Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Predictable End to an Unpredictable Season

Since Saturday night, I have been so disgusted that I have been trying to avoid even thinking about football. I haven't watched any football since, and I AM NOT WATCHING THE SUPER BOWL. I woke up Sunday morning in a fog, actually trying to think of ways that the Birds could still make it to the Super Bowl this year. They lured me once again into thinking that this could be the year we do it, a magical alignment of the stars that seems to bless every other franchise from time to time. This year, that franchise at least in the NFC, appears to be the Saints.

Will it ever be the Birds time? As I've been saying for years, not under Andy Reid it won't. Andy is quickly becoming Marty Schottenheimer. Although his coaching wasn't nearly as weak as it has been in his other playoff loses, he certainly didn't do anything to help the cause. I believe that we have a better, or at least as good of a team, as the Saints this season. The Birds had played hard over the last 6 weeks and were likely very tired. They played like it at least. So, it really came down to coaching, and it's obvious which coach is a winner and which one is not - Sean Payton takes the prize.

Even though I've already done it in my head, it's not worth going through all the plays that brought the Birds to those final disappointing (but oh so typical!) minutes of the game, but overall the teams were pretty evenly-matched. The biggest problem we had was the same problem we had against the Giants - we got handily beaten on the lines. The O-line couldn't stop the Saints bum rush and the D-line couldn't get any penetration - the sacks we did have were coverage sacks. I do think our secondary did a nice job considering no one was open. The Saints were just bigger, stronger men than the Birds were and shoved it down our throats.

Despite the Saints controlling the tempo of the game for the most part, we still had some key opportunities late in the game. So, the most crucial point in the game? 2nd and 1 on the Saints 4 YL with 12 minutes left in the 4th Quarter...and what happened? ANDY REID FOOTBALL BABY! The same BS that occurred the previous week (and really throughout Reid's tenure in Philly - "tricky plays" in short yardage situations). Here's how it played out:

2nd and 1 at NO 4 (12:38) - B.Westbrook right end to NO 4 for no gain (W.Smith).
3rd and 1 at NO 4 (11:57) J.Garcia pass short right to T.Tapeh to NO 6 for -2 yards (S.Fujita).
4th and 3 at NO 6 (11:12) D.Akers 24 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-J.Dorenbos, Holder-K.Detmer.

So, we settled for another FG goal just like we did in the Giants game , and it turned out to be (as I thought it would be at the time), the decisive point in the game. WE NEEDED THAT TOUCHDOWN and a great coach should have known that. A pass to Tapeh? Who...what? Why pass at all? Why not use the biggest O-line in football to jam it down their throats? Or what not bootleg Garcia? Or try Brook again outside? Reid loves to pass on 3rd and short, but it never seems to work, especially when the field is so tight on the goalline. Put Nick Cole and plow someone over if necessary. The Saints are not THAT great on the line. Let your team have a shot at being the bigger man.

Then of course, things went from bad to worse. We were fortunate enough to get the ball back after the Reggie Bush fumble with a great opportunity to march down to tie the game. So, our wonderful play selection was as follows:

1st and 10 at PHI 44 (3:18) (Shotgun) J.Garcia pass short left to B.Westbrook to PHI 43 for -1 yards (F.Thomas).
2nd and 11 at PHI 43 (2:37) B.Westbrook right end to PHI 44 for 1 yard (S.Fujita).
3rd and 10 at PHI 44 (2:02) (Shotgun) J.Garcia pass incomplete short right to B.Westbrook [S.Fujita].

3 plays to Westbrook. Andy, listen up: The Saints heard about Westbrook before this game, and they were obviously keying on him and shutting him down for the most part in the second half. Give it to someone else. Our passing game was working. Stallworth and Reggie were open most of the game, and what about LJ? LJ was completely underutilized. Then, 4th and long after the false start penalty, we all know what happened next: we punt...WE PUNT?? Well, that was the game. We went out with a whimper. I'm sorry, you can argue for Andy's decision all you want.. Dave Spadaro was on WIP this morning defending Andy and hailing this season as a success, but there is no way you punt in that situation. Our Defense was exhausted and couldn't stop the Saints' running game the entire second half. Basically, we had one last shot to get 15 yards. Andy blew it.

The bottom line is that the Saints played an overall better game, controlling the clock and seem to be a tighter organization at this moment. Yes, we were tired and yes, losing Andrews in the second half was huge, but we still could have won that game despite all of that. A few key coaching decisions and you have a 28-27 victory.

I still need to go on one more anti-Reid tirade before next season so more later...


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