Monday night was an odd game to say the least. The final score was pretty much what I thought it would be, Favre threw 2 picks which is what I set the over/under at, the Eagles pass game did light up the Packers secondary for some big plays... but those stats and that score that we assumed would happen did not happen in the way we thought.
So far this season the Eagles have started out on fire putting up huge first half numbers and either cruising lackadaisically through the second half or of course flat out collapsing... This time, they decided to do the opposite.
The first was half was mistake filled, uninspired football on the part of the offense. The team as a whole looked flat, but the offense specifically stood out. Clearly, part of that blame goes to the fact that the team found out an hour or so before the game that Brian Westbrook would be out.
I've said before that Westbrook, outside of McNabb is the key to this offense and has been for years now. Even when TO was here and getting all the credit and headlines, it was Westbrook who started everything. This year is no different. Over the first 3 games he's already racked up 5 TDs, 3 on the ground and 2 in the air. Without him the signature Eagles screen plays were gone, the security blanket he provides for McNabb in dumps offs was gone, the freedom Andy had to confuse defenses by putting Westbrook in motion and splitting him out wide was gone, and frankly the explosiveness to the line that he brings in the run game was not there.
Unfortunately, rather than step up their game to replace the injured player... the skill players on this team seemed to take a step back. LJ Smith was not terribly active, Reggie Brown was invisible, Stallworth did some things but nothing spectacular & Buckhalter... well we all saw the fumbles. This lasted for mostly the entire first half. In the second half however, one guy decided he'd seen enough.
Donovan McNabb, in my mind played one of the most inspired games I've seen him or any QB play. The major criticism you always hear about McNabb is "can he carry a team" "is he a leader". We heard answers to those questions from him all offseason. He said and the team said over and over again that he was the leader, he said he'd do whatever it took to win. He showed he meant that Monday night. He stopped caring about running the perfect west coast offense, he stopped caring about being called "just a runner", he just stopped caring about anything but winning. He started running, he threw downfield, he was accurate, decisive. In all, McNabb accounted for 4 TDs, 2 through the air and 2 rushing. This was the first game in a few years where you can say that McNabb won this game on his own. Not just put up great stats like he has all year, but won the game on his own. TO me he gets the game ball and has to be a serious candidate for the MVP so far. He took the team on his back and inspired both sides of the ball to wake up and crush the Packers.
A few other quick thoughts...
This was the first game that the Eagles defense, which led the NFL in sacks, did not record even one sack. I've read and heard some panic amongst fans over that. The lack of sacks did not bother me. When an opposing QB takes a 3 step drop and immediately throws a 4 yard route every play, you aren't going to get very many sacks... Brett Favre averaged 4.7 y/a. That shows how quickly he was getting rid of the ball.
What was encouraging was the way the defense adjusted the Green Bay scheme. Remember the NFCCG against the Bucs where Gruden counter acted the Eagles blitz by calling 3 step drops and quick throws? Remember how Jim Johnson kept blitzing and bringing more guys, which only led to the rest of the defense being exposed by the quick pass? Monday night, rather than worrying about getting sacks they didn't blitz and just dropped back everyone in coverage content to let Favre dink and dunk 3-4 yards at a time. The Eagles safeties and linebackers just teed off on the Packer receivers all night after they caught those little slants. Dawkins, Lewis, McCoy, Considine, & Trotter all put specifically nasty hits on the Packers WRs as they caught little underneath balls. Robert Ferguson even had to leave the game
Finally, I need to address the Monday Night football coverage. It was probably the worst telecast of an NFL football game I've ever seen. Brian Baldinger and Kenny Albert are better than the garbage ESPN put out there. First and foremost was one of the most out of place, preseason style, Steve Mcnair interview in the middle of the game. For some unknown reason, ESPN cut away from a game in progress so that their guys could interview Steve McNair via satellite. As the interview went on, ESPN would cut away to quickly show the snap of a play with no commentary. It honestly looked like I was watching a preseason game. Awful job.
Then of course there was the same generic, thoughtless commentary on last year and TO that we've all heard 1000 times. I thought the new Monday Football crew with Tony K was supposed to bringing us thoughts and commentary that we don't hear every single week?
Then there was the constant Favre worship. It never stopped. The announcers sat there in awe as he threw a 3-yard slants followed by an incompletion over and over again. Tony droned on and on all game with these diatribes that he sounded like he was reading about all the hardships in Favre's life, how exciting it is to watch him, how much everyone wants to see Favre, how honored we all are for being able to watch him.. Ugh. My favorite quote from Tony was "He's just so exciting! Even when he's throwing interceptions he's exciting!" He threw a pick on the next play. I also liked how they use throw motion to talk about how normal QBs have to set their feet to throw, but "When you're Brett Favre those rules don't apply". They funny thing is that the slow mo replays they used to gush over Favre's footwork were of incompletions or 3-4 yard gains. What other athlete in any sports is worshipped by the media as much as Favre?
Anyway... In the end the Eagles blew the Packers out, which in primetime at the Linc they absolutely should have done. I hear there's a big game there this weekend too, right?
Check back later today or tommorow as I'm going to address something that Eagles fans have infuriated me with... The idea of "undersized corners".