The Eagles on Sunday were back in their 2004 form, tacking an inferior team out behind the shed and giving them a proper lashing. What I noticed:
-One of the most important developments for this game and for the rest of the season occurred right after the Eagles' loss to the Atlanta Falcons in their Monday Night opener. On the Eagles' final play, McNabb came under pressure and underthrew Terrell Owens down the right sideline, after which punk cornerback DeAngelo Hall got in TO's face and shit-talked him. On the sideline right before the teams went out to meet each other at midfield, the cameras caught McNabb and TO talking. They weren't looking at each other, but I'm almost 100 percent certain I saw McNabb tell his receiver, "That was my bad."
That was huge step in the normalization of their relationship, because the message to TO was that he bore some responsibility for TO's having to deal with Hall and that he has TO's back.
Another big step occurred the next day when McNabb correctly pointed out the absurdity of anyone'sying that Hall shut TO down, when he had 7 catches for 112 yards. All this is a sign of the type of person McNabb is, putting himself out for his teammate.
Fast forward to McNabb and TO laughing on the sideline after their huge games against the Niners.
-L.J. Smith had a great day, but he doesn't protect the ball well enough, and that could wind up killing the Eagles in a big game again, as it did in the Super Bowl. Hate to break it to you L.J., but you're not Walter Payton. Until you've established yourself as one of the all-time great NFL players, stop waving the ball around and keep it properly tucked.
-I liked the way Andy Reid used newly acquired RB Lamar Gordon this time. Twelve rushes for 40 yards and a TD is solid. With Gordon able to run the ball more powerfully between the tackles, I would say 10 or so carries per game is a good target for him, with Westbrook getting a minimum of 20 touches rushing and receiving.
-Phil Sheridan is the best columnist in Philadelphia right now and pretty much always gets it right when it comes to the Eagles. Now he has a Q&A on the Philly.com Web site that is quite satisfying indeed for the typical Eagles junkie. I've posted a couple questions. One thing that's been pointed out: What's up with Jevon Kearse? Is he capable of playing at an elite level anymore? The answer, quite possibly, is, "no."
But there are a number of things that have been posted since the Atlanta game that point out how tightly on the pulse my commentary usually is. I've complained at times about McNabb's lack of passion on the field.
"Q. Hey Phil, is it only me or does 5 look totally lifeless at times on the field. He is a very good QB but there are many time when he seems to walk on and off the field with his head down and that has to rub off on the team and their energy level. The championship game last year is one that he showed a high level of energy the whole game and the rest of the team played with allot of energy too. TG, Reading, PA
A. I know what you're talking about. Really, that's the look that led Terrell Owens to try to give him that pep talk on the sideline in Pittsburgh last season. I think it happens when he really feels the way they've prepared to attack a defense just isn't working, and especially when it feels as if the play calling isn't helping. Just my take."
I've talked about McNabb's disinclination to run the ball being the result of neuroticism about being considered a "black quarterback." Here's Sheridan's take, in response to a reader question.
"Reid gives McNabb the green light to run when it's the best option. McNabb has long preferred to throw the ball whenever possible, because he's very sensitive to the stereotype of being called a running QB."
I devoted an article in Salon to the fact that Andy Reid, despite his many positive qualities as a head coach (among them the kind of unbelievable job he's done keeping the TO situation in control), has a flew Achilles Heel-type flaws, one of them being his refusal to run the ball:
"Q. How many years is it going to take Andy Reid to relinquish the fact that passing over 70-80 percent of the time is not going work? I have watched Eagles games for over 35 years and endured the last 7 of excruciating play calling by Andy Reid, specifically his reluctance to run the football. How many more times do we have to sit on 2nd down and 2 or 3rd down and 2, and watch Mcnabb drop back in the pocket only to get sacked for a loss or throw it away killing a drive. How about 1st and goal watching Andy Reid call 3 pass plays in succession, only to have to settle for a field goal. I have a strong feeling that if Andy Reid would have revised his game plan by splitting play calls 50/50 between the pass & run the Eagles would already have a Super Bowl ring. Why is it so difficult to run the ball? Your thoughts... AFP, Philadelphia, PA
A. It's the quintessential Andy Reid-era complaint. You say you've 'endured' the last seven years, when the flip side is that it has been the best seven years in Eagles history. The team puts up a lot of points, wins a lot of games and is entertaining to watch. But there has come a point in many of these playoff losses where I (and many others in the media and among fans) see the need for an effective running game. It happened Monday, as I wrote in the last two days' worth of columns. McNabb was hurting, the Falcons were in feeding-frenzy mode and Reid got locked into calling pass play after pass play. If and when Reid wins a Super Bowl, this will seem like a quibble. If he never does, this will go down in his bio as his fatal flaw."