Another day another victory for Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Birds won for the sixth time in their last eight games to improve to 7-5 and keep pace with the Dallas Cowboys on top of the NFC East standings. Foles threw three more touchdowns and has tossed 19 scoring passes and no interceptions on the season. Amazingly, that’s only one shy of Peyton Manning's all-time NFL record, which the consensus favorite for 2013 MVP set this season.
On the surface the performance seemed flawless, and there was certainly a lot to like about the way Foles played. He was phenomenal in the opening half, making great decisions and accurate throw after accurate throw on the way to a 17-7 Philly lead at intermission. That hot start carried over to the first drive of the second half, as Foles led the Eagles to another touchdown that put Chip Kelly's team on top by three scores.
That advantage proved to be enough to get the Eagles a win, but in much more dramatic fashion than it should have been down the stretch. Arizona scored two straight touchdowns and made everyone inside Lincoln Financial Field hold their breath in the closing moments.
As Yogi Berra is fond of saying, it was déjà vu all over again for the Eagles. Philadelphia followed the same script in its previous game against the Redskins, letting a 24-0 lead shrink to 24-16 with Washington driving deep into Philly territory in the last two minutes.
The Eagles struggle to put teams away in the fourth quarter. Last week it was overly conservative play-calling from Kelly, while on Sunday it was poorly timed penalties on special teams and offense.
The two most costly miscues came in a span of moments, when the Birds had a punt return for a touchdown called back on an illegal block in the back and then a long run by LeSean McCoy (that would've given Philly a great chance to put the game away) was wiped out by a holding penalty.
To Kelly's credit, he learned from his previous mistakes and adjusted by getting less conservative while trying to hold onto a lead. Yet the Eagles still found themselves in a precarious position near the end of the game. Part of the blame for that also has to fall on Foles’ shoulders. The second-year signal caller has been wildly inaccurate during the last two second halves.
As his former head coach Andy Reid used to put it, he’s got to clean that up.
Fortunately it has not cost them yet, but if it continues it will. There's no debating that. And with the Cowboys facing an easier schedule than what lies in front of Philly in the campaign's closing month, a blown lead likely would prove fatal to the Eagles' postseason push.
The Birds have accomplished more than anyone dreamt they could coming into the year. The defense looks like it can hold its own even against good offenses, while Kelly's attack appears to have found its franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Now they just need to learn the intangibles of winning meaningful games late in a season. It is something the franchise hasn't experienced in three years, and a process all young teams have to go through at some point.
If the Birds can figure it out on the fly the division is theirs for the taking.
Is Donovan McNabb serious? The former Eagles quarterback, who also spent two seasons as Washington’s signal caller before being benched and banished by Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, is still holding a grudge against his one-time head coach. The Fox Sports One analyst had some strong words on Tuesday according to Pro Football Talk, saying on his show that Shanahan was trying to distance himself from blame for the Redskins’ struggles this year, instead trying to lay them at the feet of quarterback Robert Griffin III.
“There’s a scapegoat in every situation, and who’s the scapegoat? Robert Griffin,” McNabb said on FS1 according to Pro Football Talk. “This is something I’ve seen when I was in Washington and I’ve seen it since I left. At what point as a head coach will you say, ‘I need to get the guys prepared. It’s my fault. We didn’t play well, I’ll make sure we’re ready tomorrow.’ That’s something that’s been a problem, even since when I was there, when things go wrong.”
First of all, I guess we now know why Andy Reid always took the blame for everything when he was McNabb’s head coach in Philadelphia. If he didn’t, McNabb would wine about it.
Secondly, how does McNabb not realize the problems in Washington were his fault when he was there? The guy simply could not play anymore at that point in his career. You know how I’m sure it was on McNabb not Shanahan? Because he left Washington, went to Minnesota and was so bad he got benched there by the midpoint of the following season. Then after being released by the Vikings, NO ONE IN THE ENTIRE NFL even invited him to training camp. He can sit there and blame Shanahan all he wants, but anyone who watched him play in Washington knows his criticism of how the coach handled him is bogus.
Finally, Shanahan has deflected blame from Griffin publicly this season on countless occasions. He mentions the quarterback is still recovering from a major knee injury almost every time he is asked a negative question about Griffin. He has also provided excuses for the signal caller about how his rehab this offseason prevented the second-year pro from working on his mechanics. McNabb may see these statements as criticism, but I think most rational individuals realize they are examples of a coach providing public cover for his quarterback.
At the same time, Griffin has been awful this year. Maybe he rushed his recovery from the reconstructive surgery he underwent this offseason, but he has cost the Redskins multiple games with bad decisions. On top of that his inaccuracy has been painful to watch, exemplified by Monday night’s loss to San Francisco, when Griffin completed just 17 passes for 127 yards and no touchdowns. On the season Griffin has completed less than 60 percent of his passes (in a west-coast offense no less) and has thrown 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Last year the rookie had 20 TD passes and only five picks.
He has been bad, and while the head coach has tried to sugarcoat it, sometimes there is only so much you can do. Actions outweigh words.
McNabb evidently does not understand that concept however. Then again, we should all be used to Donovan McNabb living in an alternate reality. It’s where the former quarterback spends most of his time.
Well the statute of limitations on an FCS national championship was confirmed on Monday. Less than 12 months after the University of Delaware fired head coach K.C. Keeler, James Madison parted ways with its long-time head coach Mickey Matthews after the Dukes wrapped up a disappointing 6-6 season on Saturday. What do the two men have in common? They both were let go from their respective schools nine years after raising the national title trophy.
Both Matthews and Keeler experienced serious highs during their tenures, but neither was able to generate consistent success. Keeler reached the playoffs only four times in a decade on the sidelines in Newark, while Matthews' teams had missed the postseason in four of the previous five campaigns.
While no one wants to see somebody lose their job, UD fans can take joy in the misery of their rivals from Harrisonburg. The Delaware-James Madison series developed into a no-love-lost affair under the tutelage of Matthews and Keeler, with each program taking a turn as the best in the CAA. Unfortunately for both fan bases neither was able to live up to the promise that each program enjoyed. With UD's history and JMU's resources, many observers assumed that the Hens and Dukes would live near the top of the FCS mountain for the rest of the previous decade after their championships. That never materialized and it cost the two head coaches dearly.
As interesting as the move at JMU is, it may not even matter for UD moving forward. Experts suggest it appears likely that James Madison will leave the CAA after this season and move up a level to the FBS. If the transition is as imminent as many feel it to be, it only makes sense to part ways with Matthews now. if he couldn't find success in the FCS, why would that change against stiffer competition? It likely wouldn't.
The loss of the Dukes will be felt by Delaware and the CAA. The league already had to sweat out sneaking a third team into the FCS playoffs over the weekend. Delaware would probably have been left out of the field even if it had held on to register an eighth win during its regular-season finale against Villanova. The Dukes leaving will only weaken the overall national impression of the football product, which isn't good for anyone. Elon comes aboard next year, but that isn't the kind of trade commissioner Tom Yeager will be bragging about.
That is a matter for another day. For now the dismissal of Matthews gives Delaware fans a chance to think back to what could have been. Less than a decade removed from thinking he and Keeler would wage an annual battle for the crown of the top football conference in the country, both men are looking for work. Meanwhile both programs are searching for a path back to elite status.
It is amazing how quickly a landscape can shift in sports.