Philadelphia, with all due respect, you need to get yourself a prescription for Xanax. I mean this with love; you’re a hell of a lot of fun, but this week has been exhausting.
Know Your Enemy
Sunday was an absolute heart-breaker of a loss for the Eagles. There were miscues on both sides of the ball, the Birds failed to punch the ball in after a first-and-goal on the one-yard line, and Michael Vick was knocked out of the game for the second straight week with an injury to his hand. And it all came against the divisional-rival Giants.
This game served as an indoctrination of sorts to me; at different times in this game I found myself hurling obscenities at the O-Line, the D-Line, the receiving corps, defensive backs, the quarterback(s), and the coaching staff. It was the second game in a row where the team blew a lead going into the fourth quarter, and the loss snapped a six-game winning streak against the hated Giants. The game was frustrating as hell, and the fact that I felt frustrated must mean that this experiment has taken root in me.
Bulls on Parade
I’d always rolled my eyes at people when they’d place the blame for any and every failure by the team on the shoulders of Andy Reid. It was downright confusing how a guy can have a lifetime winning percentage of .613 with a team and be so openly second-guessed. We’re talking about a guy who has lead the team to seven divisional titles and one NFC championship in 13 years. How can this guy be thought of as such a boob when by and large he wins games?
I started to understand as the second quarter began, following a Giant TD. LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown suddenly became unstoppable and marched the ball on the ground 70 yards to the Giants 3 yard line. On first-and-goal from the 3, Vick hands off to LeSean who punches it straight up the gut for a gain of a yard. Perplexingly, the next call is a pass which results in the loss of a yard, and on third-and-goal again from the 3, Vick lines up in the ‘gun and throws an incomplete to Steve Smith in the end zone.
Before I even realized it, I was cursing Andy Reid by name. “What kind of play calling is that? The Giants can’t stop the run and on second- and third-and-goal you call passes?”
Then there’s the confusing fourth-and-one call in the fourth quarter: on the Giants side of mid-field with the Eagles leading by two, McCoy gets stuffed on fourth and Vick gets injured on the play. Turnover on downs on the Giants 43. 7 plays and 3:30 minutes later, the Giants are in the end zone and go up by six with eight minutes to play. Like you, this is where my blood pressure spikes. It was such needlessly risky play calls that directly lead to points on the board for the other team. Again, almost reflexively, “What the hell was that, Reid?”
The nail in the coffin for the Eagles came on the very next play when on his first play upon entering the game, Kafka heaves a ball downfield that is picked off all the way. It’s another inexplicable play call that has me absolutely livid. The obvious play in that situation would be to try and move the ball downfield while eating up the game clock. A TD and PAT would have put the Eagles ahead. The running game was efficient enough all day that there was no reason to need to rely on the untested arm of the young Kafka. Instead the play called in from the sidelines seemed to have been “Throw up a rainbow and see what happens.” Ugh. Just remembering it gets my stomach in knots, and the more I think about it, the less I understand just what the hell Andy Reid and his coordinators were thinking all day long.
Fortunately there was enough action for the rest of the week to provide a distraction.
Calm Like a Bomb
The doom and gloom started before the game even finished. I was listening to the game on the radio on my way back from my girlfriend’s parents’ house when it was announced by the Eagles Radio Network’s sideline reporter that Michael Vick was diagnosed with a broken hand. Suddenly, what seemed like a bad, early season loss looked like it could be the beginning of a lost season for a team with very lofty expectations.
Immediately after the Kafka interception, the conversation became “With Vick out, who starts in his stead?” Kafka hadn’t immediately impressed as a replacement in weeks two and three, and Vince Young’s status was unclear. Would he be available yet after his preseason injury? If so, would he be familiar enough with the offense to lead it next week against the 49ers?
That discussion was quickly back burned when, in his pregame press conference, Vick said “Not to blame the refs,” and then proceeded to blame the referees for allowing him to get beaten up in two straight weeks. “I don’t get the 15-yard flags like everybody else does but, hey, I’m not going to complain about it,” he said before not complaining some more about what he perceived as non-calls on late-hits.
24 hours later, the injured QB backed off of those comments after being portrayed as an infant on the back page of the New York Post. “I was kind of out of character and being too candid in that aspect.” Later in the week, Vick would issue an apology for his comments and acknowledge that they probably did warrant him being labeled as a cry-baby.
Not only did Vick change his tune about the referees, but the team changed its tune about Vick’s hand. What was initially reported as a broken right hand was later diagnosed as a severely bruised right hand. Woof. That must be one hell of a bruise to be mistaken as a broken bone. Vick now says he expects to start on Sunday against the Niners because the swelling in his hand has gone down dramatically. Not only did he expect to start, but Vick also said he expects to finish the game. “The only way I’m going out of the game is if they have to cart me off the field.”
That might be a poor choice of words considering, you know, he was knocked out of the last two games with an injury.
Street Fighting Man
I love Philadelphia. I’m so happy I’ve moved to this area. Get me drunk anywhere in the city limits and at some point I’ll probably start rambling on about how much I totally get this city, man. Part of the reason I love it is just how passionate everybody seems to be about everything. People rarely seem to take stuff lying down. The sports teams are the obvious example of this, but whether its school board members or minor disruptions with SEPTA, people get torqued up so easily. It’s charming in a drunken-frat-party-fight kind of way.
Imagine how excited I was when on Thursday it was reported that two of the Eagles beatwriters got into a physical altercation in the Eagles locker room over comments on Twitter. Supposedly, Les Bowen of the Daily News took a swing at Jeff McLane of the Inquirer after McLane called Bowen an “old hack that hasn’t broken a story in years,” on Twitter after McLane implied that other Eagles writers were making baseless claims about Vick’s week 4 availability and health. It wasn’t much of a brawl; supposedly it was just the one punch that was thrown, and it might not have even been a punch as much as it was an open-handed slap.
Either way, you have to admire the kind of bravado it would take to publicly threaten to “knock [the] fucking teeth down” your coworker’s throat let alone to physically follow up on the threat. (The Inquirer and Daily News are both owned by the Philadelphia Media Network. I don’t envy whoever works in the company’s HR department and has to deal with the fallout to this.)
Settle For Nothing
This town, man. What would normally be a week full of antacid chomping and talk radio bloviating became a three-ring circus in the media. I can count on my hand the number of stories I’ve read looking ahead to Sunday’s 1PM matchup against the 49ers. To me, that’s a good thing. That stuff gets real old real fast. I’m way too fascinated by the media-tap dancing and face-breaking that goes on around here to actually care about the X’s and O’s of the game right now.
Ryan Petzar writes for The Fightins, you can follow him on Twitter @petzrawr.