By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Eagles Choose To “Punt” Season Away In Loss To Saints
PHILADELPHIA — In a game that featured a thrilling rollercoaster like ebb and flow, the ending was non-climatic with Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees triumphantly kneeling on the ball and thanking the football gods that his errant pitch to Reggie Bush didn’t matter.
The ill-advised toss play with 3:46 remaining was strangely called by head coach Sean Payton and almost handed the Eagles another improbable victory when Brees missed Bush and the Eagles recovered.
In my opinion, the next Eagles series after the fumble recovery was the key moment in the game with the Eagles play caller (either head coach Andy Reid or offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg) calling first a short pass to Brian Westbrook resulting in a yard loss, a short run by Westbrook for a yard, and finally another short incomplete pass to Westbrook on 3rd and 10.
This headscratching series resulted in the first of two crucial punts down the stretch. The second crucial punt was on 4th down and 15 yards with 1:46 remaining in the game.
Reid chose to punt the ball away on the play and leave the game in the hands of his weary defense. I’m not sure what Reid was thinking in punting the ball back to the Saints at a point in the game where his D-line was clearly tired and didn’t have much left.
On the previous 4th and 10 play before the punt, I swore Freddie Mitchell and not Hank Baskett caught the ball on the improbable conversion, but once again it was a mirage with the conversion being called back on a crucial false start on guard Scott Young.
There would be no miracle ending this week for the overachieving 2006 Eagles squad. The final plays after the last crucial punt showed the Eagles greatest weakness, which is their defense’s inability to get off the field on 3rd downs (Saints converted over 40%) and stopping their opponent’s running game.
The Saints pounded the Eagles, running for 208 yards and had a 10 minute edge in time of possession. Saints running back Deuce McAllister (143 yards along with a rushing and receiving TD), who has been overshadowed all season by rookie sensation Bush, once again was the thorn in the Eagles’ side .
Deuce attacked the lighter Eagles interior with tough inside runs that gouged the clock and took away the defensive unit’s will. The Eagles team made their usual big plays downfield including a beautiful 75-yard score from Jeff Garcia to WR Donte “Revenge” Stallworth.
Despite the team record scoring pass, Philly didn’t do the little things that got them past their superstar Donovan McNabb going down earlier in the season.
Westbrook was under utilized with only 13 rushes for an amazing 116 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles needed to get him going early and often, which had been the key to them winning their recent games.
He clearly wanted the ball and the Birds “forgot about him”, especially in the first half when they had only 12 yards rushing and on a crucial 3rd and 1 at the Saints 4 at 11:57 of the 3rd quarter.
On the play Reid going back to his old ways threw the ball to fullback Thomas Tapeh for a yard loss and settled for a short David Akers 24 yard field goal cutting the score to 27-24.
The field goal was the Eagles last score of the game and left you with the question, “What If?” The game was eerily reminiscent of the Eagles’ NFC Championship game loss to the St. Louis Rams in 2001.
In that game, which the Eagles lost 29-24 they were also in it until the end due to some big plays, but they could not stop the run or control the clock in crucial situations giving up over 200 yards of rushing with Marshall Faulk leading the way with 31 rushes for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns.