BY MIKE WOLVERTON SPORTS GUY Is the Eagles’ season over? Of course not. At San Diego was always going to be a stern test. But I can’t say I’m encouraged. The Charger running game gashed the Eagles defense, and the secondary is besieged with injuries. It’s not that hard to make the playoffs in the NFC (the Eagles at 5-4 are still tied for the 5th playoff spot). The remaining schedule is not that tough (is anyone afraid of Denver anymore?). But if the Eagles lose next week in Chicago to the dismal Bears, then I’ll be ready to turn out the lights. Eagles running back Brian Westbrook left Sunday’s game with a concussion, his second in a month. I don’t pretend to know much about head injuries. But if I were an NFL player with a concussion problem, I would take it extremely seriously. Brian Westbrook has made a lot of money in his career. Sure, he could make some more — but at what risk? Why would any player jeopardize the long-term health of his brain for a few extra dollars? Maybe the player might be motivated by the chance to win a championship, but Westbrook is on the Eagles.
Donovan McNabb must be one of the most polarizing figures in Philly sports history. Make no mistake, he will go down as one of the best, or possibly the best Eagles quarterback of all time. But for most fans, you’re either with him or against him. Count me in the “with him” camp. I lived in Syracuse when Donovan was an Orangeman, and I’ve been a big fan ever since. I understand the criticism, but I’ve done my best to keep my blinders on. This week it finally happened for me, even I started to get frustrated. The missed throws. The rifled passes (does Donovan have a “touch” pass in his arsenal? I can’t remember.) The flagrant wasting of timeouts. Has any tandem ever valued timeouts less than Reid and McNabb? All I’m saying is that for about 10 minutes Sunday, I felt like I was in the “against him” camp. I found my bearings and I’m back on Don’s side, but I understand the haters a little better now. Did everyone see Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew take a knee at the 1-yard line at the end of the game against the Jets? The Jags were behind 22-21, and Jones-Drew eschewed a certain TD with 1:40 left. When Westbrook pulled that against the Cowboys two years ago, it was a brilliant move because the Eagles were ahead and could kneel on it and run out the clock. But the Jaguars were behind, they still had to execute a field goal after they milked the rest of the clock. They didn’t even try to punch it in after running off most of the time, they just kneeled on it and turned the game over to their kicker. Had Josh Scobee missed that one, Jack Del Rio’s endgame decisions would have gone down in history with Marty Mornhinweg’s “we’ll take the wind in overtime” gaffe. Actually, I liked it when Mornhinweg took the wind. It was howling that day. But it didn’t work and so he was crucified by Dr. Hindsight. In this case, it worked for Del Rio, so thus he is a smart coach. I thought the strategy was pretty dicey. After all, the Jags were playing Mark Sanchez, not Peyton Manning. And trusting your kicker more than your defense doesn’t seem like the right confidence-building message for the coach to send. (Jaguars side note: if Maurice Jones-Drew isMJD, why isn’t Jack Del Rio called JDR? Would save us all a lot of time.)
Why do NFL coaches think it is so smart to use their timeouts before the 2-minute warning? Colts coach Jim Caldwell did it Sunday night, using two before the stoppage in the second half. If he had kept one of them, it would have cost the Colts about 13 seconds…but they’d have had an extra timeout in their pocket. And for all they knew, the 13 seconds they saved would be used by Tom Brady in his own comeback after the Colts scored. Coaches, save your timeouts.
What balls from Belichick to go for it in his own territory late in the 4th quarter (the Pats were up 34-28 and went for a 4th-and-2 at their own 28). He trusted his offense to get two yards. They came up short, but New England got jobbed on that spot. The Great Belichick couldn’t challenge because he was out of timeouts! (Coaches, save your timeouts). The Pats had just used two of them, one quite wastefully. It was inevitable that the Colts would score. And how much time was left after the go-ahead touchdown? Thirteen seconds.
In a fantastic use of hindsight, everyone on NBC’s telecast crushed Belichick for going for it on 4th down. They really piled on. Someone said it was the worst decision since Liebeck vs. McDonalds. I liked the call. Peyton Manning was going to score, 30 yards or 70 yards, it didn’t matter. It’s not like the Colts didn’t have time to go 70, Indy ended up milking over a minute of clock themselves at the end. Had the Pats gotten the two yards on 4th down (which it looked like they did), the game would have been virtually over. I say praise Belichick for the call, and flay him for pissing away his timeouts!