Monday, December 14, 2009

Dance, DeSean, Dance

What can I say about last night besides man, am I glad No. 10 (and no, I'm not talking about Eli) is on our side. I'm just going to come right out and say it: DeSean Jackson is the best wide receiver in the NFC East. Better than Santana Moss. Better than Roy Williams and Miles Austin combined. And certainly better than Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks. Hell, he's the most explosive player in the division period, and every bit as likely to take it to the house on any given play as anyone else in the entire NFL. If it wasn't for DeSean Jackson, who knows where this team would be.

If you didn't see him do his thing last night, first of all, kill yourself, and secondly, you missed more than a show. In a game that can only be described as a shootout, DeSean provided the necessary bullets to put the Giants to rest and propel the Eagles to sole possession of first place in division, a place Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid — for all their faults — have become accustomed to being. This time, they've gotten there in large part because of the first-round talent out of Cal who somehow kept dropping and dropping and dropping until the Eagles stole him in the 2nd round two years ago. Now they're riding his little shoulders to another late-season charge, never more so than last night in Giants Stadium: 6 catches, 178 yards, a 60-yard touchdown catch, and two punt returns for 83 more yards, highlighted by this impossibly stupid 72-yard touchdown:

That's 261 total yards and two touchdowns for those of you scoring at home. With Maclin leaving almost immediately, no Westbrook, limited touches for McCoy and nothing from Jason Avant, DeSean still couldn't be stopped. Because sometimes, you can't stop a great talent like Jackson, no matter how hard you try. Not that it looked like the Giants were trying too hard to stop him, just as the Eagles defense didn't seem all that interested in stopping the Giants either.

That was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most pathetic defensive games I've ever witnessed in my entire life. For starters, the Giants can't cover anyone at all, which is an unfortunate thing for them when they have to play someone as dynamic as DeSean Jackson. And that defensive line that came in as such a heralded, fearsome group did little to get in McNabb's face. Philadelphia's offensive line did a great job keeping the quarterback clean all night. As did the Giants'. Eli Manning basically had all day to throw back there. The Eagles could not generate any pressure whatsoever. The Giants keyed on Trent Cole and dared the other linemen to beat them. They could not, which is nothing new this season. It's essentially been Trent Cole getting pressure or no one getting pressure. That continued last night.

Add to that the fact that Sean McDermott couldn't fool a third-grade quarterback with his blitzes, and it makes for a long night on defense. I honestly can't remember a single blitz that worked for the Eagles last night. Not a one. Every time the Eagles blitzed from one side, Eli was rolling to the other. Every time a linebacker came, the receiver broke off his route and Eli hit the hot route. It looked as though the Giants knew what blitz the Eagles were running before McDermott and the defense did. Rumor has it that McDermott learned his craft from the late, great Jim Johnson. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear that was a lie. Where Johnson could disguise a blitz and keep a quarterback off-balance as good as anyone, McDermott can't even fool the likes the JaMarcus Russell. He's got a long way to go in that department.

Failing to get pressure especially hurts when your defense can't tackle. Now, I have the NFL Ticket, so I watch enough football games to know that tackling is quickly becoming a lost art across the league. For one reason or another, NFL defenses seem to be getting worse at tackling from game to game. And that is especially true for the Philadelphia Eagles. I honestly can't recall a Philadelphia defense as atrocious at tackling as this one. Off the top of my head, I can only name two Eagles that I actually feel confident will bring down the ball carrier: Sheldon Brown and Jeremiah Trotter. One of those two is too slow to actually be able to catch guys in order to make a tackle. Other than that, this team has no one that I feel confident will bring down the ball carrier.

Asante Samuel is the worst tackler in the history of the NFL. There is no disputing this. It's fact. If you don't believe me, just watch any game he's ever played in the history of his life. I would take Deion Sanders 100 times out of a 100 in a tackling contest with Asante Samuel. I'm not even lying. For all the great plays he makes on the football, he cancels nearly half of them for his sorry excuse for tackling attempts. Watching him attempt to make a tackle is like watching Randy Johnson trying to get a hit. It's just sad and pathetic. And for a guy who makes a boatload of money to play defense, Samuel should be completely ashamed of himself.

As pathetic as Samuel is at tackling, he was far from the biggest perpetrator last night. No, that would be the safeties for your Philadelphia Eagles. While Brian Dawkins was picking off Peyton Manning twice and flying all over the field, Sean Jones and Quintin Mikell were playing some of the worst football humanly possible against Peyton's inferior younger brother. All night long, Mikell got caught out of position, committed crucial penalties and whiffed on tackles. It was quite possibly the worst game he's played in his career. He looked nothing like the player that quietly was the best, most consistent guy in this team's secondary a season ago. He looked awful. Where in the past Brian Dawkins was there to fire up the troops and lead with a big hit and sound tackling to help turn the tides, Sean Jones is whiffing so badly on a tackle himself that even Asante was embarrassed for him (3:35 in):

Good fucking god are these guys awful at tackling. It's absurd. Completely and utterly absurd. Thanks to the poor tackling, lack of pressure and general suckiness of the defense, Eli and company managed to rack up 512 yards of offense — 379 through the air — and 38 points. If it wasn't for Sheldon's fumble return and Eli's fumble, I wouldn't have a single nice thing to say about the defense. It was an embarrassing effort, and that's putting it kindly. Never have I missed Brian Dawkins and Jim Johnson more.

Luckily, the defense was bailed out by McNabb, Jackson and company. Save for his one ground ball, the interception on the miscommunication with Brent Celek and the overthrow of Reggie Brown (who looked like he wasn't really running very hard, by the way), McNabb was excellent last night. He finished 17 of 26 for 275 yards and two scores, taking shots and giving his receivers a chance to make plays. On the opening drive of the game, he marched the Eagles right down the field 67 yards in three and half minutes, capping it off with a touchdown pass to Celek. And he led the charge on the defining drive of the game, that fourth-quarter, 91-yard, 7:24, methodical, 12-play game-clinching drive, where McNabb was a perfect 6-for-6 on pass attempts and Leonard Weaver did the heavy lifting on the ground.

The Eagles did a phenomenal job keeping New York on their heels, staying balanced with 28 passes and 24 runs. Again, amazing how good the team looks when they balance the run and the pass. What a concept. Brent Celek leant a helping hand again with his 5 catches for 64 yards and a score, and the way he's been rolling this year, he just may earn himself a trip to the Pro Bowl. Leonard Weaver continued to give the Eagles that big, bruising back they've lacked for years, and McNabb was sharp.

And then of course there was DeSean, who stood out among them all. In a game in which 83 points were scored, a game in which the offenses combined for 886 yards, it was the undersized receiver with the lighting-fast speed that stole the show.

I'm glad he's on our side.

BallHype: hype it up!

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