By Bill Campbell
The Eagles’ trip to Washington produced a few smiles which, in itself, was refreshing.
The Birds defended the run better, forcing the Redskins to the air which, when your quarterback is Rex Grossman, is always challenging. He threw 4 interceptions before giving way in the fourth period to his back-up, who made a somewhat interesting game out of it. The victory, dull in spots, was significant, making the rest of the season – 10 games to go – at least relevant. No team ever has gone 1 and 5 and made the playoffs. So this win relieved some pressure.
A total effort will be required weekly because the bye-week will be followed by 3 consecutive home games. The coaches will have some catch-up time to go over things that may have been missed in the pre-season. The Washington game produced some interesting new questions, not only about the Eagles or the Skins but about the Eastern Division of the NFL as well as the entire league.
At halftime last Sunday, I found myself wondering how in the world the Redskins ever won 3 games with Grossman at quarterback. Are they really the best team in the East? They finally replaced Grossman in the 4th period with John Beck, his first appearance of the season. Beck scored a touchdown and, in the few moments at his disposal, actually almost made it an interesting game. I can’t believe the Redskins’ coach, Mike Shanahan, would start Grossman again next week against Carolina. In his post-game remarks, Eagles coach Andy Reid saluted the Redskins, called them a good team and called it “a great game.” He could not have been watching the same game that we saw! But victory does strange things to people – especially when they’ve had little recent experience with it. Over the years Coach Reid has won a lot of games and they had to be better than this one. But it’s been a tough month for Andy and the Birds. The coach even sounded jovial at times and actually smiled a bit. It was a nice change in his weekly appearance.
There were some nice things that should not be overlooked in an Eagles review:
the 3 interceptions by Kurt Coleman, 1 by Nate Allen. The 2 safeties appeared to complement each other and both played well. The 126 yards on the run by Shady McCoy. The performance of Winston Justice after a long convalescence from injury. In fact, both the offensive and defensive lines played better. The Eastern Conference set-up is different. The Giants are 4-2, the Redskins 3-2, the Cowboys 2-3 and the Eagles 2-4. I guess the word “mediocrity” covers the whole division. In fact, I’m wondering about the caliber of the entire NFL. The only unbeaten team is Green Bay and the Colts are 0-6. It’s enough to drive one to Fantasy Football.
Michael Vick took a few more hits but did manage to finish the game. Let’s hope we can all say that about his season. Brandon Graham, the Eagles’ Number One pick in 2010, should be back after the bye. So things might get even better. But the combination of subtle wide-nine changes on defense and 3-step drops in the passing game really helped. Too bad it took a month to figure that out.
When Nnamdi Asomugha came to the Eagles there was enough publicity for a Super Bowl. In fact, the heralded three corners – Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and Samuel – were received almost as loudly as the Phillies’ Halladay, Lee and Hamels. Finally, Asomugha took a step forward on Sunday. He clobbered Washington tight end, Chris Cooley, early on, pretty much finishing his afternoon. Cooley left the game early, returned briefly and was never a factor. Without his presence, Grossman had no trouble throwing 4 interceptions. The Eagles even caught a few lucky breaks, which had seemed to backfire on them during the past month, proving that you sometimes make your own luck which can come from determination and effort. Michael Vick’s pass fell to Jeremy Maclin instead of being intercepted. And, most important, runners held on to the ball as they were being tackled. It’s interesting that in 6 games, the Eagles have used 3 different left tackles, 2 different right guards and 2 different right tackles. And the offensive line coach, Howard Mudd, underwent surgery yesterday for a hip replacement. He has been using a cane and was on crutches last week.
With the start of the World Series a couple of new Mr. October’s have arisen. Reggie Jackson used to own that title but he may have to share it now with Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers and David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals. They have been honored as the Most Valuable Players in their respective leagues’ championship series. Cruz has been fantastic. No one else in major league history has hit 6 home runs and collected 13 RBI’s in a play-off series. Overall, he was 8 for 22 (364) and all 8 hits were extra base hits: 6 home runs and 2 doubles. Texas demolished Detroit, 15-5, in the final game after Cruz had really struggled in the AL Division Series against Tampa Bay where he went 1 for 15 and struck out 5 times. Team-mate Josh Hamilton, who was the MVP in last year’s ALCS, yielded the honor gracefully to Cruz, which gives you some idea of the Rangers’ hitting ability. Freese, who kept collecting big hits for the Cardinals to win the MVP of the NL league championship, hit a 3-run homer last Sunday in a 12 to 6 victory over Milwaukee. You might wonder how the St. Louis Cardinals, a wild card team, wound up as the home team in the World Series. It wasn’t due to anything the Cardinals did. Credit this one to another of the amazing ideas of the unpredictable baseball commissioner who decided that which ever league won the All-Star Game would also get the home field advantage in the World Series – although one event had nothing to do with the other. The Cardinals will be the underdogs against the Rangers who are making their second straight trip to the World Series. And they can really hit.
In case you haven’t noticed, the baseball inter-league post-season games are not doing very well viewer-wise. In what has become a Midwestern series, the combination of small market cities and bad weather has drawn far fewer television viewers compared to last year when the Rangers and the Giants. Their viewer ratings also were low but this year’s numbers were worse. I wonder if the presence of the Phillies might have helped? As we have learned the hard way, they should have been there.