OAKLAND - If you are going to soil the carpet in the National Football League, you at least want to do it against a team from the other conference so as not to damage your playoff tiebreakers too badly. And, well, that pretty much sums up the good news for the Eagles yesterday.
The rest of it was abysmal.
And this one really is on Andy
On a day when quarterback Donovan McNabb channeled Chris Webber, trying to call a timeout he didn't have; a day when Jeremiah Trotter was sadly exposed in his comeback efforts at middle linebacker; a day when it somehow happened that left tackle Jason Peters became the linchpin of the entire Eagles offense, it was still up to this head coach to find a way to maximize his team's chances of beating the sorry, forlorn, derided, dismal Oakland Raiders.
Instead, the Eagles couldn't protect the quarterback, called a quarter-million pass plays anyway, lost by 13-9 to a previously terrible team, a freak show of a team, and raised nagging questions to the level of legitimate doubts.
This really was as bad as it gets.
"It was very disappointing, man, because we're so much better," said Peters, who injured his left knee in the first quarter. "We're so much better than that. It was disappointing just watching that. I wish I could be out there with them. If we were going to struggle, I wanted to struggle with them. It was disappointing sitting on the sideline."
Peters is having an MRI on his left knee sometime today. (The initial X-rays were negative.) He says he is hoping to play next Monday night against the Washington Redskins. By the time he got hurt, on the first play of the Eagles' third series, the evidence already existed that the Raiders were going to blitz more and stunt more and try to pressure the quarterback more than they had shown on film. As right tackle Winston Justice said, "They weren't really a team that blitzed as much as they blitzed us. It was a shock."
But an issue became The Issue almost immediately after King Dunlap came in to replace Peters. It wasn't all Dunlap's fault, although he did have his hands full with the Raiders' Richard Seymour. The truth is, the whole delicate structure crumbled without Peters. A lot of the pressure came on stunts up the middle.
As Dunlap said, "Seymour is a Pro Bowler, a really good guy. I didn't feel I was thrown in the fire. I always have to be ready . . . I have to be ready when my time is called. I did all right - I just have to get better."
But, again: The whole thing crumbled. McNabb ended up
being sacked six times and knocked down while throwing at least that often. A couple of the sacks were because he held the ball too long, but only a couple. He really was wearing a target in a shooting gallery.
All of which added up to this: a day when the Eagles desperately needed to try to run the ball, to try to win a different way. It might not have worked - they were playing that badly on offense overall - but didn't they have to try? It's not as if they were down by a bundle. After three quarters, the deficit was only 10-6.
Well, they didn't - even as Brian Westbrook gained 50 yards on six carries. They called only five running plays in the second half. The game ended with the familiar algebra: 53 called pass plays, 12 called runs, one quarterback sneak. And McNabb has the bruises to prove it.
Nine points against the Raiders, then. Nine.
"No way," Peters said, asked his initial thought. "If somebody had told me that the Raiders were going to hold us to nine points, I wouldn't have believed it. We struggled - one of those days. All great teams are going to go through adversity. We just have to bounce back and get better for it."
We spent the summer worrying about this offensive line. It is still all mixed and matched and unsettled - and the Eagles really have not run the ball well in a lot of situations. Now, the Raiders have just provided the league with a blueprint. The risk-reward against the Eagles - with all of their outside speed and with Westbrook - has been not to go too blitz-happy for fear of annihilation. Well, there is now a different way - and this Peters MRI is going to be a big deal.
"I'm hoping [to play Monday]," Peters said. "If not, I'm going to work to get back. As fast as I can, I'm going to be back."
Based on yesterday, he had better hurry.
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