A tie. Are you kidding me? I sure didn't see that coming. I'd like to thank the Eagles for taking the time to rip out my heart and destroy my sense of dignity. The good news is that they have six weeks left to come back and kick me around some more.
OK, maybe that was a bit over the top. Still, it is how I felt on Sunday. How does a team in the playoff hunt go and tie a 1-8 team? The Eagles got off to a slow start. That happens even to the best teams. I can live with that. Heck, I had trouble waking up myself on Sunday. The game reminded of last year's game against the Dolphins. Donovan McNabb was sloppy and got hurt. A.J. Feeley was sorta sloppy. Ted Ginn ran back a punt for a touchdown and then the Eagles woke up and went won the game. They fed the ball a lot to Brian Westbrook and he had one of the best games of his career.
The problem this time around is that the Eagles never really woke up. They made mistakes all-game long. Penalties, dropped passes, missed blocks, bad throws, sloppy coverage – everyone had a hand in this loss. In that sense, it was good to see the guys stick together. Why let just one player take credit when everyone can be part of the losing effort?
We are 10 games into the 2008 season and I still have quite a few unanswered questions about this Eagles team. That is never a good sign.
I'm a big fan of the movie Michael Clayton. The central theme of the film is identity. If you don't know your identity, can you really be successful? Can you know your place in the world? Find your niche, work at it, and be honest with yourself.
Like the character Michael Clayton, the Eagles are a team in search of their identity. Last week, the team scored 31 points and took the Giants down to the wire. This week the team scored 13 points in a tie with the Bengals. One game they play up to the level of the best team in the league and the next they play down to one of the worst teams. That kind of inconsistency is maddening.
Are the Eagles a good team? Being ranked in the top 10 in points and yards on both sides of the ball would point to a resounding yes. The 5-4-1 record would point to a resounding no.
Are the Eagles an offensive team? Four games of less than 21 points would say no. Are the Eagles a defensive team? One-hundred points allowed in division games would say no. The running game is non-existent. The passing game is productive, but lacks any superior parts. The defense looks dominant for a quarter, half, or even a whole game, but then turns around and disappears at key moments.
Think about the Ravens over the years. If they just had a quarterback, that team could be dangerous. Think about the Saints. If they just had a defense, they could be formidable. Think about the current Eagles team. If they just had - what? What is missing?
The Eagles roster has talent. There are quality players on both sides of the ball and some good players on special teams. This team is simply not playing well in crucial situations. That is what drives me crazy.
The team in 2003 dealt with all kinds of injuries, but made big play after big play en route to a 12-4 record. Go back to 2000. Duce Staley got hurt, but the team still won 11 games with Darnell Autry as the primary runner. The 1995 Eagles were a patchwork team. They had multiple guys who Ray Rhodes brought off the streets. Those players became key contributors and helped the team to a 10-6 record and Wild Card victory.
I wish I could pinpoint the differences in those teams and the current group. People love to throw around a phrase like ""does the team have heart."" There is no way a team with guys like Brian Dawkins, Trent Cole, Jon Runyan, Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook lacks heart. I don't buy that. I don't watch an Eagles game and question the effort at all. I see plenty of guys hustling.
What I don't see are results. Effort isn't enough. Players have to be mentally tough. We're not seeing enough of that. There was one running play where 10 guys did their jobs right, but Brian Westbrook was stopped for no gain. There was a pass play where everyone did their job except one player who dropped the ball. There were several other dropped passes. There was a pass play where 10 guys did exactly what they were supposed to and McNabb put the ball behind Kevin Curtis. It hit him in the shoulder, bounced into the air and it was picked off. That ended a potential field goal drive.
The coaching staff has a hand in this as well. On a cold, windy day the Eagles threw the ball 60 times (58 attempts plus two sacks). McNabb had twice as many incompletions as the running backs had carries. Think about that stat for a minute. McNabb had 30 incompletions. Westbrook and Buckhalter combined for only 15 carries. I'm pretty sure that is against the Geneva Convention.
The Bengals' lone touchdown came on a blitz where our fourth cornerback had single coverage on the receiver who entered the game with the third-most receptions in the entire NFL. That doesn't sound like an ideal matchup. T.J. Houshmandzadeh beat Joselio Hanson down the seam for the score.
Coaches have to put players in position to be successful. That didn't happen enough Sunday. Players have to make plays and avoid mistakes. That didn't happen enough Sunday. It all added up to a difficult Sunday afternoon.
I want to see the Eagles play well and beat a good team. Five of the six remaining games are against teams that currently have winning records. The Eagles' character will be revealed down the home stretch. Do they start winning and show signs of life or do they play just well enough to lose close games?
AROUND THE LEAGUE
The Giants are the best team in the NFL right now. I know the Titans are 10-0, but the Giants are more balanced and more complete. They really have the look of a Super Bowl team. The Titans make me nervous. They could be peaking in the regular season. I'm a big Jeff Fisher fan and I'd love to see him win the big game, but I don't fully trust the Titans.
Remember when the AFC was the dominant conference? I don't know what to make of that bunch this year? The Chargers, Colts and Pats ruled with an iron fist. No more. The Steelers remain strong, but have serious questions of their own.
I know a lot of people laugh at bad teams, but I do give them credit for playing hard. The Lions and Chiefs players could easily quit. Both groups played really hard Sunday. The Raiders almost beat the Dolphins.