The Eagles and Packers have played in some wild, memorable games over the years. Sunday was no exception. Games like that remind you just how much of a roller coaster the NFL season is. There are some serious ups and downs, not just from week to week, but within each game.
I was really excited by the pass rush in the first quarter and started to think that maybe the defense was going to have one of those special games. The offense was struggling, but I was so fired up by Juqua Parker, Brandon Graham and Trent Cole that I could overlook the slow start by Kevin Kolb and company.
That initial excitement quickly changed as things started to go wrong. There were some real low points in the second quarter. Seeing impact players like Kolb and Stewart Bradley on the ground with injuries was nerve-wracking. Seeing the replay of Leonard Weaver's nasty knee injury on a run up the middle was brutal. Looking at the halftime stat sheet and seeing that Mike McGlynn had more catches than Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson combined was just bizarre.
Thankfully, that isn't the whole story. We got down 20-3 and then 27-10, but the team, even without some key players, didn't quit. They rallied and cut the score to 27-20. Suddenly, the outcome of the game was up in the air. Early in the comeback I just wanted to see signs of hope. By the middle of the fourth quarter I was thinking about a miracle comeback.
Green Bay held on for the win and the excitement of the comeback quickly went away. Momentum shifts like that are a stark reminder of how frustrating it can be to live and die with the fortunes of a pro football team.
Losing the season opener is never fun. We've waited for months to see the Eagles play. Expectations build and build. That leads to obsessing on the first game of the year. A win gets everyone sky high. A loss has people writing off the year, despite the fact that we all know the NFL season is a marathon and not a sprint. Perspective is lost quickly in the first week of the NFL season.
Let's be realistic about the team. We lost some key players to injury. Center Jamaal Jackson is done for the year. That is a tough loss. Jackson has been an anchor for the offensive line going back to 2005. Now he's gone. Weaver is also done for the season. He tore his knee up on his only touch of the 2010 season. Sometimes the football gods can be pretty cruel.
The good news is that Jackson was rehabbing a knee injury all summer long and that gave Mike McGlynn plenty of reps with the starting offense. He started three preseason games. He should be ready to go. Fullback Owen Schmitt has been signed to fill Weaver's spot. He doesn't have nearly as much talent with the ball. The good news there is that fullback isn't a critical position in our offense. You never want to lose a Pro Bowl player, but better a fullback than a quarterback or cornerback, for instance.
Back to the game. There were reasons to be encouraged. Michael Vick played his best game since the fall of 2006. He ran for more than 100 yards. He made some good throws. He brought life to the offense. The skill players started making plays once he got going. Several receivers made tough catches. Running back LeSean McCoy looked terrific at times. The offense still needs a lot of work, but the difference from the first half to the second half was night and day.
McGlynn played pretty well. I'll admit to being nervous about him taking over against a 3-4 team that likes to blitz a lot, but McGlynn had prepared as if he was going to play and that paid off for him in a big way. The offensive line struggled early on, but got much better as the game wore on. Moving the ball and having some offensive success helped their confidence quite a bit.
The pass rush was outstanding at times. We sacked Aaron Rodgers three times. We pressured him quite a bit beyond that. The pressure helped create a couple of interceptions. I had forgotten just how much fun Trent Cole is to watch. He led the team with six solo tackles. He added a sack, a tackle-for-loss, and was a force all over the field.
I thought the key off-season acquisitions played well for us. Rookie safety Nate Allen had one of the interceptions mentioned above and also added five solo tackles. Allen played well. He didn't look lost out there and was around the ball a lot. Graham didn't make the stat sheet, but was disruptive at both end and tackle. Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher sure knows who he is. Linebacker Ernie Sims had five solo stops and a tackle-for-loss. His speed was a big help in coverage.
I thought Brodrick Bunkley played well. He was more active than normal. Bunkley has always been an outstanding run defender in terms of clogging the rushing lanes, but he actually made plays in this game. I had him listed for three tackle-for-loss.
The coaches do have plenty to fix. We must cut down on penalties. You just can't shoot yourself in the foot like that. The offensive line must get better at picking up the blitz and handling stunts, especially the guys on the right side. The linebackers must play the run better. Omar Gaither struggled when he came in for Bradley. Gaither was a solid starter for us in the middle in 2007. He can get the job done. He's got to be more physical and tackle better. Cornerback Ellis Hobbs got burned for a long touchdown pass. He hesitated for a second and that cost us seven points. You can't do that. Special teams coach Bobby April has got to get the kickoff coverage units to be more consistent. They did a good job early, but hurt us in the second half.
Thoughts On Kolb, QB Situation
Sunday was the beginning of the Kevin Kolb era. Things clearly didn't go well. Keep the situation in context. Kolb played half a game. One sloppy half of football isn't a reason to change your mind on a guy. The Eagles have loved Kolb for years. They still do.
The biggest problem I saw with Kolb is that he was trying too hard. He forced the ball downfield to DeSean Jackson a couple of times. He forced the ball to Brent Celek at least once. We have enough offensive firepower that all Kolb has to do is find the open man and get him the ball. All he has to do is be the point guard for our offense.
Some fans and members of the media are jumping all over the guy. Kolb still has a lot of talent. He still has a bright future. Young quarterbacks are going to have ups and downs. Mark Sanchez struggled in the Jets' loss on Monday Night Football. Heck, anyone who saw the Sunday night game saw veterans Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb struggling to move the ball and lead their team to points.
Andy Reid says Kolb is still the quarterback. Good. Kolb earned the job with what he's done in the last three years. Don't think of just games. Kolb worked hard in offseason activities, the preseason and practices. Fans don't see all of that, but the coaches do. They've been around Kolb day-in and day-out since he was drafted. They know how hard he's worked to get ready for this opportunity. They believe in him. One half of football shouldn't change that. I still have faith in Kolb and look forward to seeing him get out there and showing people what he can do.