I’m excited for the season opener on Sunday, but also nervous, anxious, and confused. We’re about to start on a long journey. A quest, actually, for the NFL’s version of the Holy Grail. We don’t know how the quest will turn out in the long run so we have to live and die with the results of each game.
I’m pretty confident the Eagles will beat the Cleveland Browns. That said, winning and playing well are two very different things. That got me to thinking about last year’s opener. I remember the highlights of the game, but not the nuances. I decided to look up the game and see if there were some warning signs that should have hinted a slow start was definitely possible.
The score was 31-13, Eagles over the Rams. At halftime, the lead was just 17-10. Michael Vick ran for 98 yards, which was great, but he was just 14 of 32 passing. Blitzes were an issue and led to a sack/FF in the Red Zone.
Shady ran for 122, but started off 11-27. His final 4 runs netted him 95 yards. I was interested to see that 3 RBs were active and all had carries. Heck, all 3 had carries in the 1st half. That could bode well for Bryce Brown.
The receivers played pretty well. The biggest note of interest was that Brent Celek stayed in to pass block most of the time. He had 1 catch and was targeted 3 times.
The defense was heaven and hell. We struggled vs the run all game long. The very first play was a 47-yd TD run by Steven Jackson. The run problems were a combination of missed assignments and missed tackles. Jim Washburn mentioned this spring that you could go back and re-watch the first month of last year and see mistake after mistake.
The pass rush was good. Rams QBs were sacked 5 times. Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game. The defense picked up a fumble and ran it back for a TD. The Rams were just 2 of 12 on 3rd downs and they were 0-1 in the Red Zone.
So what did we see in that game?
The offense was sloppy. 14 of 32 is awful passing in today’s NFL. Shady started slow, going just 11-27 at first. The OL, Vick, and Shady struggled to sync up on stretch plays. The lack of a normal offseason caused those issues. It takes time to develop timing and rhythm.
The defense was sloppy. The worst two players in the game were Kurt Coleman and Casey Matthews, young guys in the middle of the defense. The DL was very good at pressuring the QB, but wasn’t ideal vs the run. They had 1 TFL. Patt and Jenkins were disruptive, but the backups (Laws & Dixon) were inconsistent.
As you may recall, there were multiple plays where confusion was in issue. Who lines up where? Who covers who? I thought these were season opener problems, but they lasted for months. Not good.
I remember being happy with the outcome (an Eagles blowout) even though the game was far from perfect. I assumed (very incorrectly I might add) that the issues that we saw during the game would be quickly corrected.
Andy Reid is just 6-7 in season openers. That’s not good, but think about his losses.
1999 – Arizona – Andy’s first game as coach, team blew lead late on some crazy plays.
2001 – Rams – Eagles lost in OT to the team that would go to the Super Bowl.
2002 – Titans – Eagles blow a lead and lose to Titans team that went 11-5, won their division.
2003 – Bucs – Eagles lost to the defending SB champs.
2005 – Falcons – Jeremiah Trotter was suspended for the game due to a pre-game fight. We lost 14-10.
2007 – Packers – Punt retuner-gate. Packers are #1 seed in the NFC that year.
2010 – Packers – Kolb goes out, Vick comes in. Leads good comeback, but falls short. Packers win the SB.
Andy does lose too much in season openers, but usually only to good teams. Give him a mediocre or poor opponent and the Eagles normally blow them away. The sloppy showing vs the Rams probably should have sent off more alarms than it did. The problem was that you didn’t know how to judge teams/players due to the lockout.
This year I’m looking for a win, but I will also pay close attention to how the team plays. This Eagles team has a lot of talent. Cleveland appears to be a bad team. Based on years like 2004, 2008, and 2009, the Eagles should win big. The Eagles were healthy and talented and won those games handily. They played well. It wasn’t just the scoreboard. The Eagles passed the eye test in those games.
Beating Cleveland may or may not be a big challenge. Playing good football is. And it is important that the Eagles show us something.
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There is an odd myth taking hold that you only need to get hot late in the year to win the Super Bowl. The Giants did this in 2007 to a lesser extent and last year in a big way.
However, in 2010 the Packers were a good team all year. They battled through injuries and had some crazy OT losses that hurt their record, but the Packers set an NFL record that year by never trailing by more than 7 points at any time in any game for the whole season. Think about that for a second.
In 2009 it was clear that the Saints were the best team in the NFC and I thought they were the best team in the NFL. The Colts did start 14-0, but weren’t as dominant.
The 2008 Steelers were 12-4 and the #2 AFC seed.
Go back before the Giants 2007 SB win. The Colts were 12-4 in 2006. The Steelers went 11-5 in 2005. The Pats were dominant in 2004 & 2003. The Bucs were outstanding in 2002.
Getting hot late in the year is good, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it is now a proven formula for winning the SB. Far from it.
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Donovan McNabb is close to joining the NFL Network. Sad end to a great career.
I hope he does well in TV. There are times when he is great and seems natural. There are other times when Donovan tries to joke and things come out awkwardly and you don’t know where he’s headed with his comments.
If Donovan will relax and be himself, he could do a great job for the NFLN. I’ll be pulling for him.
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EaglesJake has up several PS vids from the final game or two that are worth checking out. He does great work so make sure to support his site.
Here is a video of Nate Menkins vs the Vikings. Nate is #77 and playing LT. Fun video to watch. I’m not sure who to credit. I got this from an Eagles fan named Adrian Ahufinger on Twitter. Follow him. He posted several Demetress Bell videos in the spring.
You can see Nate isn’t a natural pass blocker, but he has lots of potential as a run blocker. And he could develop into a good pass blocker in Mudd’s system.