Philadephia Eagles 2009 Season Preview
With the new schedule out, everyone is talking about the same things.
T.O.'s new home.
Cutler in a Bears uniform.
Honestly, who cares except Bills, Pats, and Bears fans, and what does that make up? Six, maybe 7 percent of the NFL fan populace? I kid...
Still, I thought it would be fun to take the Eagles' schedule and run with it. After all, every team plans on winning every game at the start of the season, right? Does any team look at the schedule and go: "Man we're losing this game, that game..."
Let me make this clear to anyone reading this: I'm not superstitious in the least bit.
When I see black cats coming, I stop to pet them. I step on cracks all the time and my mother is in excellent health. I don't knock on wood unless someone I`m visiting doesn't have a doorbell.
So I have no hesitation or apprehension about talking about how my (and your) Philadelphia Eagles could pull a clean sweep of the regular season.
I would do the postseason too, but after last year, I have no idea who's gonna end up where.
Nothing Could Be Finer than a Win Over Carolina
The Philadelphia Eagles at the Carolina Panthers.
Jake Delhomme is still upset over his abysmal playoff performance and he starts off hot. In the first half, Jake goes 13-16 for 162 yards and two scores while DeAngelo Williams does his Brian Westbrook impression collecting a receiving and a rushing touchdown. In the first half, the Panthers total 114 yards on the ground and air.
The first half score of 21-10 has Eagles fans groaning over another likely Andy Reid Opening Day loss.
The second half opens with Carolina receiving the ball. As Delhomme drops back the Eagles blitz and he catches Trent Cole pressuring from his blindside. He rolls and throws to his hot read who didn't pick up the blitz cue and runs his normal route. The ball generously lands in the arms of Sheldon Brown, who runs the interception to the Carolina 12-yard line.
Two runs leave the Eagles with a 1st and Goal from the 2-yard line. A play action fake leaves new Eagle Leonard Weaver wide open for the 2-yard TD pass from McNabb. 21-17 Carolina.
After a Carolina goes three and out, rookie Antone Smith fields a punt at the Eagles' 35. Hoping to keep the momentum, Smith zigs and zags his way to the Carolina 30. Andy predictably tries play action again and the Panthers, ready for it, send the house. A slimmer McNabb escapes the rush and scampers into the end zone for his trademark Michael Jackson impersonation. The Eagles lead 24-21.
After neither team is able to do anything against the other's defense, the Panthers catch a break on 3rd down as Joselio Hanson is called for a questionable pass interference call, extending the drive. DeAngelo Williams heats up and strings together a couple clock-killing runs. With a minute and change remaining, the Panthers are in field goal position. They try a shot in the end zone but Steve Smith, blanketed by both Sheldon Brown and Quintin Demps, can't come up with the catch and the deflection is caught by Quintin Mikell.
One first down later and the game is over as the defense shuts out Carolina in the second half.
Final: Eagles 24 Carolina 21
Player of the Game: Sheldon Brown (1 INT, 6 Tackles, 6 Passes Defended)
When the Saints Come Marching in...
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles
After Drew Brees absolutely feasts on the Detroit Lions to the tune of 417 yards and 5 TD's the offensive player of week one took his show to Philadelphia. Local fans remember the last time the Saints played Philadelphia Donovan McNabb was not on the field and the neither was the Eagle's run defense. The Saints Deuce McAllister made the Eagles defenders look slow and inept.
A lot has changed since then.
When the Saints won the coin toss the Saints wasted no time in putting this new group to the test. In the first half Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas were finding no wiggle room in the Eagle defense. Meanwhile McNabb efficiently lead 3 first half scoring drives against a weak Saint secondary to put the Eagles on the board to the tune of 13 points.
With the three minutes left in the half Drew Brees hit on a pair of big strikes to Robert Meachem, putting the Saints in field goal position. A Broderick Bunkley sack makes the kick a little more dramatic but Garett Hartley is able to split the uprights on a 45 yarder. 13-3 Eagles at the half.
A glance at the halftime stats say the Eagles though dominating only have a 10 point advantage. In the first second half drive, the Eagles split Westbrook out wide to the same side as Desean Jackson and keep Leonard Weaver in the backfield. The Saints key on Brian but the Eagles run a screen to the opposite side with Weaver. Jason Avant throws a fierce block on Jabari Greer as Weaver shakes Pierson Prioleau out of his shoes on his way to a 51 yard touchdown catch and run.
Eagles lead 20-3.
On the next Saints possession a run blitz by Omar Gaither is timed so well he arrives in the backfield as Brees attempts to make the exchange to Reggie Bush on a run. The ball comes loose and Broderick Bunkley falls on top of it.
The Eagles then run the ball twice to bring up a 3rd and inches. The Eagles come out in their heavy package with Desean Jackson as the only wide out. The Saints leave Leigh Torrence singled up on Jackson and as the ball is snapped, Jackson seems to be blocking. After engaging for a second Jackson streaks downfield as McNabb has already let the ball go to the spot Jackson has to get to. Showing incredible speed, Jackson not only catches up to the throw but he walks into the end zone untouched.
Eagles now lead 27-3
With the Saints unable to keep Brees upright, their offense unable to cross midfield, Sean Payton puts Reggie Bush in for an Eagle punt. Sav Rocca doesn't kick the ball away from the former Trojan and Bush in a series of fakes that leaves several Eagle players looking for their jocks, closing the scoring gap
The Saints drop into a zone look, in the hopes of discouraging the Eagle passing attack. It works to stop the Eagles from passing the ball, but with the linebackers no longer in run support position, Brian Westbrook and rookie Moreno enjoy several runs of 8 or more yards. The Saints do manage to keep the Eagles out of the end zone, but Akers tacks on another field goal to make the margin 30-10 in favor of the Eagles.
It would be the last time either team scores as the Eagle defense turns in its best dome performance racking up 6 sacks, forcing 2 fumbles and holding Brees and company to 196 yards of offense.
Final: Eagles 30 Saints 10
Player of the Game: Broderick Bunkley (1.5 Sack 13 Tackles 1FF 1FR)
KC and the Sunshine Band
Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles fans once dreamt of seeing Tony Gonzalez on the field, just not with the Chiefs.
But the team captain remains in red and white and with new QB (Matt Cassel) leading the Chiefs to convincing wins against Baltimore and division rival Oakland.
Gonzalez has, for now, tabled any talk of trade.
In the first quarter, both teams are obviously feeling the other out. The quarter ends with a scoreless tie but the Eagles are driving. A bad exchange on a hand-off between Donovan McNabb and Desean Jackson on an end-around leads to a Chiefs score as Derrick Johnson runs the fumble back 63 yards.
Lorenzo Booker, almost a camp casualty, has found his niche as the Eagles kick returner and has had several long returns already this year. Booker fields the kick at the four-yard line and proceeds to show why the Eagles traded for him in the first place.
Behind a key block by Joe Mays, Booker races up the sideline and is pushed out at the Kansas City 10.
It takes one snap for McNabb to find Brent Celek in the end zone and tie the game 7-7.
Kansas City, not known as a defensive club, manages to frustrate the Eagles for the remainder of the half keeping the game knotted at seven.
In the second half, the Eagles catch a break. The Chiefs mishandle the kickoff and start at their own five-yard line. Rather than run on first down, the Chiefs let Cassel take a five-step drop on a play action. Darren Howard is not fooled and crushes Cassel to the turf of his own endzone.
Eagles lead 9-7.
The Eagles come out on the drive and try the same formation that worked so well against the Saints.
With Westbrook and Desean Jackson both split out right, the Chiefs start screaming, "Screen, Screen!"
They key on Moreno and Weaver, but the call is actually a flanker screen to Desean Jackson. Though not as successful as the Weaver screen last week, it does net 32 yards for the second year star.
McNabb proceeds to connect with Avant on several short throws before capping the drive with a fade route to Baskett in the right corner of the end zone.
Eagles lead 16-7.
Cassel shows his toughness as he drives the Chiefs 86 yards to a Tony Gonzalez touchdown as the third quarter comes to a close.
After nearly every passing down Cassel is picking himself off the grass, so he barely has the energy to celebrate pulling his team to within two points.
Brian Westbrook is mysteriously on the sidelines but Moreno and Weaver provide a show of thunder and more thunder. Moreno ends up with his first touchdown of the year on a 11 play drive that features seven runs and four passes.
Eagles lead 23-14.
After the Chiefs next drive stalls, Andy goes back to his comfort zone: Pass first, ask questions last.
The Chiefs secondary seems to be a step behind on each completion as Curtis, Celek, Booker, Avant, and Weaver all catch passes en-route to an acrobatic touchdown grab by Desean Jackson.
The early hits on Cassel take their toll as he misses both Mark Bradley and Dwayne Bowe on what, for him, are easy throws.
The Eagles then get a healthy dose of Larry Johnson and the Chiefs are again driving.
On a third-and-two, Kolby Smith's number is called and, let’s face it, he's no LJ. He’s stopped a yard-and-a-half shy of the first. The Chiefs go for and get the first-down on a Jed Collins run, but time is not on their side.
Cassel, feeling the clock tick away, throws off of his back foot into the endzone where the ball caroms off of the hands of Devard Darling.
Two more incomplete passes and the Chiefs are at a crucial fourth-and-12. They decide to kick the field goal instead of going for it despite the protests of Matt Cassel.
The field goal makes it 30-17 in favor of the Eagles.
Cassel must have known something because not only to the Chiefs never again get close to a score, but the Eagles manage to score again on a Weaver run.
Final Eagles 37, Chiefs 17
Player of the Game: Darren Howard (2.5 Sacks 8 Tackles)
The Buc Stops Here
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
The Bucs come into this game with the No. 3 ranked pass defense and sport a 3-1 record.
After losing their home opener to Dallas, Byron Leftwich has settled into a nice groove with Antonio Bryant connecting on five TDs and 432 yards in the last three games.
Their top ranked pass defense hides the factthat they rank only 23rd in run defense.
This looks like a job for Brian Westbrook.
Brian Westbrook starts the first Eagle drive by making an incredible catch on a badly thrown ball by McNabb and taking it 28 yards down the field.
Westbrook then runs up field for another 22 yards on a draw. The Bucs do stiffen up and allow only an Akers FG.
Eagles lead 3-0.
Antonio Bryant quickly makes his presence felt by making two great catches on the Bucs first drive. But after taking a big hit from Sheldon Brown resulting in the Bucs first incompletion, Bryant seems to be a shadow of his former self as he short arms a crucial third down pass.
Again the Eagles attempt to take advantage of the Bucs' aggressiveness, this time spreading Moreno out wide with Weaver and Westbrook in the backfield. In the confusion before the snap the Bucs fail to cover Brent Celek with a linebacker. This allows Celek a free release into the middle of the Tampa zone. With just a safety to beat, Celek shows fleet feet in getting away from the initial tackle, but corner Aqib Talib makes a shoestring tackle at the Buccaneer 35.
It only delays the inevitable as four Westbrook carries bring the Eagles into the end zone.
Eagles lead 10-0.
Leftwich goes away from Bryant (who has been running less than crisp routes) and starts working in TE Alex Smith.
Chris Gocong is beat badly on a hitch route by Smith and only the heads up play of Sean Jones stops Smith from getting further down field. Realizing that the slimmer Leftwich is still not very mobile Jim Johnson calls up a LB Blitz. With Trent Cole dropping into coverage, Smith picks up on it right away, but Leftwich is only able to put up a wounded duck that Cole just misses intercepting.
The drive stalls and the Bucs punt.
After the Eagles pass on six straight plays resulting in a first-and-10 just inside the 50 -yard line, the Bucs' defense completely ignores the hand-off to Westbrook over the right side. Westbrook slips out of the arm tackle of Rod Wilson for another 15 yards before being forced out of bounds at the Buccaneer 21.
Three plays later, Kevin Curtis finds a sweet spot in the left corner of the end zone and the Bucs give up their first passing touchdown since their opening loss to Dallas. Eagles lead 17-0 at the break.
Earnest Graham fires up the offense with back-to-back 20-yard runs and it looks like the Bucs have found something over the left side of the Eagle defense.
The next Graham run goes for minus-three yards as Abiamiri drives him hard to the ground.
After a play action fake by Leftwich finds Michael Clayton for eight yards the Bucs face a third-and-five in Eagles territory. Instead of blitzing as the Eagles normally do on third down, they drop into a zone look. Asante Samuel reads the slant perfectly picking off the pass as his momentum takes him to the ground.
That seems to take the fight out of the Bucs—the next three Bucs possessions result in a punt, interception, and a fumble.
The Eagles next three possessions go the opposite: Jason Avant Touchdown, Matt Schoebel Touchdown, and a Westbrook 22-yard TD run.
Eagles lead 48-0 and appear to be headed for their first shutout since shutting out the Giants in December of 1996.
Late in the fourth, the Bucs appear to be in field goal range and look poised to keep the shutout from happening. At the three minute mark, the Bucs line up for a 43-yarder which splits the uprights. The kick however is negated because the play clock reaches zero.
After marking off the five yards, the Bucs decide to go for it on fourth-and-six. A sure tackle by Stewart Bradley is the only thing that keeps Alex Smith from picking up six yards instead of five.
The Eagles take over on downs.
Westbrook grinds out the clock on his own and the Eagles could have scored again as they make it all the way to the 10-yard line, but they elect to kneel out the clock.
Final score: Eagles 48, Bucs 0
Player of the Game- Brian Westbrook: (two T’s on 16 rushes for 169 yards, five catches 67 yards, and one pass for six yards)
Raiders of the Lost Art
Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland Raiders
The Eagles go into the black hole against a hard to figure Raider team.
The Raiders open the season blanking the AFC West Favorites 17-0 and later win an OT thriller against NY Giants in the Meadowlands. They also are utterly embarrassed by a Houston Texan team who, due to injury. had to go to their back up QB Dan Orlovsky. Dan the Man puts up three TDs and 260 yards passing.
So you know Donovan McNabb must be salivating.
Two things to note at the time of this game: The Eagles come in with the No. 2 pass defense and most sacks in the league at 20. The Raiders have the worst offensive line allowing a whopping 13 sacks already on the year.
The Raiders also, outside of Derrick Burgess, have no pass rush. Brent Celek does an excellent job of helping on Burgess and keeping McNabb on his feet.
By the end of the first quarter, McNabb hastwo touchdowns and nearly 200 yards, including a beautiful 64-yarder to Reggie Brown down the middle of the field.
It's not all roses though, as McNabb does force a ball in to Desean Jackson that gets picked off by Nnamdi Asomugha which leads to a Raider field goal
The Eagles' defense spends most of the first half depositing JaMarcus Russell to the grass. Even Darren McFadden can't seem to find any running holes behind the below average O-line as he is only able to mange 28 yards on 12 carries.
Eagles lead 24-3 at the half.
More of the same for the Eagles in the second half as Michael Huff inexplicably falls for a play-action fake by McNabb (to this point the Eagles have 23 pass plays to six runs) and allows Kevin Curtis to sneak by him for a 36 yard pick up. Making no effort to keep the defense honest, the Eagles run 14 straight passing plays racking up two more McNabb touchdown passes, one to Moreno and another to Desean Jackson on a circus catch in the back of the end zone.
Eagles lead 38-9.
With the route fully on, Reid sits McNabb and Westbrook to prepare for their trip back east to the Redskins.
This time Kevin Kolb shows why he was drafted in the first place, completing several lasers to Baskett and Brown and throwing for his first NFL touchdown at the five minute mark of the fourth quarter to Reggie Brown, his second of the season.
The Raiders' Darren McFadden gets a meaningless touchdown inside the one minute mark.
Final Score: Eagles 45 Raiders 16
Player of the Game: Donovan McNabb (26-35, 372 yards, four touchdowns, one interception)
A Little Red in the Face
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
There was a commercial out there in which a fouth down pass to Kevin Curtis is broken up by a grandma in a Redskins uniform.
The grandma insists that this is "my house!” to her teammates who congratulate her. This is a farce of course, but the play itself did happen. It was during an 8-8 season the Eagles would like to forget. A reporter brings this up as the Eagles prepare to match up to their division rivals in DC. Curtis smirks and states "We're 5-0 leading our division and you bring up that?"
Good point, Kevin.
The game is much more interesting. The Redskins have lost to one team in the NFC East already. Tack on two more losses and you've got a desperate Redskin team. So desperate, in fact, they try an onside kick on the opening kick-off, which they recover.
The crowd is fired up and Jason Campbell feeds on that energy to the tune of a seven play drive where Chris Cooly finds the end zone in front of Akeem Jordan.
When the Eagles go three-and-out on their next drive, the Redskins give the ball to the colorful and talented Clinton Portis on a sweep. Omar Gaither is in perfect position to make the tackle for a loss before an overanxious Bradley collides with him forcing them both out of the play.
Not one to refuse such a gift, Portis runs right up that sideline for the longest play the Eagles have allowed so far this year: a touchdown run of 60 yards.
The first quarter ends with the Eagles on the wrong end of a 14-0 score.
The old Andy Reid would dial up pass plays until Donovan's arm was ready to fall off, but this time Reid decides to take advantage of his physical, athletic offensive line.
After several runs off of left-tackle, Jason Peters take the crowd out of the game and put the defense on their heels.
McNabb goes to work, picking on third corner Byron Westbrook who is matched up on Kevin Curtis. Curtis makes several tough catches including one he has to literally snatch from Fred Smoot's grasp, but it's Brian Westbrook who gets the touchdown.
After another long drive the Eagles close the gap to 14-10 at the half.
Although Donovan McNabb continues to make completion after completion, the Redskins defense stiffens up at the right time—twice—once leading to a Moreno fumble, the other limiting the Birds to an Akers field goal.
The long drives do keep the defense fresh and they manage to keep the Redskins from finding any rhythm on offense. Cole and Parker both log their seventh sacks of the season and Sheldon Brown and Joselio Hanson both pick up interceptions.
Redskins lead 14-13.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Curtis catches a simple six yard slant and takes it an additional 43 yards down field after breaking free of Carlos Rodgers grip at the cost of his helmet. Fortunately he escapes without injury.
Andy rewards Curtis' effort by calling his number again on a wide receiver screen. With Jason Avant leading the way Curtis goes relatively untouched into the endzone.
The Eagles grab their first lead at 20-14
The Redskins drive from their own 10 yard line down to the Eagle 15, and decide to kick a field goal on a fourth-and-one. They make it, closing the gap again, 20-17.
The momentum seems to be in the Redskins favor as the Eagles are forced to punt with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining. But after two runs for two yards and an incomplete pass, Washington has to punt as well.
Brent Celek opens the way on two solid runs by Moreno (who seems to have shaken off his earlier fumble) bringing the clock just shy of four minutes. The drive stalls at the Eagle 45 and they face a third-and-12.
Under pressure, McNabb throws a high screamer to the middle of the field that Hank Baskett risks life and limb to bring in for 14 yards.
Three straight completions to Curtis later, and the Eagles are inside the Redskin 30.
With two minutes left and Washington out of timeouts, the Eagles have a decision to make on third-and-eight: they can run the ball, hope for the first and if they don't get it take the clock down to the two minute warning and kick the field goal, or they can try to pick up the first through the air and risk an incompletion.
Anyone that knows Andy Reid knows what happens next.
Curtis makes a diving catch on a low ball by Donovan and rolls to the first down before he's touched. With no timeouts and the play happening before the two minute warning, the Redskins cannot challenge the catch. They also can't stop the combination of Leonard Weaver and Brian Westbrook from running out the clock.
Final Score: Eagles 20, Redskins 17
Player of the game: Kevin Curtis (13 catches, 212 yards, one touchdown)
They Might Be Giants, but They're No Eagles
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Eli Manning has been nothing short of brilliant this year. Mainly due to the addition of one Braylon Edwards, who despite his shaky year last season, has been a dependable target for Manning. After last week’s win at Arizona Manning said of Edwards 11 catch performance "He's everything Plax was and more."
The Eagles appeared to be suffering from jet lag in the first half of last week’s Redskins game, maybe the west coast trip had something to do with it. It certainly seems that way after the Eagles take their first possession down to the Giant four-yard line. They have to settle for a field goal but the offense seems to be back in sync.
Something about the Giants tends to bring out the best in the Eagles, especially defensively. Asante Samuel has only one interception on the season, when he was asked about it, Samuel smiling said, "Hey, as long as we winning I could care less..."
Truth is, he was starving for a pick, so much so he jumped on a pump fake by Manning and the end result was a 24-yard grab by Braylon Edwards.
Quintin Mikell came over to Asante after the play and looked to be trying to relax him. Whatever he said worked. The very next play, with Trevor Laws draped at his knees, Eli throws a jump ball to the 6'3" Edwards. Both Asante and Braylon leap for the pass, but Asante is the one that comes down with it.
The Giants philosophy of keying on Westbrook and daring someone else to beat them may have worked in the past, but rookies Moreno and Smith have been excellent in shouldering the load. So much so, Andy likes to get a combination of two of them on the field at the same time. This opens the way for the middle of the field, where Celek and Schobel find a home there to the tune of four catches (Schobel gets three and Celek a 17 yarder).
This time the Eagles are able to get six behind a quick slant to Reggie Brown, who seems to be edging out Hank Baskett in the rotation.
Eagles lead 10-0
After a Giant drive results in a 42-yard field goal, the Eagles take the field again.
Very quietly, Donovan McNabb is in the midst of his best season as a pro and it shows when he neatly sidesteps Justin Tuck and plants a pass right on the fingertips of Desean Jackson. Jackson is unable to bring in the catch, but is bailed out by a pass interference call on Rashad Barksdale. That puts the ball just inside the Giant 40 where Jackson proceeds to make up for his drop with two splendid catches and a nice nine-yard touchdown run on a reverse.
Eagles lead 17-3
All year, the Eagles have been a second half team, and this game is no different. The Giants spend the better part of the third quarter chasing Westbrook and Antone Smith all over the field. The highlight of the drive is a SportsCenter-worthy catch and run by Smith where he receives a great block from Brian Westbrook and grabs his first NFL touchdown.
The game is not as close as the final score indicates as the Eagles manage two more turnovers (a Manning fumble caused by Abiamiri and a Demps strip of Brandon Jacobs) and stay perfect through seven.
Postgame, Brian Westbrook is asked about his young charges. "Them two guys ain't rookies! This must be how Duce felt when me and Buck first got here! Man! But I love it! Everybody's getting touches and we're winning—what else can you ask for?"
Final Score: Eagles 34, Giants 13
Player of the Game: Quintin Demps (1.5 Sacks, nine tackles, one interception, three passes defended, 1FF)
Romo-ing in the Wrong Neck of the Woods
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
In the Sunday-night matchup between the league's two highest scoring teams (Eagles No. 1 with 33.5 PPG and Dallas No. 2 with 29.8 PPG), this is billed as a shootout.
Only one problem: These two teams also sport two of the best defenses in the NFC (Eagles fourth overall, and Cowboys third), so something's got to give.
Tony Romo is asked to use one word to describe the Eagles defense. He didn't hesitate when he said "Relentless". Romo was also asked, given his recent troubles against this defense, what was he planning on doing differently. He got a chuckle out of Philly and Dallas media by saying "everything". He may not be as verbose as the departed player, but he certainly gets the point across.
The game starts ominously for the Eagles as the Cowboys take the ball and complete pass after pass on the opening drive. Romo starts the game six-for-six with 48 yards and Barber chips in 20 of his own.
Then the Eagles catch an unexpected break.
On an apparent toss to Barber, the pulling guard steps on Romo's foot and rather than secure the ball, Romo tries to still complete the toss and the ball ends up three-yards behind Barber.
In the ensuing scramble, somehow, it's Asante Samuel who ends up with the ball out of the pile.
The offense can't capitalize though, as the Eagles are called for an illegal shift and a false start on back-to-back plays. After a four-yard run by Westbrook and two straight incomplete passes by McNabb, the Eagles punt.
After starting off hot, Romo cools off significantly, missing wide open Roy Williams in the middle of the field, throwing at the knees of Jason Witten, and taking several sacks along the way.
In fact, the only thing that keeps the ball moving is the running of Barber. By the start of the second quarter, he's averaging four yards per carry, but the Cowboys don't have so much as a field goal to show for it.
Memories of the Baltimore game in '08 dance in the minds of fans as pressure from Ware and Keith Brooking rattles McNabb into two drive killing interceptions. The first by Terrance Newman and the other is by Pat Watkins. They remain knotted at zero up until the two minute warning.
The Eagles get a great punt return from Antone Smith and McNabb finally gets his feet under him. Four straight completions and a scramble put the Eagles just outside the 13 with 24 seconds remaining.
With no timeouts left, the Cowboys are expecting pass, instead they get a tough 13-yard touchdown run by Weaver as the clock shows seven remaining.
The Eagles lead 7-0 at the half.
In the second half, McNabb realizes that with the Cowboys getting constant pressure, he needs to run more. After runs of 14 and 11 yards by the QB, the defense goes to a contain look, which allows McNabb to find Desean Jackson on consecutive plays.
Five plays later, Celek scampers into the endzone on a seven-yard fade route.
Eagles lead 14-0.
When the final whistle sounds the Eagles defense has collected a fumble, five sacks, and two picks (Asante grabs his second consecutive and Jack Ikegwuonu gets his first on a ball tipped by Bradley), all while holding Dallas to a single third quarter field goal.
Final Score: Eagles 17, Cowboys 3
Player of the Game: (Trent Cole, 2twosacks, 14 Tackles)
Charge of Slight Brigade
Philadelphia Eagles at San Diego Chargers
Despite being four up and four down at mid season, the Chargers are a dangerous team.
Their four losses were all to playoff teams with the exception of the opening day loss to the Raiders. Still with three of those wins being against division foes, they lead the AFC West by a game.
Looking to get a game over the .500 mark, they invite the Eagles to town who remain undefeated after eight games.
The Eagles pick the right game to start fast. Lorenzo Booker takes the opening kickoff 98 yards to paydirt.
Darren Sproles uncharacteristically loses the football on the kickoff and the ball finds its way into the hands of Joe Mays at the 23 of the Chargers.
The first play is a run to Brian Westbrook which nets eight yards with an additional 15 added on after he is tackled by his face mask by Shaun Phillips. Donovan sneaks in to the endzone with ease from there.
With the Chargers special teams effectively spotting the Eagles a two touchdown lead, the Chargers go to the air early and often. Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers are both very physical receivers, but Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel are equal to the task early.
The Chargers first 20 pass plays result in four tipped balls, three sacks, two interceptions, and a partridge in a pear tree. In the first half, Tomlinson gets six touches, four of which are in the passing game.
The Eagles hold the lead, 27-9.
The second half goes much better for Phillip Rivers as he uses Antonio Gates and little used Mike Tolbert (the fullback) to get some easy completions.
As they drive the ball, Rivers looks as if he's regained his poise, even managing to escape a near sack at the hands of Mike Patterson to complete a beautiful post pattern to Vincent Jackson.
The seven minute third quarter drive ends with Gates pulling in an eight-yard grab over the helpless head of Quintin Demps.
Eagles lead 27-15 (Chargers fail on two-point conversion attempt).
Phillip Rivers can be seen firing up the defense on the sideline, letting them know that need to get the ball back to the offense that is finally clicking.
Andy Reid calls, perhaps, the best drive of his career. There's not a single pass thrown over seven yards on the drive, there's a nice mix of run and pass (6/8) with every play being stopped in bounds. The Eagles offense holds the ball from Rivers and company for almost ten minutes and, what's worse, is that they punch it in on a Westbrook run.
Eagles lead 34-15.
The Chargers go three-and-out on their next possession, and though the Chargers defense does force the Eagles to punt, it's not until another precious five minutes has elapsed leaving Rivers little time to do much.
They go to a quick passing offense but a pass bounces off the normally sure handed Chris Chambers right into Sheldon Brown's mitts for his second of the day. It would be the last time the Chargers offense touch the ball.
Final Score: Eagles 37, Chargers 15
Player of the Game: Brian Westbrook (two touchdowns on 22 rushes, 172 yards, six catches for 72 yards)
Grin and Bear it
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
When asked how the Bears defense plans to stop the league's No.1 offense, Brian Urlacher takes a moment before he speaks.
"This late in the season there's a lot of film on them that our coaches have broken down and we'll try to do some of the things other teams have had success doing. They're not impossible to stop. Don't get me wrong they've got a great group of guys there in Philly and McNabb is having an MVP type year, but we don't look at their numbers a pee ourselves or anything. They gotta worry about stopping us too."
By this time in the season, Cutler has proven he's worth the price of admission, boasting the leagues' fifth best QB rating with Brandon Rideau being the most unlikely of beneficiaries. Matt Forte is also having a great season, only 60 yards off of his second consecutive 1000 yard season.
Of course the Eagles are no scrubs either, with McNabb topping the NFL in rating, touchdowns, and completion percentage and Brian Westbrook just six yards shy of the 1000 yard mark himself.
The drama begins early when on the opening kickoff when it looks as thoughDevin Hester fumbles on the return and that it is recovered by Bryan Smith of the Eagles. After several minutes of replay and multiple angles, the Bears keep the ball at their own 35 and Philadelphia is charged a timeout.
Though traditionally not a team known for ingenuity the against the Eagles, this day their first drive features two draw plays, an end around a half back pass and a TE screen. This seems to frustrate the Eagles defense as the Bears eat up clock and get in the end zone on a swing pass to the running back Peterson.
Bears lead 7-0
The Eagles first drive is equally as successful as McNabb gets into an early groove with TE Celek and former No.1 receiver Reggie Brown. The only run on the drive is an 11-yard touchdown run by Westbrook giving him his second 1000 yard season.
Game tied at seven.
After both teams trade field goals, the defenses decide enough is enough.
On the next Eagles possession, Brian Urlacher leaps over a weak block attempt by Moreno to push McNabb to his left, right into the arms of Mark Anderson. The ball comes loose and Israel Idonije falls on the loose ball for the game's first turnover.
Cutler has problems of his own as pressure comes from every angle. Sean Jones comes on a safety blitz and manages to hit Cutler so hard, a scuffle breaks out in the backfield. Offensive linemen are shoving Eagle players left and right and several players are warned. From there the game takes on the feel of a throwback NFC North matchup.
Both quarterbacks spend the remainder of the first half scrambling for dear life. By the start of the fourth quarter, neither offense has topped 200 total yards, both have turned the ball over twice (Cutler two interceptions, Donovan a pick and a fumble) and neither running back is averaging over three-yards per carry.
The Bears seem to catch a break when Devin Hester returns a punt to the Eagle 40-yard line late in the fourth quarter with the game still tied at 10. A couple of quick slants to Rashied Davis put the Bears just inside the Eagles' red zone with two twenty left in the game.
Although they can penetrate no further, they take the lead with a 33-yard field goal at 13-10.
With a 1:52 seconds remaining and the Eagles down to their last time out, this has historically not been McNabb's best situation. Especially not against a Bears' defense that has been quicker off the ball the Eagles for most of the day.
The Bears special teams’ coverage is excellent and Booker is not even able to get to the 20-yard line.
The Eagles start the drive shaky as Curtis drops a six-yard bullet from McNabb and the next down Andrews (Stacy) moves before the snap. He makes up for it on the next snap, obliterating Urlacher allowing Westbrook to get in the secondary for his longest run of the game,16 yards.
Clock is running: 1:41 left.
Donovan throws a beautiful touch pass over the left shoulder of Desean Jackson that he grabs in front of Charles Tillman. Unfortunately, the second-year man makes no move to get out of bounds and although the pass goes for 17 yards, the clock is still running.
Celek catches a well-thrown slant but is immediately tackled after seven yards by Hunter Hillenmeyer and held down. Jamaal Jackson is down on the field, forcing the Eagles to call their last timeout.
Nick Cole replaces Jackson, who is able to walk off the field on his own, and the Eagles continue at Bears 43-yard line.
Two straight incomplete passes leave the Eagles at a third-and-10. Knowing they have two downs to work with to get the first, they run a draw play to Moreno. Despite being a rookie he gets all he can but then runs out of bounds.
It's now fourth-and-two with 59 seconds remaining.
Putting their two biggest receivers (Baskett and Avant) on the field, Donovan completes a quick slant to Baskett for four yards. They line up and spike the ball at the Bears 31 yard line.
51 seconds remain.
Donovan speaks with Marty and Andy on the sideline to see what their next move should be.
Though everyone in the stadium know the Eagles HAVE to pass, the Eagles run a play-action fake and almost pay for it. Adewale Ogunleye was not fooled by the fake and is close to pulling McNabb down for a loss. McNabb manages to escape and connect with Kevin Curtis. Curtis caught Marcus Hamilton peeking in the backfield and got behind him. McNabb has just enough strength to get the ball to Curtis who is chased down by Danieal Manning at the Bear 17-yard line.
39 seconds remain.
Donovan, though slow getting up, manages to get the ball spiked with 28 seconds left.
This is well within Akers kicking range and he has been warming up on the sidelines, but there is time for a couple of shots into the endzone. The first attempt to Desean Jackson is broken up by Nathan Vasher.
24 seconds left.
Next Donovan can find no one open, everyone on the Eagles sideline is screaming for him to throw it out the back of the endzone.
He finally fires a pass down the middle of the field. It finds Brent Celek right between the 8 and the 7. He appears to be in the endzone and even as Hillenmeyer pushes him, out the sideline judge signals touchdown. Amidst the Bears protest the play is reviewed by the booth.
"After reviewing the play, the player made the catch with both feet in the endzone and maintained possession all the way to the ground. Therefore the ruling on the field stands it is a touchdown. Please reset the clock to nine seconds following the extra-point attempt."
Nothing dramatic happens on the kickoff, Hester is stopped as time expires.
Final Score: Eagles 17, Bears 13
Player of the Game: Stewart Bradley (14 tackles, one sack, one interception)
No Skin Off My Neck
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
After grabbing the game winning touchdown in last week’s dogfight versus the NFC North leading Bears, Celek has arrived as a household name. On the season so far, he has 41 catches, 612 yards and four touchdowns. He's second in catches among tight ends—only Chris Cooley has more. So of course the media wants to know what Cooley thinks.
"I don't really know much about him, I don't study opposing offensive players, but I guess that's cool that he's doing well. We're just looking for an opportunity to get a win here and stay in the playoff race."
Sensible enough. At 4-6 with the red hot New Orleans Saints due up, the Redskins need this win to even think about making the playoffs.
Despite the Eagles undefeated record, they have had some close games, one of them earlier this season against these same Washington Redskins.
The first quarter goes pretty much the way of all NFC East battles: neither team really gaining the upper hand. At the end of one, the teams are tied at three.
An unusually windy day at the Linc' keeps both teams passing attacks relatively short. There is where YAC can be a huge deciding factor. So when Jason Avant takes a eight-yard pass play past Carlos Rodgers gaining an additional 16 yards on the way, the Eagles decide to make some personnel changes. Going to a two tight end look with Celek and Baskett playing the roles of TE, the Eagles begin driving the ball downfield.
As much as it probably pains Reid to do, he uses a healthy dose of Westbrook/Moreno/Weaver out of this set, running counters, draws and tosses to keep the defense from digging in their cleats. Six minutes later, the Eagles put the first touchdown on the board with a pass to Brent Celek (of course) taking a 10-3 lead.
Chris is doing an excellent job this game himself. Chris Gocong that is.
Already in the middle of his best season, he is draped over Chris Cooley like a turtleneck. So much so that just before the half on a third-and-11, Cooley shoves Gocong to the ground after the whistle drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Given excellent field position, the Eagles score in three plays: a four-yard run by Westbrook, five-yard run by Westbrook, and a play-action pass to Kevin Curtis for 52 yards.
The Eagles lead 17-3 at the half.
The Redskins would never be that close again.
After losing Clinton Portis to a rib injury early in the third, the Redskins never seemed to be able to get out of the shadow of their own endzone. The Eagles, however, scored on four consecutive drives.
Six-play, 74-yard drive for a touchdown. 12-yard pass to Brian Westbrook
Nine-play, 84-yard drive for a touchdown. 17-yard run by Brian Westbrook.
Seven-play, 61-yard drive for a field goal.
11-play, 78-yard drive for a touchdown. Four-yard pass from Westbrook to Celek.
By the time Todd Collins came in for garbage time with the game woefully out of reach, 11 different Eagles had caught at least one pass, two receivers (Celek and Curtis) had over 100 yards receiving, and Brian Westbrook had run for, caught, and thrown for a touchdown in the game.
Falling to 4-7, the Redskins are all but eliminated from playoff contention. At 11-0, the Eagles were one win away from clinching the NFC East.
Final Score: Eagles 41, Redskins 10
Player of the Game: Brian Westbrook (14 rushes for 122 yards, four catches for 108 yards, one pass for four yards. Three total touchdowns)
Falcons Have Crested
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
The Eagles are rolling! So of course the Philly media has to find something wrong right?
Lately, Trent Cole has been starting but losing playing time to Victor Abiamiri and Darren Howard, making note of this, a Philly sports writer asks Cole if there's anything that he can do to get on the field more.
"I get plenty of time out there, you don't get 12 sacks sitting on the bench. I'd wanna be out there every play if I could, but the coaches like to keep everybody on the D-line fresh. I think it's been working pretty good for us." Hard to argue with results.
The Falcons are only two games behind the division leading Saints who play a Redskins team fresh off an embarrassing loss to the Eagles. With a little good fortune, The Falcons could find themselves in prime position to take the division lead when the Saints visit next week.
"Plus how sweet would it be to beat the only undefeated team left on our home turf?", asked Pro Bowl runner Michael Turner.
The Eagles' run defense will get a real good test against the Falcons zone blocking schemes. Even though the Eagles are No. 2 in defense overall in the NFL, teams have had some success running the ball against them. Often, because of the score, they've had to abandon the run sooner than they'd like. If the Falcons can keep things close or take the lead it may be a long day for the Eagles.
The Falcons start the game with the Michael Turner show, although it doesn't produce much on the first drive. Turner carries the ball six times for 18 yards with a long of five. The Eagles came prepared for the run.
And the Falcons came prepared for the NFL's No. 2 passing attack because they effectively kept McNabb from moving the ball, at least on the Eagles first drive.
When Matt Ryan was a rookie, he got to see how aggressive the Eagle defense is. So it's safe to assume that although he didn't see Trent Cole motoring towards him from his blindside, he knew he was coming. He was unable to avoid the sack though, or the fact that the Falcons had to punt for the third time.
A look to the scoreboard told Ryan he was getting no help from the Redskins as they were already down 14-0 to the Saints. The Eagles had also scored twice, once on a video game-like 47 yard run by rookie sensation Moreno and the other on an equally disheartening 19-yard score by Leonard Weaver.
McNabb seemed to throw that pass nearly from his knees as Jonathan Babineaux and Jamaal Anderson were in the process of bringing him down.
When you get down early, it's hard to not press a little bit and force things more.
For Ryan in the second quarter, his problem was the opposite.
He began to be somewhat tentative. He threw an interception in the middle of a good first quarter drive right to Asante Samuel, so when Michael Jenkins appeared to be open, he hesitated just a second before throwing. That allowed Joselio Hanson to jump the route and return the pick for six points.
Teammates Michael Turner and Brian Finneran kept encouraging him and as the half came to a close, he led the Falcons to a late score on a gorgeous fade route to Finneran.
Eagles lead 24-7
As the Eagles came out for the second half, Ryan had regained the swagger that made him a first year phenom. Connecting on five straight passes, the third quarter surge by the Falcons cut the score to 24-14 Eagles.
Of course, the Eagles are not undefeated for nothing. McNabb conducted a momentum killing drive that seemed to last forever. It took 15 plays and nine minutes before Desean Jackson settled under the easiest touchdown he'd ever scored. The action of the offensive line and Westbrook coupled with a very good fake by McNabb left Desean Jackson literally on an island in the endzone.
The rest of the game was a yawner for even the most die-hard Eagles fan.
Except the very hilarious sight of Trevor Laws trying to score on a fumble recovery late in the game in which he fell twice before being touched down by Turner.
Final Score: Eagles 34, Falcons 14
Player of the Game: Knowshon Moreno (nine carries, 104 yards,one touchdown, two catches 72 Yards)
Gee Men, How Did Things Get this Bad?
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
How the mighty have fallen. After coming to Philadelphia with a healthy 6-1 record, the Giants play host to the Eagles at 7-5 and in desperate need of a win. Their most recent loss a 21-10 home loss to Dallas, a team they earlier embarrassed 35-14 in Dallas.
It seems you can't talk Eagles vs. Giants without talking Westbrook vs. Giants D, Antonio Pierce for one is sick of it:
"It's not like they give the ball to the guy 25-30 times a game or anything, but EVERYTIME we play them all you guys wanna talk about is Westbrook. "Ooh how you gonna stop Westbrook?" and "What's your game plan against Westbrook?". You guys are more scared of him than we are and you don't have to put on any pads! Bottom line is we need a win to get that we need to stop the Philadelphia Eagles, not one guy."
Unfair or not, true or not Westbrook has gained a reputation as the Giant killer, but during this 1-4 five game stretch for the Giants it's been the shaky hands of one Braylon Edwards that has defeated the Giants.
No wonder then on their first drive, the Giants go to the freight train Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs, despite a serious lack of publicity has been having a Probowl year racking up 1300 plus yards through twelve games. He remains as difficult to tackle as ever as his first four runs go for 6,9,12, and 4 yards. On a second and six the Eagles run blitz the Giants and Gaither and Jacobs meet up in the backfield. With an assist by Trevor Laws the Eagles drop Jacobs for a 3 yard loss. Facing third and long for the first time on this drive, the Giants for the first time have to go to the air. Manning delivers a bullet to Edwards, who neglects to secure the ball properly and Quintin Mikell promptly relieves him of it. The ball is scooped up by Darren Howard who gains six yards before being forced out of bounds.
Apparently Pierce was right to be concerned about the Eagles as a whole. This year’s offense is more loaded than it has been in years. In fact the next three Eagles drives show their versatility:
First Drive: McNabb 6-8 for 52 yards (Jackson 3 catches 37 yards td)
Second Drive: McNabb 7-11 for 67 yards (6 different Eagles catch a pass, Avant catches a 5 yard touchdown)
Third Drive: Westbrook 5 carries 45 yards touchdown
In between each Eagle drive the Giants are only able to kick field goals of 19, 42 and 37 yards respectively. On the one hand they have been able to move the ball since the fumble, but on the other the Eagles would be willing to trade field goals for touchdowns all day long. A fact not lost on Coach Coughlin:
"In the second half, these so-called good drives have got to get us touchdowns. We know how good their team is in the second half so everybody's got to step up their games and stop talking about being "close". Myself included."
The Giants appear to have heard the coach at the start of the Eagles first drive. After Justin Tuck buries McNabb in the turf and Osi Umenyiora collapses the pocket for another sack, the Eagles face a third and twenty-three. Obviously looking to just get out of a tough spot the Eagles call a draw to Westbrook. Unfortunately the Giants, keying on the Eagles tendency to pass, pass and pass some more, are caught up field in pass rush mode.
Behind a surprisingly solid Desean Jackson block on Aaron Ross, Westbrook cuts to the outside. Chase Blackburn appears to have him lined up to tackle him short, but Westbrook spins back inside to avoid him. Kenny Phillips, who had been coming on a blitz, manages a dive at Westbrook's feet and actually trips him up but after stumbling a bit Westbrook keeps running. After that failed attempt it's a footrace to the end zone the Giants helplessly give chase but 81 yards later Westbrook has his longest run of the season.
That takes the fight right out of the entire Giants team. Receivers aren't finishing off routes, protection breaks down to the tune of eight Eagle sacks and numerous QB pressures. One of which leads to an interception by Quintin Mikell.
Neither team scores in the fourth quarter but by that time it hardly matters as the Eagles lock up the NFC East Division.
Final Score: Eagles 28 Giants 9
Player of the Game: Brian Westbrook (17 carries 189 yards 2 touchdowns, 5 catches 71 yards)
That 49er Spirit
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles
3-10 is hardly where Mike Singletary expected his team to be and as they visit the 13-0 Eagles, he attempts to light a fire under his team:
"This team at this particular point in time is nowhere near the talent level of the Philadelphia Eagles. I'm not even sure if some of the guys on our team WANT to play football, because they sure don't act like it. They act like they "made it" like getting to the NFL is the end goal. They don't understand that in the NFL EVERYBODY is fast, everybody is strong everybody is talented, but not everybody has that will. The will to be a champion and accept nothing less from yourself or from anyone else wearing your colors than the best. Half these guys rather look cute in commercials for energy drinks than...next question."
The energy drink comment was an indirect jab at Vernon Davis who did a 5 hour energy commercial during the season, earning him a DNP from coach Singletary. Despite their record the 49ers aren't that bad. Six of their ten losses were by a margin of three points or less. The other four were double digit losses against the Colts, twice against the Cardinals and once against the Titans. And when you look at what those teams (Colts and Cards both lead their divisions) it makes it easy to see how the 49ers could have fallen this far.
Of course the other way you get to 3-10 is turnovers. The 49ers lead the league in giveaways, or are at the bottom of the league in takeaways depending on your perspective. So it's really no surprise at all that three plays into the game the Alex Smith (The starter after Damon Huard has a season ending elbow injury in week 5; The 49ers were 2-2 at the time) throws a bad pass off his back foot into the waiting arms of Sheldon Brown.
After McNabb leads an 8 play drive to the first score of the game, Kevin Kolb comes in and it appears McNabb is done for the day. So too are the 49ers as the route begins.
Quintin Demps Interception return for touchdown.
Chris Gocong fumble return for touchdown.
22 yard TD pass from Kevin Kolb to Hank Baskett.
Two David Akers field goals.
52 yard punt return by Antone Smith.
11 yard Td run by Knowshon Moreno.
The 49ers do manage two touchdowns of their own. One pass to the veteran Isaac Bruce and the other to Arnez Battle.
The game is so far from being close, in the third quarter Fox switches over to Falcons at Jets game in most markets except PA and NJ.
Final Score: Eagles 48 49ers 14
Player of the game: Chris Gocong (14 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery for TD)
Things to do in Philly when Denver is in Town
Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles
In a move completely contrary to how the Eagles front office normally does things, there is a fifteen minute pregame tribute to Brian Dawkins. It includes highlights of his outstanding career and also interviews from Eagles players past and present. A few of the interviews standout such as a rare candid interview from Donovan McNabb as he expresses on the jumbo-tron just what No. 20 has meant to him along with an emotional interview from a Philadelphia woman who was directly helped by Dawkins through one of his many charity foundations.
When it ends the crowd noise is so loud that player introductions are barely heard, except when Brian Dawkins' name is announced. After the National Anthem however it's back to business as usual and the Broncos are the opponent.
The Broncos need this game, the Eagles do not. At 14-0 the Eagles have locked up the No.1 seed in NFC guaranteeing them a bye, Kevin Kolb took most of the snaps in practice all week and although McNabb officially started the game and led the first drive to a field goal, this is Kevin Kolb's game to win.
Down 7-3 Kolb compounds things by throwing a wounded duck deep that finds the hands of the ageless one Dawkins and he returns it 13 yards. Kolb was expecting Jackson to run his post route deeper than he did.
The Eagles defense, after allowing Correll Buckhalter to shred them on a screen pass and a long run, puts the clamps on that drive bringing Orton down on successive plays forcing a long field goal attempt. Matt Prater is true from 49 yards and the Broncos now lead 10-3.
On the next drive Kolb appears more in sync, thanks largely to some great catches by Kevin Curtis and Jason Avant. David Akers tacks on another field goal to make it 10-6.
Both defenses feast on quarter pounders and who else should get in on the act but Brian Dawkins? Dawkins sack/fumble leading to a late second quarter score of 13-6.
Still very much into the game McNabb is seen on the sidelines pads off talking with Kevin Kolb. The talk pays off as Kolb leads a 10 play drive into the end zone for the first time. Kolb completes the drive with an excellent throw to Celek in front of Boss Bailey, tying the game at 13.
Nothing much happens in the third quarter except some excellent running on the part of Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno although neither is able to get their team in the end zone as the teams trade field goals.
The game appears headed for a Bronco win as Kyle Orton is driving his team late in the fourth. He completes a quick slant to Brandon Marshall who while running for the first is stood up and stripped by Stewart Bradley. The ball looks like it's recovered by the Broncos as fullback Peyton Hillis picks it up. As it turns out he should have just fallen on it since Quintin Mikell punches the ball free allowing Trent Cole to recover.
In the confusion no one touches Cole down and proceeds to run relatively unabated to the end zone. The game ends on a Darren Howard sack as time expires.
Final Score: Eagles 20 Broncos 13
Player of the game: Brian Dawkins (12 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 GREAT PLAYER!)
The Stars at Night...Ain't so Bright...
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Could they do it? The talk all season has been how long could the Eagles keep winning. Every reporter has questioned nearly every starter about the possibility of going 16-0, but their focus has been the same:
"We want a Super bowl win." Donovan McNabb says on his late night TV show speaking to Derrick Gunn "That's where our focus is every year and winning all these games mean nothing if we don't accomplish that. If you think the Eagles fans are tired of not winning the big game, how do you think us players feel? We know personally how close we've been every year and we've had to walk off the field while other teams are celebrating. Plus nobody remembers how great that '07 Patriot team was in going 18-0, but they remember how the Giants took home the trophy."
Similar to last week, the Cowboys are playing for playoff positioning and the Eagles are not. Different than last week though is the Eagles start the game with a sense of urgency the Cowboys cannot match.
Taking the ball down to the Cowboy 45 on several punishing runs by Weaver, Westbrook and Smith, McNabb goes up top on a play action fake to Desean Jackson for a touchdown. It's McNabb's 39th of the year and Jackson's 12th. The effects of that first drive leak over into the next as the Cowboy defense fall for two more play action fakes that lead to 61 yards in the air on catches by Kevin Curtis (40) and Reggie Brown (21 TD). With that McNabb calls it a day.
Tony Romo and Roy Williams show great chemistry on the ensuing drive as every time the Eagles blitz Williams is able to read it pre-snap and get in good position to make a play. Taking a page from the Eagle playbook the Cowboys run a screen to Felix Jones who behind the blocks of Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis scampers 32 yards to pay dirt.
It stays 14-7 Eagles at the half.
After taking the second half kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, Felix Jones can be seen telling the camera's that it's over. That's a bold statement to make with the game tied.
His statement gains credibility as Kolb has several mistakes against the Cowboy defense leading to two Dallas field goals. The Eagles are down 20-14.
After a solid kick return by Lorenzo Booker puts the Eagles at their own 41, Kolb goes to work. Looking sharper than he has all game he connects on a swing pass to Antone Smith that goes for 15, a slant to Curtis that goes for 12 and zone busting comeback route to Avant for 28. The Cowboys tighten up against the run with their backs to the goal line and hold Moreno to 3 yards and Weaver to 1. Curtis catches a screen pass and is escorted in by the Andrews brothers, Stacy and Shawn.
Holding only a one point lead and with the Cowboy's driving it's only by virtue of a Martellus Bennett dropped pass on fourth and three that the Eagles remain undefeated. With the loss and a Vikings loss to the Giants have eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs for the second straight year.
Final Score: Eagles 21 Cowboys 20
Player of the game: Mike Patterson (9 tackles 2.5 sacks)
Beasts of the NFC!
I know being the No. 1 seed in any given conference has not guaranteed that team a trip to the big show, but there are several reasons why following their perfect season the Eagles would be different:
The whole line-up has been playoff tested.
The QB is finally confident is his core group of receivers’.
The coaching staff looks geared to be more efficient running the ball.
The defense is young, fast, talented and aggressive.
There is leadership on all sides of the ball McNabb and Westbrook on offense, Sheldon Brown and Quintin Mikell on defense, David Akers on special teams.
And the entire team is more than hungry, they're starving!
All this to me has the feeling of another parade down Broad Street!