Eagles Win Over the Cowboys Is Meaningless
If the Eagles defeat the worst team in the league, you can bet that sometime between “Injuries” and “Time’s yours” during his Monday press conference, Andy Reid will remind us that “It’s always good to get a win in the National Football League.” His message is clear: beating the NFL’s dregs counts as much in the standings as overwhelming a contender. This isn’t the asinine BCS, where computers and sportswriters help choose a champion. Pro football is about winning.
So, while Philadelphia fans let last night’s rout of the Cowboys surge over them like tropical surf and enter a week with much-needed good news in their sporting minds, Reid will trudge to the podium at the Nova Care Complex and remind us how good it is to win a game. By that time, he will have already begun to look at next Monday’s opponent, Chicago. Let’s hope his players have, too.
As the Eagles continue to build an identity during this crazy 2011 season, the next week will tell us an awful lot. It’s one thing to dismantle Dallas with as efficient an offensive performance as has been seen in these parts in a long while and quite another to follow that up with another strong showing. It’s great to push Reid’s post-bye week record to 13-0 but even greater to back that up with a win over a conference rival on Monday night. After finding out whether the Birds can rebound from a sloppy start, we’re about to learn if they have the character necessary to sustain their success.
Four straight losses have eliminated this team’s ability to fool around. The choke job against San Francisco and turnover-palooza in Buffalo satisfied the team’s annual quota of ugly losses. There can be no more grim performances. Two straight wins, including a resounding triumph over the Cowboys and large-mouthed defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, are reason for feeling good, but the Eagles’ rotten, 1-4 start forces them to make every week a must-win game.
The question is: Does this team have the leadership beyond the coaching staff to do that over the season’s final two months?
A quick look at the Eagles’ schedule reveals four remaining games that should be relatively easy victories: Arizona, Seattle, Miami and Washington. But it’s the other five toss-ups–beginning with Chicago’s visit next Monday night–that will define this team. In order for the Birds to get the requisite three wins (that should get at least a wild-card spot), they’ll have to display a consistency and focus that has been absent so far. They are capable of such qualities, just as their play against Dallas wasn’t a surprise. It’s just that since the one hallmark of the team’s 3-4 start has been a maddening inability to sustain success, you’ll have to forgive me for not being completely sold that Sunday’s triumph was a definite preview of the rest of the season.
The Eagles so dominated the Cowboys, it’s a wonder someone didn’t stop the fight. After broadcasting New Orleans’ evisceration of the Colts last week in a game that showed Indy ought to be relegated to the SEC next season, NBC executives might have been on the phone to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to ask if Dallas could sneak a 12th player on the field. It might not have mattered. The Birds piled up 495 yards of total offense, which sounds like what Oklahoma does when it plays Kansas. LeSean McCoy rushed for 185 yards, against the league’s top-rated ground defense, and Michael Vick was a sublime 21-of-28 for 279 yards and a pair of scores. Maybe Ryan should have tried to make good on his pre-game nonsense about knocking DeSean Jackson down and come into the game. He couldn’t have played any worse than his charges did.
We knew the Eagles’ offense was capable of a performance like that – provided it didn’t turn the ball over repeatedly. What has been most impressive during the two victories has been the defense, which appears to have abandoned the we-don’t-care-if-you-run-on-us strategy and played some sound football. In their last two games, the Birds have allowed opposing QBs to complete a mere 48.6% of their throws. Granted, one of said signal-callers was inept Rex Grossman, but it has been good to see some solid play on that side of the ball. Sunday night, Dallas managed just 239 total yards, and 70 of those came on an oh-by-the-way TD pass in the fourth quarter, after the Eagles had turned off the engines.
It was a great night, to be sure, and it brought back some sporting hope to Philadelphia fans still sick over the Phillies’ collapse and the Flyers’ uncertain start that includes a 9-8 home loss to a glorified expansion team. The trick now is whether the Eagles have what it takes to continue the success. Can Vick rally this team? Will the efficiency continue? Can mistakes be limited? Plenty of NFL teams can win a big game. The good ones do it on a regular basis. As Reid says, it’s always good to get a victory in the National Football League.
Next Monday night, the Birds get another chance to grab one. Let’s hope they’re ready.
- By nature, a Wednesday night game is usually not imbued with a sense of substantial urgency, but Temple’s visit to Ohio in two days is a must-win. The Owls are part of a group of three East Division teams–including the Bobcats–with two losses. There can be no more slip-ups if TU wants to play in a bowl game.
- Flyers fans shouldn’t panic too much about Ilya Bryzgalov’s recent travails and his declaration that he has no confidence in himself. He’s too good to continue struggling so much, and Chris Pronger’s return to the ice in a week or so should shore up the defense in front of him.
- Just when it looked like NBA owners were going to be reasonable and work out a deal with players, they stood firmly on their 50-50 mandate for basketball income and blew up the process. Again. If the season is sacrificed or the league takes a big hit from fans for whom pro basketball is hardly oxygen-like, they can’t blame anybody but themselves. The magic number is 51.5%. Get there.