Ten Observations: An Eagles Slant To the Weekend
In no particular order, here are some thoughts on the championship games – some Eagles-related, others not so much.
1. Birds fans have suffered their fair share of bad losses – most notably, the championship games against the Bucs, Panthers and Cardinals. But I’m not sure any of those were as bad as yesterday’s Packers outcome. With 3:52 left in the game, the Seahawks trailed 19-7 and set up with a 1st-and-10 from their own 31. Russell Wilson was 8-for-22 for 75 yards and four interceptions up to that point.
But Wilson’s play, combined with Packers failures, made for a memorable comeback. Wilson completed six of his last seven for 134 yards, and Aaron Rodgers never even got the ball in overtime.
The Packers have won four Super Bowls as a franchise, including one in 2011, so I’m not expecting this crowd to cry them a river. But man, what a tough way to lose it.
2. I’m wondering if we’re just going to ignore what Erin Andrews reported during the broadcast: that the Seahawks training staff looked at Wilson for about “two seconds” after he received a blow to the head from Clay Matthews. I think the league has made a lot of progress in concussion protocol, but there’s still a long way to go to get this process right. That was a bad hit on Wilson, and at least on the surface, it doesn’t seem like a lot was done to make sure Wilson was OK.
3. Speaking of Matthews, I’m not saying he’s Ndamukong Suh, but why does this guy get the benefit of the doubt so often? Against the Cowboys, he hit Tony Romo low after the whistle. In this game, he blind-sided Wilson on the interception return (anyone else have a Nick Foles–Chris Baker flashback?) and also hit Wilson after he slid feet-first. There are questionable calls and no-calls every week, but I’m wondering why Matthews gets more benefit of the doubt than other players.
4. A couple free agent cornerbacks worth discussing in that game: Tramon Williams and Byron Maxwell. Williams turns 32 in March and gave up the game-winning touchdown to Jermaine Kearse, but that was an absolute dime by Wilson. Williams’ coverage (with no safety help) was actually pretty good.
Maxwell is the name being discussed most often around these parts, and for good reason. He has size (6-1) and will only be 27 at the start of next season. Maxwell has played a lot of Cover 1 and Cover 3 in Seattle, and that’s what the Eagles play a lot of. He can play outside and also cover the slot. And Maxwell played really well against the Birds earlier this season.
He had ups and downs yesterday, but on an early play, Maxwell ran with Jordy Nelson and broke up a fade down the sideline. You can see the upside, although any evaluation has to take into account that Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas ain’t walking through that door at the NovaCare Complex.
All things considered, I think the Eagles will give Maxwell a long look when free agency starts.
5. The second game was an absolute dud, so let’s just get my favorite Phil Simms line out of the way. The CBS analyst noted that the Patriots were always “ahead of the curve ball.” That’s not the saying, is it? The “ball” part doesn’t belong, right? Please tell me this was just Simms being Simms and not me misunderstanding the phrase all these years.
6. I did some work for Fox Sports 1 this season, and part of that involved doing stand-up hits before preseason games with reporters from other markets. Before the matchup against the Steelers on Aug. 21, the story was about running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount being arrested for possession of marijuana. I was on with Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and I remember him making some funny Cheech and Chong remark when we were on the air.
If you’d have told me that day that Blount would eventually post a 148-yard, 3-TD performance to send New England to the Super Bowl, I don’t think I’d have believed you.
7. I think the Mike McCarthy criticism is totally fair. The Packers had four shots from the Seahawks’ 1 yard line in the first quarter. They ran the ball on two of them and kicked field goals on the other two. Going up against a defense as good as Seattle’s, you have to turn those opportunities into six.
And you have to be aggressive. On the two fourth-and-one tries from the 1, even if you don’t get it, Seattle is backed up in its own end zone. You have a great shot at starting with solid field position on your next possession.
Green Bay was too run heavy in the second half. I’m all for milking clock with the ground game, but at some point, you let your All-World quarterback put the game away.
There’s a thin line between playing smart and playing conservative. I think McCarthy crossed it in that game.
8. For 56 minutes, I thought the story of the game was the play of the Packers’ defensive backs. Williams made a nice play early, allowing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to come down with the INT. Clinton-Dix later showed impressive body control, turning around and making the pick with his right hand. Sam Shields had a great INT in the end zone too.
But down the stretch, Wilson threw some dimes, and Seattle receivers won those battles. I have no idea what Clinton-Dix was doing on the two-point conversion. It looked like he got caught trying to decide whether to make a play on the ball or hit Luke Wilson. In the end, he did neither, and it cost the Packers big-time.
9. Count me among those wondering why the Packers didn’t test Sherman after he suffered that elbow injury. I mean, the guy couldn’t extend his arm. How about a screen or a sweep to his side just to see if he was able to take on blocks or make a tackle?
Thomas left the game briefly too due to a thumb injury. I’ve long wondered how that secondary would look if it just lost Thomas or Sherman for a stretch. Remember, they don’t show a lot of disguised looks. They line up and play mostly Cover 1 and Cover 3. But they are loaded with talent and execute at an extremely high level. Would the engine still run without either Thomas or Sherman? Or would the Seahawks be exposed?
It sounds like we won’t find out. Both players are expected to be ready for the Super Bowl.
Anyway, gutsy effort from both those guys.
10. Some leftovers: I’d fully expect the Eagles next year to do some of that ineligible trickeration that we’ve seen from the Patriots. …Loved the fake field goal call by Pete Carroll, and not just because it worked. You play to win the game, and that was the perfect time to pull it out. …The zone read is alive and well. I’m not sure why the Seahawks waited so long to use it (a Wilson injury?), but it worked like a charm a few times down the stretch. …I can’t watch James Starks without immediately thinking of that 2010 playoff game at the Linc. …I always sympathize with goats. Poor Brandon Bostick. And he wasn’t even supposed to catch the ball. He was supposed to block and let Jordy Nelson handle it. Hopefully that guy can rebound. …Others have made the point already, but I have no idea why Morgan Burnett went down on his own after the interception with 5:13 left in the game. Try to take it to the house at that juncture. …Only one more football game this season. That makes me sad.