By Bill Campbell
When you’ve reported on as many games as I have, you use the term “giveaway game” sparingly. The Phillies had more than their share during their eight-game losing streak. Injuries to Ryan Howard, Hunter Pence. And they had players recovering from injuries — Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and others. Plus the up and down sequences of their rookie pitching — which, for the most part, has been impressive. But after a team wins one hundred games it doesn’t usually have to deal with too many excuses. The Eagles might be another story.
I can’t remember when I’ve seen more of a “giveaway game” than the Eagles-Giants clash of last Sunday. The Eagles and the Giants have been playing each other forever but seldom with more bad blood between them than last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles had given one away the last time these two teams met last year, and if any team should have been primed for a rematch it should have been the Eagles. But it was the Giants who used two Eagles’ defensive errors to take an early 14-0 lead, much to our surprise. When the Birds had reduced their deficit to 14-13 it looked like an Eagles win was in the making. Only the Giants played harder and better and with more emotion and desire and effort in the second half.
That lack of effort was most inexplicable to be topped only another unworldly oratorical performance by the Eagles coach. Andy Reid’s post-game remarks have been almost unworthy of comment for thirteen years. Whether in victory or defeat, he continues to say not much about anything. But this Sunday had to win the all-time award. He huffed and puffed, hemmed and hawed as usual, and really reached a new low in empty oratory. And he hit a remarkable low when answering questions in monosyllabic fashion. Reid usually answers one question with a single syllable but he accomplished it in reply to three questions before walking off the platform in obvious anger. That he was as disappointed as we were was understandable but that his platform offered a better view of his team’s sorry outing was the reason for our meeting – which ended abruptly.
The comments of Michael Vick didn’t help either. He complained about landing on his back frequently when he throws the ball, or attempts to throw it, and considered it strange that it happened so often with no flags being thrown. I wonder if his quarterback colleagues around the league share his surprise? Maybe some of them are provided much better protection by their guards and tackles when they’re not picking themselves off the ground as often. Vick didn’t exactly blame the officials in so many words but he did mention that they have a job to do and he apparently was not thrilled at their performance. It all amounted to a “giveaway” game for the Eagles. And those visions of “dream team” might be a bit premature. As Andy Reid keeps reminding us, week after week, putting people in the right places so they can do their jobs effectively is, in his words, “my responsibility.” Andy says he just has “to do a better job”. What’s new about that? In a career of non-communicative press conferences, Reid’s post-game comments or non-comments of Sunday, September 25, 2011, will be long remembered. And just in passing it might be noted that it’s the ninth time in thirteen years that an Andy Reid Eagles team has lost the home opener.
This week any item that doesn’t have Eagles flying all over it is almost a meaningless topic. But it’s been a wild week and certainly the Temple Owls deserve a headline after what happened on Saturday in Maryland. And Bernard Pierce deserves at least a complete paragraph. The Temple star has moved on to the possible Heisman list with his five touchdown performance of Saturday. And Temple’s defense occupied a full page against Maryland. The Terrapins couldn’t run against the Owls (just 45 yards) and couldn’t pass either, averaging just 5.3 yards per throw despite having one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC. Temple didn’t just win the game against Maryland by whatever score; it possibly attracted national attention. But its 38-7 rout was compelling. The Owls were, perhaps, only a play or two from beating Penn State in the previous week and I am sure would like to have a play or two repeated. The Nittany Lions, by the way, looked a lot better in rolling over Eastern Michigan last Saturday, 34-6. In the coming week, the Lions will begin playing games that really count as it begins its Big 10 schedule by taking on Indiana. But a concluding thought on Temple is in order.
The Owls are being talked about around the nation too and appear to be a candidate for Big East membership, which once kicked them out of the league ten years ago. Pierce is ranked Number One nationally in scoring, averaging eighteen points per game. The Owls hold the nation’s best scoring defense and they’re tied for fourth nationally with an average of almost four sacks per game. In the Owl’s 3-1 record, Pierce has twelve rushing touchdowns and is tenth nationally in average rushing yards with 124. Just in case someone should ask, perhaps a rabid Temple fan, the Temple quarterback who was playing just a mile away from his old high school field in Maryland went nine for nine throwing the football and had nine carries rushing as well. His name is Chester Stewart and since he’s a fifth year senior his name may appear somewhere else along the way. The next Temple opponent is Toledo at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday at noon. Toledo is 1-3 and lost in overtime last week on a blown call on an extra point.
If the Eagles didn’t own the week, and certainly stubbed their toes against the Giants, the Phillies went over the century mark in total victories. Mariano Rivera, the great Yankee reliever, went over the 600 mark in total saves before the smallest crowd in the three year history of the new Yankee stadium. Scott Hartnell, the Flyers winger, came up with an accelerated heartbeat. And New England’s Tom Brady, one of the National Football League’s all-time quarterbacks, threw four interceptions to lose a game to the Buffalo Bills.
It was hardly a dull week.