Al Davis used to be one of the best owners in the NFL. He created a family atmosphere, loaded his team up with talent, and had a true commitment to excellence. The Raiders were the winningest team from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s in large part due to Davis and how he ran the team.
His famous phrase was "Just win, baby."
That's the attitude the Eagles need this week - just win. Last week, I knew the Eagles would win. They were clearly a better team than the 49ers. The matchups favored the Eagles as well. I hoped the Eagles would get style points as well as the win. Oops. That plan had a very Titanic feel to it, huh?
No more worrying about style points. Just win. The Eagles are 1-3 and it is time for the team to show they understand what that means. It is time for them to play with a sense of urgency. I don't care how they do it, but I need to see them win.
We all expect to see a shootout between a pair of high-powered offenses and struggling defenses. That's fine with me as long as the Eagles come out on top. I'd love to see the Eagles right the ship and win big, but I won't be able to enjoy this game until the clock reads all zeroes. We've all been burned the last three weeks, assuming the Eagles had taken control of the game and would win. No more of that.
Sunday won't be about fun. It will be about survival. I'll celebrate the good moments, but it will be a muted, awkward celebration. Quickly my mind will shift to "So, what's around the corner?" I think we're all of a similar mindset. That's what happens when you see a talented team lose three straight leads in the fourth quarter. You're waiting for the other shoe to drop, as the old saying goes.
The players need to have a slightly different mindset. They control what happens. We need them to play with confidence and to be aggressive. The fans will be the ones worrying. The players need to get out there and kick some butt.
This is a winnable game, but this isn't the Bills we've known in recent years. Buffalo has an up and coming team. They have a very good offense. Chan Gailey is an underrated coach. Ralph Wilson Stadium isn't an easy place to play. The fans are fired up over the 3-1 start and enjoying the success. This is the best offense they've had since Jim Kelly ran the K-Gun.
While the Bills' high-flying offense should be respected, there is some good news. The Eagles defense was built for teams like this. The Bills play a lot of three and four receiver sets. They use a lot of empty sets (when the running back lines up in the slot or out wide). This means that Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be on the field together a lot. I think Joselio Hanson could play a lot. The Eagles loaded up on defensive backs to deal with teams that like to spread the field and throw.
I think the challenge for the Eagles will be stopping running back Fred Jackson. For those who haven't seen much of him, Jackson is the real deal. He has good size (6-1, 215 pounds), speed, and skills. He is a north-south runner that doesn't dance much. He is elusive enough to make some defenders miss, but Jackson prefers to lower his shoulder and run over guys. He is a very good receiver. He can catch the ball out in space or downfield. Jackson is having a great year and looks to be headed to the Pro Bowl.
|Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He was a finalist for Philadelphia's Most Influential Blogger Award and is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com
There is going to be a lot of pressure on Jamar Chaney and Brian Rolle to deal with him. Since Buffalo uses spread sets so often, the Eagles will be in the nickel and dime defense a lot. Chaney and Rolle must get to Jackson and tackle him. If not, we're looking at a long day. The safeties will play some in the box with a linebacker sitting out. Jarrad Page and/or Nate Allen need to do their part in handling Jackson. They need to get into the proper position quickly and tackle well.
The Eagles offense has a huge advantage this week. Buffalo has given up more than 450 yards of offense in the past three games. They are really struggling. To put that in perspective, the Eagles defense, struggling in their own right, hasn't given up 450 yards once.
The biggest problem for Buffalo is speed. They don't have any, at least not in the front seven. The team only has four sacks on the year. Only one linebacker is among the top eight tacklers on the team. Most of that group is defensive backs. Buffalo has made some good upgrades in recent years and they have some pieces in place, but they lack a top edge rusher and linebackers that run well.
I think the smart plan of attack is to get the ball to Shady McCoy. Last week, he struggled with speedy guys like Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Buffalo doesn't have players like that. Run McCoy off-tackle and outside. Throw swing passes and screen passes to him. Make the Bills chase him. I think McCoy has a chance to break a big play or two.
Then you mix in some play-action passes. Even with King Dunlap and Danny Watkins being new to the lineup, I think Vick will have good enough protection to get the ball deep. Buffalo has talented defensive backs, but DeSean Jackson can run away from most guys if Vick holds the ball long enough.
It's time to bring up everyone's favorite subject - red zone offense. I hope Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have jettisoned the playbook from the first month. Have the linemen fire off the ball and block. Feed the ball to McCoy and Ronnie Brown as runners. Throw the ball to Brent Celek and Clay Harbor. I'd love to see Riley Cooper mixed in as well. He's the Eagles' biggest receiver and should be a good red zone target. Don't try to trick teams. Just go out-execute them. Beat the man across from you.
Ball security has been a major issue this year. That must stop. Buffalo leads the NFL in interceptions with eight. Michael Vick and company can't help the Bills out. No gifts. The Eagles have had a red zone turnover in each game this season. That is unacceptable and must stop. I think back to arguably the greatest football quote of all time, courtesy of the legendary coach John Heisman, "Gentlemen, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football." That better be the attitude on Sunday.
Kicker Alex Henery gets a chance to show what he's made of. Henery missed a pair of field goals last week that essentially cost the Eagles the game. I think he understands that. Now we will see how he responds. Some fans wanted to know if the Eagles would go look at other kickers this week. No. You need to see how Henery handles the situation. Back in 1989 a freshman basketball player named Christian Laettner missed the front end of a one-and-one in a game Duke trailed 77-75. He showed no nerves at the line. He simply missed. Laettner went on to hit some of the biggest shots in the history of college basketball. He had a good coach. He had great mechanics. Laettner also had nerves of steel.
We don't know about Henery. He was a great kicker at Nebraska, but the NFL is different. This is a kind of adversity Henery hasn't faced before. He seems to have excellent mental toughness. He has good mechanics. On Sunday, we'll see how he responds.
I'm not going to sit here and list a bunch of goals for the team on Sunday. I don't care how they do it - luck or talent or grit or whatever. This week, I just need to see them win. Do that and all else fades into the background for a couple of days. We'll then worry about the how's and why's in the middle of the week. Just win, baby.
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