As the chants of "Let's go Phillies" swelled from the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field at the tail end of the Eagles' 24-23 loss to the 49ers this afternoon, I started to think about the blueprint upon which each team is built. Since Andy Reid took full control of football operations a decade ago, they have steadily morphed into a team built from the outside in, a team that relies on speed and agility and quick-strike offense instead of the time-tested strategy of relying on strength and size and time of possession. From Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins to Dhani Jones and Sean Considine and Casey Matthews and the increasingly geometrically challenged Jarrad Page. From Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas and Chad Lewis and Duce Staley and Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook to the talented-yet-undersized Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and Lesean McCoy and whoever happens to be playing center and guard on a yearly basis.
They have gone from physical, dual-threat corners like Bobby Taylor (215 pounds) and Troy Vincent (200 pounds) to big play specialists like Asante Samuel (185 pounds) and Dominique Rodgers Cromartie (185 pounds). They have gone from using their defense to set up their offense to vice versa, right down to replacing lifelong defensive assistants Jim Johnson and Sean McDermott with lifelong offensive assistant Juan Castillo.
Which brings us to the Phillies and the fact that, unlike their colleagues across Pattison Ave., they have constructed a roster of personnel that adheres strictly to the conventional baseball wisdom that defense and power win championships.
This 2011 team might not score as many runs as the 2006 and 2007 teams, but the 2011 team also happens to be playing tonight with a 1-0 lead in the Best-of-Five NLDS, while the 2006 and 2007 teams failed to win a single playoff game.
The Eagles are probably the last thing on the mind of Cliff Lee, who will square off against Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter tonight at Citizens Bank Park.
But rest easy, Philadelphia: Cliff Lee knows when you need a little pick-me-up from your Andy Reid-induced melancholy.
Since 2009, Lee has started four games in the aftermath of an Eagles loss. In those four games, he is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA, 27 strikeouts and no walks in 25 innings.
1) Sept. 20, 2009
As the Eagles were allowing five touchdowns and and Kevin Kolb was throwing three interceptions and Reid was calling 18 running plays and 52 passing plays against Drew Brees, Sean Payton and the high-powered Saints, Lee was tossing four innings against the Braves before a long rain delay knocked him out of the game. The Phillies went on to win 4-2. Lee finished with four inning, five hits, one run, two strikeouts and no walks on 52 pitches.
2) Oct. 18, 2009
Facing the lowly Raiders at the Oakland Coliseum, Eagles running backs McCoy and Westbrook averaged nearly six yards per carry. The only problem was they only carried the ball 11 times in a 13-9 loss in which Donovan McNabb attempted 46 passes and was sacked six times. Lee, clearly aware that the city needed something to erase the bad taste in its mouth, took the mound at Citizens Bank Park shortly after the Eagles loss and proceeded to pitch eight scoreless innings against the Dodgers, striking out 11 and allowing just three baserunners in the Phillies' 11-0 victory in Game 3 of the NLCS.
3.) Sept. 20, 2011
The Phillies had a lot less to play for than the Eagles did two days earlier, when they lost to the Falcons 35-31 at the Georgia Dome. Having already wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the postseason, they fell to the Nationals 3-0. Lee allowed 11 hits, but only two earned runs and no walks while striking out nine in seven innings.
4.) Sept. 26, 2011
One day after the Eagles fell to the Giants 29-16 at Lincoln Financial Field, Lee finished his regular season by holding the Braves to two runs in six innings with six strikeouts as the Phillies won the second of three straight games over Atlanta, setting up the current first-round match-up with the Cardinals.
So take comfort, Philadelphia sports fans. There is a reason the Phillies brought Lee back to town this offseason: to make you forget about those frustrating Eagles losses.
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