If how the Eagles offense played on Sunday night against the Giants is to be termed a "struggle," then let Michael Vick and Co. have a few more games just like that. The Eagles, after all, rolled up 392 total net yards, scored 27 points and controlled the football for more than 34 minutes in the victory over New York.
Had a couple of passes been caught in the end zone, or had Vick been just a touch sharper -- I'm willing to bet he doesn't overthrow DeSean Jackson as he did down the left sideline more than once or twice the rest of the season -- the Eagles would have scored well over 30 points. If playing the No. 1-ranked defense in the league was a litmus test, the true indicator of how good the Eagles can be offensively, then the immediate future is very bright, indeed.
It is time to give offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg a heaping dose of credit for his design and his implementation of the game plan into this offense on game days. Simply put, Mornhinweg is taking advantage of all the weapons he has at his disposal. And defenses are finding out that the X's and O's they draw up all week in practice aren't working too well on game days.
How do you defend the Eagles? Well, you can try to do what the Giants do, and that is to blitz a safety and hurry Vick, and hit him, and hope he misses some open targets. Vick completed 24 of 38 passes, decent numbers but nothing spectacular. The Giants rushed from Vick's left side, forcing him to roll right and throw on the move.
New York designed an excellent scheme which, combined with its outstanding personnel, caused the Eagles some problems. No doubt teams will try to copy what the Giants did, to some extent. But it is hard to pull off such efforts without similar personnel and without some familiarity with such an aggressive approach.
And yet, despite some success, the Giants left gaping holes in coverage that the Eagles missed. It would be highly improbable to expect the Eagles to miss a whole lot in the weeks to come. There is too much talent here, too much great coaching and such a tremendous resolve to take the offense to the next level that it is hard to think the Eagles won't work to smooth the wrinkles.
So how will defenses stop the offense? Oh, there is going to be a game in which the Eagles find the going to be very tough. That time could come on Sunday in Chicago against a rested, talented and extremely confident Bears defense. The Bears have a fantastic front seven. Brian Urlacher is beyond compare at the middle linebacker position, having bounced back from an injury-plagued 2009 campaign. Lance Briggs is a standout on the weak side. Julius Peppers moves from one end to the other, and is coming off a three-sack effort in the Bears' shutout win over Miami last Thursday night.
The Eagles are aware of the challenge that waits. Mornhinweg is planning his attack now. He is going to find some holes in the defense and try to exploit them in a loud, rowdy environment.
Sunday represents another big test for the Eagles offense. The Bears are hunting the Eagles, no question about it. Nothing again will come as easily for the Eagles offense as the touchdownfest they enjoyed at FedEx Field in the 59-28 win over the Redskins. That was too easy. That was an anomaly.
What is ahead is a stern test on Sunday, the first of seven games to close the regular season. The Eagles are now playing for playoff positioning. They have a chance to do something special. And a win on Sunday at Soldier Field would go a long way toward establishing the Eagles atop the NFC East, and atop the conference.
To do so, the Eagles are going to have to score some points. The offense is going to have to put it together once again, eliminate some of the hiccups from Sunday night and see just how good it can be.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
It doesn't sound promising for cornerback Ellis Hobbs for the short term after an MRI found disc damage in Hobbs' neck after he took that huge hit on Sunday night. Best of luck to Hobbs. As for the Eagles, they need to act accordingly. If Hobbs goes on Injured Reserve, the Eagles need another cornerback. They have five on the roster right now -- starters Asante Samuel and Dimitri Patterson, along with Joselio Hanson, Trevard Lindley and Jorrick Calvin. Is that enough? Moreover, is Calvin the answer on kickoff returns? The Eagles need a boost there.
- I'm very much in the corner of offensive tackles Jason Peters and Winston Justice, believing they are the next set of bookend tackles for the Eagles. Justice did a fine job on Justin Tuck on Sunday -- who had 3 sacks on Sunday, but none that were really "on" Justice (one was a naked bootleg, one was a cover sack and one came when Tuck lined up over the nose) -- and Peters played his rear end off at left tackle. Peters and Justice have to prove they can be as durable as were Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, but there is no doubt they are much more athletic and they enable the Eagles to do more within the scheme.
- That said, let's see how the Eagles fare against Peppers on Sunday. Peppers has 5 sacks on the season.
- The problem I'm having with all of the talk about the refs is that we're talking about the officiating far too much. They are the story too much. The NFL has an issue here that needs to be fixed. The game is being slowed down by injured players and coaches' challenges. The officiating is becoming too much of the show.
- Huge loss for the Giants with star wide receiver Hakeem Nicks out for approximately three weeks with a lower leg injury. New York hosts Jacksonville and Washington before what I think is going to be a very tough game at Minnesota in these upcoming three weeks. The Giants can't afford to lose a game at this point with a final three-game schedule that sees them host the Eagles and then close the season with road games at Green Bay and Washington.
- Bobby April has the coverage part of special teams way, way improved. What can the Eagles do about the return game? That is the next project. David Akers is having a great season and Sav Rocca is punting better than he has ever punted. Breaking a return or two can win a late-season game.
- I'm not sure what to make of the Bears except that they are 7-3 and playing great football. The offensive statistics aren't particularly impressive, but who cares? Chicago is winning, is playing at home and has the extra few days of rest. This is a tough, tough spot for the Eagles.