and it's gonna be trouble. I didn't make it to Kezar Pub, where the Birds fans congregate, because a couple of friends went early and it was wall-to-wall by 9:30, partly because of the rugby world cup. Wound up watching the game at an English pub in the Haight full of fucking cheeseheads. Missed the first half (I know that makes me a bad fan, but I had a good excuse), got there when it was tied, talked a bunch of painkiller smack on Favre, made a Mark Chmura crack or two, the usual.
Thoughts on the game: I've seen worse. The one thing that really bothers me is that it's an NFC game, so it might come back to haunt them in tiebreakers and such later (a la the horseshit 62-yard field goal loss to Tampa last year). We'd beaten the Pack five straight times, including probably the greatest single Eagles play I've ever witnessed -- one of those few plays for which I'll always remember where I was when it happened (although that's sort of easy, since the answer's usually Old Chicago), so they owed us. Plus it was in Lambeau, and they've got a good defense.
And the Eagles played well enough to win. The Eagles offense is what it is: baffling, maddening, inconsistent, but occasionally explosive and good enough when it needs to be. (Even in a weak effort, the offense played well enough to win today.) The playcalling sucked, overall, and yet the fact that the play breakdown was something like 28/33 run/pass is very heartening to me. D-Mac didn't look sharp, and his stats weren't great, but there were four or five dropped passes in the third quarter alone that really hurt. He often starts seasons poorly; he'll be fine. Reggie Brown disappeared for a game, as he is wont to do, but Jason Avant had a nice game in his place.
The defense was what really worried me going in, considering they had three new starting linebackers and a few new d-linemen, and they were really bad last year, especially against the run. Granted, it's the Packers, but the D was stellar: no offensive TDs allowed, right around 50 rushing yards, a couple of turnovers.
Special teams lost this game. Specifically, Greg Lewis and J.R. Reed's respective foibles -- Lewis botching one kick that wound up a Packers TD, and Reed screwing the pooch completely on a hapless fair-catch attempt that directly cost the Eagles the game. But I have a hard time blaming either of them, considering neither has returned punts before. We had a reliable and sure-handed, if decidedly non-dangerous, returner for the last few years in Reno Mahe, whom I like perhaps too much because he's Vai Sikahema's cousin. He also worked at Chickie and Pete's part-time in the offseason and is reportedly related to the Barbarian. Then we cut him because Reid and Co. were so high on Jeremy Bloom, a skier who has since been cut himself. Luckily, I think this whole punt-return situation is a pretty easy fix: sign Reno, who's still a free agent, mostly because he's not very good at anything but catching punts. Rumor has it (on Igglephans) the team plans to bring him in for a tryout. At least you know what you get with him: he's never returned a punt for a TD, but he had one of the NFL's best YPRs last year, and he rarely fumbles. Besides, if the Birds are in a situation where they really need a big return, they've still got this guy. (The first play of that clip is one of my all-time Eagles top 5. God, I love beating the Giants.)
Then just cut Reed to make room for him. He's expendable, as much as everybody likes him after that ghastly injury and his gutsy comeback. He was never that good to begin with.
In other words, despite what the predictable Philly reaction has been thus far, the sky's not falling. But we absolutely must beat Washington next Monday.
Thoughts on other games I watched, at least in part:
LT is the single most amazing football player I've ever seen play. If he were an Eagle I would probably become his stalker. I've always put away my homerishness when it comes to him, and agreed that he's the best back in football, so I often think that I realize how good he is. Then I watch him play, and realize that I didn't realize. I'm no historian, but I can't imagine there's ever been a RB who was clearly better.
That said, the Chargers as a whole did not impress me, and Philip Rivers in particular does not -- and never has -- strike me as anything more than an above-average NFL QB. And not that far above average.
On the flip side of that game, the Bears are pretenders, just like I've been saying. Their best scoring option is a punt returner.
Regarding other predictions I made a while ago ...
I wish I had considered the Rams' defense before anointing them.
I stick with my Lions pick.
I might be wrong about the Panthers/Saints, but I'm not conceding that just yet. Let's see the Panthers do something against a team that has a secondary. (Why the hell don't opposing DCs just game-plan to triple Steve Smith? He's the only good player on that entire offense!)
The Giants are in real trouble.
Next season, the Redskins might be as good as everybody seems to think they are right now.
I hate the Patriots more than I have any right to hate a team from another conference.
I didn't get to see the Seahawks game, but it sounds like they had a solid performance against a mediocre team, which -- in all seriousness -- is harder than it sounds. And the stats seem to indicate that both Hasselbeck and Alexander played well. Still, the fact that the Bucs were trailing by 4 in the third quarter in Seattle should keep Seth's claims of NFC dominance in check for another week or two. Or dare I dream? I'm curious to see what they do against a good team.
Thus far, their defensive travails notwithstanding (Plaxico Burress is the most underrated WR in the NFL by a wide margin), I would have to say the best team in the NFC is not the Bears nor Saints nor Eagles nor Hawks, but the Cowboys. Now let me go wash the taste of vomit out of my mouth ...