1993 was not a good year for Eagles fans. We had to adjust to life without Reggie White. We started 4-0, but then Randall Cunningham went down and Bubby Brister took over. We suffered through a miserable six-game losing streak. I'm not sure what the low point really was. Giving up 237 rushing yards to Emmitt Smith on Halloween was pretty awful. Watching Ken O'Brien throw passes to James Lofton might have been worse. Especially when Lofton dropped them to halt a game-winning scoring drive. Like I said, 1993 was not a good year.
Why bring it up? That's the last time we beat the Colts. We played them on December 19, a Sunday night game. Clyde Simmons came up big and Brister actually had a solid game. We won the game 20-10. That started a three-game winning streak that helped us to finish 8-8. Since that night, we have lost to the Colts by scores of 37-10, 44-17, 35-13, and 45-21. They could have given up three extra touchdowns in each game and still won. Ouch.
All that is in the past. This is the year we beat the Colts. Their team is a MASH unit. They play on the road after a Monday night game. I can't find the updated stat, but over the years teams have really struggled with that situation. We're coming off a bye and I'm sure you've heard this stat a million times - Andy Reid is 11-0 in games after the bye. We have a healthy, fresh, rested football team.
This is also the first time we've had the offensive firepower to really fare well against the Colts. In the three losses we have to them in the Peyton Manning era, we averaged 17 points a game on offense. That won't work against Manning. That's like the old joke about bringing a knife to a gun fight.
This time out we have Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson returning to the lineup. When Vick got hurt he was the highest-rated quarterback in the league. Jackson's last game featured three big plays and a couple of touchdowns. If they can play at the level they were at previously, our offense will be hard to handle. Jeremy Maclin is playing the best football of his career and LeSean McCoy continues to perform at a high level. The offensive line has been good in recent weeks and could be even better with the return of Jason Peters.
The Colts defense has a pair of great pass rushers in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The rest of the defense is solid, but hardly spectacular. They struggle with the run. Indianapolis is ranked 28th in rush defense. You can bet that McCoy and Vick will be a big part of the game plan, although as Marty Mornhinweg noted, you can only run on the Colts if you can keep the score close.
Don't worry. We'll still throw the ball plenty. The Colts have a banged up secondary. Reid will want to test them with our deep group of receivers. I'm sure Jackson is itching to show what he can do and get back in the business of delivering big plays. I'm interested to see what we do with Brent Celek and Riley Cooper. Celek had a quiet opening to the season. I get the feeling that the coaches will try to get him more involved from now on. As for Cooper, he played really well in the last game. I hope we make sure to keep him in the mix, especially in the red zone.
So what about the Eagles defense against Mr. Manning? I'd love to tell you that we'll shut down Manning, but that just doesn't happen to all-time great quarterbacks very often. I'm interested to see how Sean McDermott tries to defend the Colts. You can't play scared. You need to be aggressive, but also smart. Manning does so much with his pre-snap reads that sometimes moving players around is a good way to slow him down. The problem with that idea is that we don't seem to do a real good job at trying to confuse offenses with movement. I think McDermott will have the guys do some of it. I'm just not sure how successful it will be.
We do need to blitz Manning at times to keep him from getting into a total comfort zone. He's only been sacked seven times all year. Pressure is just as important as sacks with a quarterback like Manning. We need the front four to come up big. Trent Cole has a good matchup. He needs to be a force off the edge. The bye week should have helped Juqua Parker to recharge his battery and Brandon Graham to get healthier. The play from left end has been too quiet recently. We need pressure from that side.
I'm glad to hear that Antonio Dixon will get the majority of snaps at right defensive tackle. He played brilliantly in the last game. Any pressure we can get up the middle is great. Dixon also can be a force against the run. The Colts are hurting at running back so don't expect them to focus on the run game.
The matchup we're all nervous about is Dimitri Patterson against Reggie Wayne. Patterson takes over at right corner for the injured Ellis Hobbs. I think there is actually some upside to Patterson taking over as the starter. He's not as ""nosy"" as Hobbs. Patterson won't look to jump routes nearly as much, making him less susceptible to pump fakes and double moves. The Colts run a lot of wide receiver screens. Patterson should handle those well. He's tough and physical. He will fight through blocks to get to the ball. Patterson is also a good tackler.
Nate Allen will be a key player in the game. He will play over the top of Wayne a lot of the time. Patterson needs that help on downfield passes. He can cover tighter underneath if he's confident in Allen protecting him deep. Allen had his poorest outing against the Titans and I'm sure he's anxious to get back on the field and play well. We need him to help eliminate big plays. Peyton Manning is a great quarterback, but he's human. Take away the long plays and make him sustain long drives. Maybe the Colts help to stop themselves with a drop or holding penalty or fumble.
We get a huge break in not having to face tight end Dallas Clark. He is a special player. Jacob Tamme takes over for him. Tamme is talented, but isn't a proven difference maker. The linebackers will need to do a solid job on him. They'll need to play well overall. We cannot let the Colts run the ball effectively. The Colts offense is dangerous enough when it is one-dimensional. The linebackers need to really help in coverage. Ernie Sims could help in a big way if he plays really well.
One player who could be a big help is Trevor Laws. The Colts base formation involves three wide receivers. They are a passing team. Laws is our best pass rushing defensive tackle. He's likely to get more snaps than usual. Laws came up big in the win over San Francisco. If he can get regular pressure up the middle, that would make a major difference for the defense.
This game is a huge opportunity for the defense to show what they can do. McDermott and his guys have shut down big time running backs in recent weeks. Now the challenge is an elite quarterback. We have the talent to pull this off, but the players must step up. As much as Tennessee came back on us last time out, we also helped them out with mistake after mistake. Eliminate those errors. Take advantage of opportunities. That's a pretty simple formula. It wouldn't hurt if Vick, Jackson, and McCoy put up 30-plus points as well.
The players and coaches had a lot of time to get ready for this game. Let's hope that extra preparation gives us an edge on the Colts. I think we're the better team right now (injuries are a major factor), but beating Manning is never easy. Any help you can get is great. We're healthy and ready for action. Now it's time to go beat the Colts.