Originally posted 9/8/08 So it’s obviously been a while since I’ve updated, but now is as good a time as any as the Eagles have their first game under their belts. And wow, what a way to start off the season, even if it was against a struggling Rams team. It’s impossible not to be excited anytime the offense puts up 38 points, no matter who the opponent, but I was even more impressed with the defense. The Greatest Show on Turf the 2008 Rams are not, but Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson are still a legitimate threat when the O-line is healthy, and I expected the Rams O to put at least a pair of touchdowns on the board. The Eagles’ defensive line put pressure on Bulger early, and the young linebacker corp did a great job of stuffing the run. I’m really anxious to see how they do against Marion Barber next week, but I’m feeling extremely optimistic at this point.
Frankly, as much as I wanted to dropkick the TV every time Asante Samuel and co. dropped an interception, I was happy that they were making big coverage plays. I’d rather see the drops in games like that when we didn’t need the turnovers, so that hopefully they can come up with a few against the Cowboys or Steelers in the next two weeks. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling major déjà vu watching one blown-interception after another yesterday, but if the shaky hands of the defensive backs is the biggest concern coming out of week 1, the Birds are in great shape. Now let’s just hope that they can turn those near-misses into huge plays in coming weeks.
And speaking of week 1… obviously the season-opener has not been a forte of the Andy Reid era, seeing as how they were 3-6 under Reid before yesterday. But looking back to this same Monday afternoon last season- holy shit what a difference a year makes. To be fair, I’m not ready to proclaim the Eagles legitimate Super Bowl contenders just yet, but how can you not notice the extraordinary difference in special teams between yesterday and a year ago? The crappy punt returning (or more accurately, the crappy decision-making by the coaches to not put more thought into the punt return prior to week 1) in the 2007 season opener against the Packers was easily one of the most depressing incidents I’ve ever witnessed. I know that I personally threw at least 3 breakable objects across the room over the course of that game before my roommates attempted to sedate me. I still believe that if the punt return disasters sprinkled throughout that Packers game hadn’t occurred, not only would they have certainly won that game but also they might have sucked less in later games, including that depressing Monday Night loss to the Redskins in week 2 where it just felt like the Birds were playing flat the entire game. Once they went 0-2, they spent the entire season unsuccessfully struggling to get above .500, losing one heartbreakingly close game after another.
This year, DeSean Jackson made a big statement for the positive in week 1 punt returns. He may not have broken away for his first regular-season return touchdown just yet, but watching him maneuver down the field yesterday left me with no doubts that he’s going to be a huge force this year, whether it be on special teams, offense or both. He literally got better and more impressive with each punt return, starting out slow in the first quarter and eventually dazzling the crowd with returns of 18 and 60 yards in the third quarter, the former of which he was one tackle-from-behind from finding open grass all the way to the end zone. So yeah, the punt return is only one element of the game, but if last year taught us anything, it’s that this one little element can make or break a season. On the other side of special teams, the return coverage units did their job spectacularly; the Rams’ best starting field position all day was their own 25, and they were twice pinned at their own 2. The potential of specials this year, led by Jackson, combined with the fact that McNabb looked like vintage, healthy, pre-Mama-McNabb-blogging-escapades Donovan McNabb, set a much different tempo for this season.
And for those of you who think this game is nothing different from the misplaced optimism we took from the Detroit blow-out in week 3 last season – which, lest we forget, was followed up by the excruciating shit-show of a loss to the Giants the following week, including the 12-sack Winston Justice fiasco – I hear ya, cause it crossed my mind too, but I truly believe this time will be different. For one thing, despite putting up 56 points against the Lions in that game, I bet you remember that queasy feeling you had somewhere in your stomach about the 21 points we gave up in the first half. Yesterday, on the other hand, the D shut out the Rams for 3 quarters before eventually conceding a lone field goal. The defense also allowed a mere 166 yards all game and did not give up a single third-down conversion, which is about as stingy as a defense can get. Sure, it would have been nice to see a freaking turnover, but in a game where the D didn’t let the Rams into the red zone all afternoon, it’s really just unnecessary whining on my part at this point. Nevertheless, if the defense fails to hang onto an interception or force a fumble in the next couple weeks, I’ll be back to bitch about this.
Next week’s Monday night showdown against the Cowboys in Texas Stadium will obviously be a lot more telling about how much the Birds really have improved since last season. Of course, we did beat the Cowboys in our last meeting there, and there are no major holes that I can feasibly identify in the Eagles’ play thus far, so I’m thinking positively. I’ll even go so far as to say that I could potentially handle a loss to the ‘Girls, so long as McNabb and the O remain potent and the defense gets pressure on Romo. But I think we’ve got a fantastic shot next week so I’ll be eagerly counting down to MNF for the next 7 days.
This and that…
Back to the Cowboys- truthfully, although I was really hoping for a total Cowboys suck-fest yesterday against the Browns, they looked excellent to kick-off their season, and I think they will definitely (though unsurprisingly) be the team to beat in the NFC. The o-line was strong, the defense was solid, and Romo has 3 excellent receiving options in TO, Witten and Crayton. On the other hand, the Browns looked pretty terrible so as with the Eagles-Rams game, it’s difficult to tell how much of the win was on the Cowboys’ own merits versus how much of it was the Browns sucking. Next week will be a very important game for both Philly and Dallas.
I used to be a fan of Brett Favre, but after his predictably short-lived retirement, I’m getting a little bored of him. The veteran’s leadership of a squad of young but talented players was a feel-good story last year, but this year, the media’s ongoing felatio of Favre is just played out. While Favre and the gang masterminded a 6-point victory over the colossally craptacular Miami Dolphins, I was unimpressed with the geriatric QB in what I saw of the game. The commentators gigglishly fawned over him in the 2nd quarter on 4th and 13 when he chucked a “pass” into the air in a seizure-like motion in the general direction of the end zone that, by some miracle of God, WR Chansi Stuckey came down with in the end zone. It also didn’t hurt that any Dolphins defensive back within a 10-yard radius of Stuckey appeared to be filing his nails or generally running in the opposite direction of the ball. “Favre doing what Favre does best,” they feverishly gushed on TV. I can’t argue there; there’s nothing Favre does better, or at least with more frequency, than blindly heave passes in the air. I’m calling it now… 20+ interceptions for Favre this season.
I can’t skip over the opportunity to comment on the Ocho Cinco situation. Last spring, I was eager about the possibility of acquiring the receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson in a trade. I’ve always believed that he’s a less destructive version of TO; I enjoyed his river-dance and I figured he was goofy but harmless. Now I wonder. It’s not that the act of changing one’s name is such a big deal (albeit to something as stupid as Ocho Cinco, which isn’t even Spanish for eighty-five but rather for eight five, though I’ll concede that it’s catchier than Chad Ochenta y Cinco). It’s more the idea of, what idiot actually takes the time out his life to run to court to get it legally changed? Even king of the dumbasses himself, Terrell Owens spends less time than that thinking up lame touchdown celebration dances. Chad just took it too far. Jokingly pasting “Ocho Cinco” onto his jersey was funny. Legally changing his name to Chad Ocho Cinco is disconcerting. I’m now one of the growing mass of people who no longer cares who he gets traded to, so long as it’s a team that already has a #85, preferably one who refuses to switch jersey numbers. Oh, and I hope he doesn’t have any touchdown dances planned out just yet considering Carson Palmer couldn’t find the end zone if he river-danced into it. It looks to be a bad year for the Bengals.