Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What a Difference a Week Makes

A week ago, I was on a sports high: the Flyers won in impressive fashion, Penn State remained undefeated in conference play despite its offense and the Eagles put it on the Cowboys, finally looking like the team everyone expected them to be.



Heading into the NHL season, I had my reservations about the Flyers after overhauling the roster. Penn State has been so hard to watch that I had to believe they'd lose some game they shouldn't. And the Eagles were so dreadful early on that it was hard to fathom them turning it around. Last weekend helped me reverse my thinking a bit, with the Flyers playing pretty good hockey early in the season, Penn State still finding ways to win, and the Eagles looking poised for their annual late-season run thanks to that demolition of the Cowboys following the bye week.

Things were finally starting to look up. There Penn State sat as the only undefeated team in Big Ten play, and the Eagles pulled themselves right back into the thick of the NFC East race.

One week later, and the doubt has crept back in. The entire university is in shock for Penn State, and you can't help but wonder if these damning allegations will derail the Nittany Lions' run toward the first ever Big Ten Championship Game. And the Eagles just put forth a sloppy, undisciplined game against a Bears team that tried to give the game away, losing 30-24 at home on Monday night.

What a difference a week makes.

Against the Cowboys, the Eagles dominated every facet of the game. Offensively, Michael Vick was as sharp as he's ever been, the receivers were making plays and LeSean McCoy continued to establish himself as one of the best running backs in the league. Defensively, Juan Castillo let his cornerbacks loose, completely shutting down Dallas' passing attack, and the rest of the unit followed suit. Nothing could go wrong.

Last night, none of that was the case. There wasn't a single player on defense who had a good game, and the only guy who even looked competent was Kurt Coleman. The defensive line didn't get any pressure on Jay Cutler despite going against a line that has let its quarterback get killed all season long. In fact, the only time they even touched Cutler, Jason Babin was called for a questionable roughing the passer penalty.

A week after putting forth their best effort of the year, the linebackers reverted to their previous ways, getting run through by Matt Forte and getting burnt in coverage against the do-it-all back. On the opening drive, the Bears just ran it right down Philadelphia's throat. And the corners played awful all damn night.



To be fair, Asante Samuel was having a strong game most of the night. Jay Cutler spent a lot of the game going to Asante's man, and for the most part, he did an excellent job in coverage. But on the Bears' go-ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter, Asante got burnt badly, and I'm not even sure what the hell he was doing. However, at least Asante was fired up and into the game. The same cannot be said about Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

I keep hearing about how DRC is perhaps the best athlete on the team, how his defensive teammates are in awe of his natural ability. But you know what? None of that matters one bit if you don't give a damn, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie does not give two shits about playing football this season. Maybe he isn't happy being a nickel corner and can't get comfortable in his role here, but that doesn't excuse his complete indifference on the field. Watch any game except last week, and it's clear he isn't coming close to giving his full effort out on the field. Last night, he gave up on at least 6 plays, once letting a guy completely go and not even remotely trying to make a tackle after giving up a reception.

It's reached the point where he shouldn't even be allowed on the field with that type of pathetic effort. He's insulting his teammates and the fans with what he's doing out there. I mean, it really does look like he's not even trying. He should be ashamed of himself.

And Nnamdi, well, he just hasn't been what we expected. Against Dallas, he was awesome. And last night, he generally took away Devin Hester or whoever else he was covering, as Cutler avoided throwing his way for the most part. But when the Eagles really needed him to make a play, just to not give up a play actually, he got called for a pass interference penalty against Johnny Knox on a 3rd-and-11 with 5 minutes left, allowing the Bears to milk more clock before kicking the field goal that put them 7.

That was a theme for the night, the Eagles not getting off the field on third down.

On offense, it was LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek but no one else. The receivers were terrible all night, with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin dropping balls the entire game. Vick played about as stupid as you can, literally throwing balls right to Chicago defenders. He's lucky as hell he only got picked off once, a terrible throw that looked like Lance Briggs actually was his intended target. There was a stretch of games last year where Vick really looked like an evolved quarterback, but he's back to playing stupid football with boneheaded decisions excluding last week's game.

Then there was all the normal high jinks we've come to expect. DeSean Jackson fumbled a punt with a minute left in the half, leading to a Chicago touchdown. After taking a 24-17 lead on a 33-yard run by LeSean McCoy with 5:521 remaining in the third quarter, Shady only touched the ball three more times all game. Three. Your best player only got the ball three times in the final 20 minutes of the game even though the Eagles had a lead heading into the 4th quarter. Following a field goal by Robbie Gould that made it 24-20, the Eagles came out and called three straight passing plays before punting. They were winning. In the 4th quarter. With their best player being their running back. And they didn't run the ball once with that lead in the final quarter. That's what you call terrible coaching.

Then there was the Eagles using a timeout with the clock stopped after an incomplete pass, trailing with four minutes left. And who can forget Chas Henry's laughable pass attempt on that fake field goal?



Colt Anderson was wide open. No one covered him as the Eagles lined up for the punt. All Henry had to do was get the ball to him and it was a sure first down to continue the drive with a chance to tie the game. But he underthrew him by at least 5 yards, and the game was over. Unreal.

It looked just like the Eagles prior to the Washington game. The Bears were literally trying to give the game away. Matt Forte, who did gash the Birds for 133 yards on the ground, fumbled twice. He never fumbles, yet he did twice. Still the Eagles couldn't win.

Last week, they could do no wrong. Last night, they couldn't do anything right.

Just a week ago, hell just a few days ago, Penn State and the Eagles looked to be in good position. Now they're both scrambling in one form or another.

What a difference a week makes.

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