Wednesday, September 22
Eagles tough to beat at home
By John Madden
The Eagles are a tough team to beat at home, especially when the visiting team doesn't take advantage of opportunities! When you think of the 2004 Eagles you think of Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens, but through the years the Eagles have always been kept in games by their hard hitting, good tackling defense. This year they've seen a lot of changes on the defensive side of the ball. They brought in Jevon Kearse and brought back a couple of old faces in Hugh Douglas and Jeremiah Trotter but at the same time they lost both of their long time cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor who were replaced with Sheldon Brown and Lito Shepperd. That tough tackling defense is what did in the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. The Eagles were able to build a lead and then in the second half Jim Johnson, their defensive coordinator, went to work to secure the lead.
The Vikings had their chance early and if they had capitalized it would have changed the game. It is a lot easier to play with a lead then to try to fight back from a deficit especially against this team. The opportunities came early and often in the first half. They were able to drive the length of the field and had the ball inside the red zone and a goal to go situation and were stopped three times and had to settle for a Morten Andersen 19-yard field goal. Then on another opportunity they got down to the goal and QB Daunte Culpepper fumbled as he attempted to score and the Eagles recovered the ball.
Against a defense like the Eagles you have to take advantage of the opportunities when they are in front of you. So you knew when those bullets were dodged and they came out in the second half there was going to be a more aggressive blitzing defense on the field for the Eagles.
Donovan McNabb was something in this game, he made a play for the touchdown where the Vikings defense wanted to seal off the right side and force him to scramble to his left. He started around the right side, had nowhere to go and then rolled back around to his left and headed straight up the middle for a touchdown. That is a perfect example of having a mobile quarterback who can throw the ball, run and throw the ball or just tuck it away and make a play with his feet.
Brian Westbrook is a good back for them, even though he isn't going to be a work horse back and really get in there and bang for those tough yards, but he can take 17 or 18 touches a game and make them quality touches. Some might say that they just don't have enough running backs, you have to include McNabb in that lot as well, he is just as dangerous with his feet as he is with his arm. In addition they run the west coast offense where you have short passes that replace some of your runs but are just as effective.
Like I said earlier the Vikings found most of their problems down in the red zone, they were able to effectively move the ball in the middle of the field and then when the field got shortened they just weren't able to convert on their chances. Not all of that credit can go to the defense of the Eagles, the Vikings did a fair share of shooting themselves in the foot. Not only did Culpepper fumble on the goal the offensive line was also taking penalties that put more pressure on them to convert, all of those things along with playing on the road make winning football games a tough thing to do.
I think this was real test for the Vikings. Before we went on the air Al Michaels asked me if I thought the Vikings could be a Super Bowl team and I told him that we don't know that now but we were going to find out a little more tonight. That would be quite a jump for them to go from missing the playoffs to being a Super Bowl team but I do think that they could be a playoff team, but they have to learn to play more consistently and not self-destruct especially on the road.