missed chances against the Cowboys and Bears and a tie to the pathetic Bengals, could actually be headed in a positive direction.
2. At 3:52 p.m., I finally responded to C-Nast: please don't blow this haha. Because even with everything set up perfectly, this was still the Eagles, and that is still the mindset. Regardless of how well things are set up, disaster is just around the corner. Things never end well. When you think they're going to, it's just the Football Gods messing with your mind. For 25 years, this mentality was true for following all of the Philadelphia teams. But then the Phillies won the World Series. And we started asking questions like Will this change how we view sports in this city? And the answer is no, not until pitchers and catchers report at least.
3. You can point to any number of stats, but the one that has been a pretty good gauge of this team's success, to me at least, has been third-down conversions. In their previous three wins, the Eagles were 33-for-50 (66 percent) on third down. Today? Three-for-14, or 21 percent. It's really an important stat. Can you give the defense a breather? Can you sustain drives even if they don't produce points? Can you play with confidence in difficult situations and show some life? The answer today to all those questions was no.
4. I went over it right after the game, but it warrants mentioning again since that post might be lost in the shuffle by the time you read this. How can the Eagles still get in the playoffs? It's a three-step plan. The first two steps are musts and the final is an either/or. Number one, they must beat the Cowboys next week. Number two, the Bucs must lose to the Raiders. And number three -- either the Bears lose one of their final two games OR the Vikings lose next week. Chicago plays the Packers on Monday night and is at Houston in Week 17. The Vikings host the Giants.
5. The optimist says...
So the Eagles laid an egg. It's still all about getting in the playoffs and I'm not conceding yet. Who are you afraid of in the NFC? Have you looked at these teams? The Cardinals are going in the tank. The Giants have hit their worst stretch all season. The Falcons have a rookie quarterback. No one wants to win the NFC North. And then there's the Panthers. There are a few rules to being an Eagles fan, and one is you always care when they play the Cowboys regardless of the circumstances. So stop whining about McNabb, Reid and the receivers. And look ahead to next week. You know as well as I do that if they sneak in, you'll be right back on the bandwagon.
6. The pessimist says...
Hahaha. I've been telling you for weeks not to let this team suck you in, but did you listen? No. You believed once again. What sold you? The win over the Cardinals? Yeah, that looks real impressive right about now. Or was it that great victory over the Browns on Monday night? Is that the same Cleveland team that got shut out by the Bengals today? It's all very simple. With everything on the line, this offense scored three points against an average defense. The coach's message no longer gets to the players. The quarterback lacks accuracy and cannot make plays in the clutch. And the receivers, healthy or unhealthy, aren't good enough. Don't even get me started on the special teams. In truth, this is the best thing that could have happened to this team. Now hopefully we'll see some changes before next season starts.
7. It's easy to pick a play here and a play there and wonder what if. So let's do that. The first is the dropped interception by Asante Samuel with 11:29 left in the game. Samuel had it in his hands but couldn't hold on. If he would have made the play, the Eagles would have had the ball at their own 40-yard line. Instead, the Redskins' punt pinned the Eagles at their own 3. A difference of 37 yards if you will. More on the field position later.
8. The other play everyone will be talking about is DeSean Jackson's drop in the end zone. There are usually one or two plays during the course of a game that cause me to take my hands off the keyboard and place them on top of my head in disbelief. This was one of them. With 1:05 left, McNabb hit him in the hands in the end zone, but Jackson couldn't hold on. He dropped an earlier bomb also, and had four overall according to the broadcast.
9. Redskins starting field position in the second half: Eagles' 18; OWN 28; OWN 33; Eagles' 44; OWN 46; Eagles' 45. Four drives starting at their own 45 or better. Three starting in Eagles' territory. The Eagles' starting field position in the second half: OWN 17; OWN 20; OWN 9; OWN 3; OWN 10; OWN 20; OWN 9. Seven drives, no starting field position better than their own 20-yard line. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like that. Normally a turnover or a punt return or a missed field goal turn the tides a little bit. Not in this one. That's probably why you won't see too many Redskins fans puffing out their chests Monday morning. They only managed 10 points despite the great field position drive after drive.Washington has scored 40 total points in its last four games. Not sure how much optimism they'll draw from this win.
10. Everything else I couldn't fit in the first nine:
- Is there anyone in this world that can explain to me what Reid was doing on the final sequence of the first half? The Eagles took over at their own 20 with 13 seconds left. Just run the clock out right? Right, handoff to Brian Westbrook and let's head to the locker room. Wait. Timeout Eagles. Huh? Taking a shot at a serious Hail Mary? Nope. Handoff Westbrook. And now let's go to the half. Why in the world did they inexplicably call timeout there?
- Jon Runyan, good tackle of London Fletcher on McNabb's fumble. That's an area the Eagles have really struggled in all season -- bringing down defenders after turnovers.
- For years, this team has consistently got the calls in late to McNabb. This apparently cost the Eagles a timeout on the first drive of the second half. Could that timeout have been useful on the final drive?
- Brian Dawkins, too bad. You are one of the rare athletes who seems to take losses as bad as the fans. Sorry that what could be your last season of a remarkable career here couldn't have turned out better...