Monday, September 21, 2009

So Bad It's Tiring

For those of you looking for some Phillies commentary, this won't be it. I spent my Friday night traveling out west to State College with silver fox and then getting entirely too drunk, followed by the Penn State-Temple game Saturday and football all day yesterday. All I saw was the rain-delayed game from yesterday, and I really have nothing to add to that outing. This weekend was all football all the time.

We'll start with Saturday, which was easily the worst 31-6 victory in the history of 31-6 victories. No question. I should have known the day was not going to go well. For starters, we had stayed out entirely too late on Friday night, meeting up with first my roommate and then my sister and some of her friends. Then, when we returned to my cousin's apartment, NHL Network was replaying the Flyers-Maple Leafs 2004 playoff series, so of course, in our drunken state, we had to watch, sleeping be damned.

By the time we got to sleep, it was past 4 a.m. …  and Saturday's game started at noon. God I hate noon games. Up before 8 a.m., we were running on no sleep but surprisingly feeling good. Must be something about that central PA air. We met up with some family who traveled out to the game for a mild tailgate before heading in for the kickoff about 20 minutes prior to game time.

For a short while, I thought perhaps we'd be awarded the pleasure of being without brokeback. Ten minutes before game time, still no sight of them. Five minutes, their seats two rows in front of us still empty. I was beginning to get excited. But of course I couldn't be that lucky. Literally a minute before kickoff, the ambiguously gay duo showed up.

Great. And that was just the beginning. No matter what any Penn State apologist might tell you, the No. 5 Nittany Lions played like complete dog shit on Saturday. And it started with the playcalling. For the first time all season, Penn State was having tremendous success running the football. The young offensive line was blowing the Owls off the ball on run plays, and Evan Royster was being his usual self, setting up his blockers and getting big chunks of yards.

Conversely, Penn State was struggling mightily in pass protection. Each time Daryll Clark dropped back to throw, he was getting decked. Temple clearly has some good athletes on the defense and some speed on that side of the ball, but size-wise the Owls couldn't compare. Thus, Penn State was dominating on the ground, averaging over 5 yards a clip, led by Evan Royster, who rushed for 134 yards on 19 carries along with a touchdown and who was head and shoulders the best player on the field Saturday.

Despite that, Penn State kept calling passing plays early and often in the first half, and Clark kept getting plastered by the Temple defense. I honestly didn't think Clark was going to make it out alive. Eventually, when the game was well in hand, Penn State started running more, but the excessive pass plays early on against an inferior opponent did nothing but put unnecessary hits on Clark.

And the passing game just wasn't clicking. With the offensive line struggling in pass protection, Clark was horrible throwing the football. He struggled to hit receivers all game long, routinely underthrowing his long ball and overthrowing open receivers on the short passes. All in all, it was a bad day for the senior quarterback and the passing attack. In fact, the only receiver who did anything was Andrew Quarless, who showed why he keeps getting chances despite his issues on and off the field. Hopefully Quarless can keep it up and make good on all his potential this season.

Defensively, the Lions looked good again against a terrible offensive team. The defensive line has the potential to be one of the best in the country. Jared Odrick is a bona fide All-American candidate and the best player on that defense. Ollie Ogbu had a tremendous game, and Jack Crawford simply looks like a stud. Then there are the linebackers, who have been excellent all season … and that's without Navorro Bowman. Sean Lee is absolutely 100 percent back. He looks bigger and faster than ever, and he's making his mark once again. And as much as I hate Josh Hull, and I absolutely do, the guy has now had back-to-back good games. It pains me to write that.

While the defense dominated and the offense did enough to get a big win, it was a sloppy game. Penn State allowed Temple to recover a pop-up onside kick, and they let the Owls stay in the game entirely too long. There weren't a ton of highlights, but you can check out the few that occurred here:

After the game, silver fox and I headed to Hooters for the sights and sounds. We watched Washington somehow upset USC — the same Washington that won 0 games last season. That was pretty sweet. Then we debated staying in State College and going out or heading back home to get some sleep. Considering we both almost fell asleep numerous times throughout the later games, we opted to head back to Philadelphia to enjoy the NFL in our homes on Sunday.

As far as the Eagles game is concerned, well, it was not their best performance. Once again, the Birds let their opponents come out and march down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive. Last week, it was a 70-yard drive by the Panthers. Yesterday, it was Drew Brees leading the Saints 74 yards on 8 plays to go up 7-0. Not good.

However, my mood quickly reversed when Kevin Kolb, in his first start in the NFL, hooked up with DeSean Jackson on a 71-yard strike. Mid-play, my doorbell rang with my pizza, as I was yelling, "FUCK YEAH, DESEAN! FUCK YEAH!" Once the play was over, I answered the door, and the delivery guy, wearing a throwback Randall Cunningham jersey, asked me what happened. He was pissed that it happened as soon as he got out of the car, but thankful for my telling him what had just occurred.

Sadly, the game would not continue on in a positive manner. Brees, who has become a great quarterback over the past few seasons, shredded the Eagles defense for 311 yards and three touchdowns. With the exception of Akeem Jordan's athletic interception, Brees was flawless, connecting on 73.5 percent of his passes. But for a while, the Eagles were right in this thing.

For as awful as Kevin Kolb was last season in his relief appearance against Baltimore, the Texan looked poised and polished in the first half yesterday. Right after Brees led the Saints on that opening touchdown drive, he hit DeSean to tie the game. Then, after Eagles surrendered a field goal, he answered again with a 15-play, 68 yards drive that stalled at the three. Kolb did almost throw an interception on the final play of that drive, and a touchdown would have been nice, but he got the team in position to tie it with a field goal, which David Akers did.

However, the game turned on a boneheaded play. With the game tied 10-10, the Saints faced a 3rd-and-24 at their own 16. It looked as though the Eagles were primed to get good field position with a chance to take the lead before the first 30 minutes came to a close. Then they gave up a 22-yard play on third down, moving the ball out, meaning the field position wouldn't be quite as good as expected. The defense still did the job and forced New Orleans to punt with 1:43 left in the half. And that's when things went wrong. For some unknown reason, DeSean Jackson decided to field said punt inside the 5-yard line. Every retard this side of Pittsburgh knows you rarely should ever even field a punt inside the 10, let alone the 5. The rule as far as fielding punts inside the 5 is pretty simple: NEVER FUCKING DO IT. EVER. FUCK. Why is DeSean Jackson so insanely stupid?

But no, DeSean decided to put his stupid hat on yet again and field it. Yes, he had a nice return, but there was not one but two block in the back penalties, resulting in the Eagles starting with the ball on their own 3 with 1:40 left. Speaking of penalties, what the hell is going on with the special teams? On almost every return or kick, it seemed like the Eagles were being flagged for something or other. That's not a good trend, and it definitely hurt them yesterday, not the least of which included those blocks in the back on that final Saints punt in the first half.

After two runs, the Saints used their final two timeouts, leaving a 3rd-and-5 at their own 8 with 1:33 left. Instead of running the ball and bringing the clock way, way down, the Eagles threw an incomplete pass to stop the clock, then punted. I wasn't happy with calling a pass, but to be fair, the play was there. All Kolb had to do was hit his receiver and the Eagles would have had a first down. Then they could have decided whether or not to go into half tied 10-10 or try to score to take the lead. Instead, Kolb threw way behind, failing to convert.

The Saints got the ball at their 46 and two plays later were in the end zone. 17-10 New Orleans. Instead of having a chance to go up 17-10 or 13-10 to close out the half, the Eagles let the Saints take the lead. Kolb did do a nice job getting the Eagles into field goal range before the half was over, cutting it to 17-13, but that's where the game changed forever. The Saints had all the momentum and never looked back. They scored 17 points in the third quarter and 14 more in the 4th, blowing out the Eagles.

Sean McDermott couldn't figure out any way to get pressure on Drew Brees, and the birthmarked one picked apart the Eagles with ease. There were Saints running free routinely, and Brees never felt hurried or rushed.

Offensively, the Eagles broke out the wildcat left and right in the first half, which seemed to work well, but when push came to shove, the offense couldn't keep pace with the Saints. Make no mistake, it was the defense that lost this game, but the second-half turnovers didn't help. Kolb was up and down, looking very good in the first half and not so much in the second. But then again, when you're one-dimensional due to a large deficit, you're much easier to defend.

My overall feeling of the game is that Kolb certainly didn't lose the game for Philadelphia and instilled a lot more confidence as the backup than he did prior to yesterday. However, for any moron who thinks the Eagles are better off without Donovan McNabb, yesterday made it abundantly clear that McNabb is a far superior quarterback than Kevin Kolb will ever be. Yes, the 391 yards and two touchdowns look nice, but Kolb threw three picks to a Saints defense that isn't very good. Hell, the Lions scored more points against New Orleans in week 1 than the Eagles did yesterday.

Really, it's hard to find any true positives in a 48-22 loss. Brent Celek had a nice game, but his damage was done while trailing. The defense looked awful, getting no pressure and leaving players wide open. Asante Samuel routinely got burned by Devery Henderson, and for some reason the Eagles insisted on playing Joselio Hanson on Marques Colston. That did not turn out well. Oh, and the Eagles linebackers stink. A lot. They can't cover or even tackle all that well, and Jeremy Shockey had himself a good game because, as I just said, the linebackers can't cover. It was just one game against an elite offense with a terrifyingly good quarterback, so maybe you shouldn't read too much into the defense's performance, but it is clear that Sean McDermott has his work cut out for him. Let's hope he's up for the task.

And please, Donny, get well soon. I need some sleep.

BallHype: hype it up!

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