Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spectacular Sunday

Aside from the fact that both the Phillies and Eagles were on at the exact same time, this was one of the better Sundays in recent memory. But seriously, why the hell were the Phillies and Marlins playing at 4? Really. Can anyone explain this? I had to do all sorts of channel-flipping. That was annoying.

What wasn't annoying was the outcomes from the day. After a disappointing loss Friday night, low-lighted by Brett Myers' return to his pre-IronPigs form, the Phils gutted out a nice 3-2 win Saturday with a nice job by Joe Blanton (9 strikeouts and only 2 runs) and an even better job by the bullpen, with Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge combining for 4 shutout innings.

Then today, the Phils jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and Jamie Moyer continued to dominate the Fish, picking up his 11th career victory against the Marlins in his 12th game against them.

Things got off to a nice start when Chase Utley hit his first home run in forever in the 3rd to put the Phils ahead 2-0. Then the Marlins did what they've grown accustomed to doing, throwing the ball away and handing the Phils a run in the 4th. And after the Marlins cut the lead to 3-2 by squeaking out runs in the 6th and 7th, Pete Happy, who came in after Greg Dobbs injured himself, hit a big two-run homer to give the Phils some breathing room.

Then Lidge came in and notched his 40th save of the season, remaining perfect on the year. The win gave the Phils a 2-1 series win, and, thanks to another choke job by the Mets, who lost two of three from the freakin Atlanta Braves this weekend including a 7-6 loss today, the Phils now lead the division by 1.5 games.

The Braves sure did help us out this year. Deja vu in New York?

Meanwhile, over on CBS, where my attention was concentrated on, the Eagles put forth one of the most dominating defensive efforts in recent memory. Jim Johnson finally came to his senses and listen to me, blitzing the hell out of an injured (and jumpy) Ben Roethlisberger. And it worked. Beautifully.

Big Ben was running for his life all game, and often to no avail. Johnson dialed up the blitz early and often, and the results speak for themselves. The Eagles held Pittsburgh to just 6 points, both of which came off turnovers, and sacked Roethlisberger 9 times. They forced three turnovers, including an incredible interception by Asante Samuel and two fumble recoveries, and recorded a safety.

The Steelers, who had been completely dominant in their first two games of the season, managed just 180 yards of offense--just 147 in the air and a remarkable 33 yards on the ground. Willie Parker, who came into the game as the third leading rusher in the NFL, gained just 20 yards on 13 carries. Roethlisberger, who had the highest quarterback rating in the league, went 13-25 for just 131 yards and a pick before he was knocked out of the game in the 4th quarter.

And Brian Dawkins answered his critics for one game at least, registering 4 tackles, a sack and forcing the fumble--which he recovered himself--by Ben Roethlisberger that sealed the game.

It was a great win to get to 2-1 and rebound from the tough loss Monday night by beating a very good football team. The Eagles were completely dominant, especially defensively, and the game was never really in doubt.

However, it wasn't all good news. Brian Westbrook left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. And let me tell you, it didn't look good. At all. It reminded me of when Donovan broke his ankle in 2002. Hopefully it's just a sprain, but it looked pretty awful and the Birds could be without one of the best backs in the league for a while.

Also, Tony Hunt, after taking a vicious hit where he fumbled the ball on the first drive, looked concussed and did not return. Not sure if he did suffer a concussion, but he got nailed and never returned. That's two losses at running back. The good news is that Correll Buckhalter looked really good, averaging 4.3 yards a carry and nabbing six catches for 44 yards, including a sick 20-yard touchdown, the only touchdown of the game.

Also, Sav Rocca, after one terrible punt, was spectacular, kicking the hell out of the ball, especially in the fourth quarter. He helped change the field position numerous times and pinned Pittsburgh deep on three occasions, highlighted by a 64-yarder and another punt that landed right at the 6 yard line out of bounds. It was a thing of beauty.

Kudos to the Eagles defense and Sav Rocca. The offense left much to be desired, but overall it was a great win. Let's just hope Westbrook isn't out for an extended period time, the Eagles can continue to build off this win and the Phils clinch up the division this week.

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