Sunday, September 21, 2008

Eagles-Steelers Aftermath

A few quick points from a game that never felt certain, despite an utterly dominant performance by the defensive line...

> Today's game showed you just how valuable Brian Westbrook is. Correll Buckhalter made a pretty great play for the game's only touchdown, and Lorenzo Booker had a few good moments. But without B-Dub, an offense who got the ball back all day was only able to produce 13 points. (Admittedly, McNabb getting banged up didn't help matters either.)

Westbrook had X-rays that showed his ankle wasn't broken, but he was on crutches in the locker room afterward, and will have an MRI tomorrow. I wouldn't expect him on the field next Sunday night in Chicago, which makes a game that shouldn't have been too difficult a little more challenging... but the Bears just got beat by Brian Griese today, so I'm still liking the Eagles' chances.

Long-term, of course, no Westbrook = no Super Bowl chance. And with the NFC East now standing at a cumulative 10-2, with the only losses for the two 2-1 teams coming on the road in the division, there isn't much margin for error.

> The worry before the season started for Pittsburgh was the offensive line, which wasn't good last year, when they still had Alan Faneca. Man alive, were they awful today. On one play in the fourth quarter, the Eagles rushed three in a prevent defense, and two of the three linemen got to Ben Roethlisberger clean.

Now, I've been watching football for thirty years, and I've never seen that play before. Perhaps the Steeler OL was just befuddled by the variety here, or were all looking out for the extra man that had been coming all day, but good grief. The Steelers may still be the best team in the AFC -- the position isn't really as contested as you might think, considering the undefeated teams in the conference are Buffalo, Denver, Baltimore and Tennessee -- but man alive, do they have some work to do on the line.

> Punter Sav Rocca was a problem for the Eagles last year, along with the coverage units and just about every other aspect of the special teams. He's not anymore. Phil Simms went overboard in his praise for him today to the point of easy parody (as you'll see in the Epic Drop), but in a field position game in the second half, he was worth about 40 to 50 yards, and his 64-yard crush job after an ugly three and out drive was just what the doctor ordered.

> Brian Dawkins had the play of the game, really, with a flying punch job that forced a fumble and made me laugh out loud. Dawkins might not be what he once was, and you can take advantage of him, especially in a head-on match-up with an elite tight end (and the NFC East is sadly rife with them).

But no one can take away that he's still a pretty good safety (better than Sean Considine on his best day), and that he shows absolute joy in playing football. You can forgive a lot for that. Especially when you consider that no other safety in football seems as interested in posing like Wolverine, or looking like he was squeezing out a log in celebration...

> As meaningful as the nine sacks that the Eagles had today, don't sleep on the job they also did on the Steeler ground game. Willie Parker had 13 carries for 20 yards today, and if you toss out his long of 8, he got a yard a carry. That's the most encouraging thing from the win, really -- that they can, potentially, be that special as a defense, especially after the Dallas breakdowns.

> Simms talked about the Eagles defensive pressure today as if it were purely a matter of exotic blitzes, but 7.5 of those came from the defensive line. This was Ryan-esque domination from the line, and it won the game in, perhaps, the most primal way possible.

It's not how you usually win games in this century, or in the Reid Era. But that didn't make it any less satisfying.

2 comments:

CMJDad said...

Sad, very sad. I was at the game, wearing my colors. It was sickening to watch. Yes, the O line was bad, but the play calling was the worst. Tomlin and Arians put the team in a position to loose by not running the ball. Sure, the Eagles did a great job of stuffing the run. But by not even trying to run, the Eagles loaded up and went for blood, and they got it! Good job Eagles.

DMtShooter said...

The match-up that frightened me in this game, as an Eagles fan, was Heath Miller. The Steelers kept him in to block most of the day, and only threw to him in late desperation mode. He led the team in yards and catches. That, to me, is the worst aspect of the play-calling.

That run game wasn't going anywhere, no matter how much they fed it, but if they had ran more, at least they would have lost and had a healthy QB at the end of the day.