Never have the Eagles missed Shawn Andrews so much than in last night's game against the Giants on Sunday Night Football. The situation was this: Eagles down 36-31 with just under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter. 4th and 1 near midfield. Handoff to Brian Westbrook off right tackle, stopped a yard short. And just like that, game over, Eagles lose.
Imagine how different it would have been if Andrews had been in there to pave the way for Westbrook. If Westbrook had gotten that clutch yard and the Eagles had converted on the second critical fourth down in as many drives, they would have been in a strong position to win that game.
It reminds me of the 2006 NFC Divisonal Playoffs against the Saints, when Andrews hurt his neck in the second quarter and had to be placed by Scott Young. Young committed a false start penalty on a 4th and 10 late in the game, on a play in which Jeff Garcia converted, keeping the game alive. The penalty made it 4th and 15, Andy Reid chose to punt, and that was the season right there.
This year, Andrews' absence has hurt the Eagles more than people realize. Andrews, who is battling depression and just recently had back surgery that may sideline him the rest of the season, is one of the most valuable players on the Eagles. A two-time Pro Bowler, Andrews is a premier run blocker who is indispensable to the success of the Eagles' running game.
Last season, Andrews helped Westbrook lead the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (2,104), while helping the Eagles as a team finish second in average yards per carry (4.7).
This season, without Andrews, those numbers are down. Westbrook, arguably the NFL's most dangerous runner, has topped 100 yards in a game only once, and is on pace to finish with just 4.1 yards per carry, which would be his second-lowest of his seven-year career.
Without Andrews, Max-Jean Gilles is forced to start at right guard. While a solid blocker, the 358-pound Jean-Gilles is no Shawn Andrews. It will be difficult for the Eagles to run their offense as efficiently without All-Pro Andrews, who hopes to battle back from surgery as quickly as possible.