Hopefully, there was no need for any Eagles fans to cancel their Super Bowl reservations Sunday. Those reservations never should have been made in the first place.
The Eagles started out 2-0, but those were a pair of one-point victories. With nine turnovers in two games, it was amazing they were 2-0. The perfect record disguised their flaws, at least for some people.
But the Eagles have the same flaws they had last season. Michael Vick holds the ball too long and takes too many hits. The play-calling ignores the running game for extended periods of time. And the Eagles turn the ball over far too often. At least the defense has improved.
We saw these flaws last season. We’ve witnessed them again during the Eagles’ first three games, although they ran the ball more consistently in their 24-23 victory over the Ravens. Those flaws were certainly exposed during Sunday’s embarrassing 27-6 loss to the Cardinals and former Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb.
The next three teams on the Eagles’ dance card are the Giants, Steelers and Lions. If the Eagles don’t correct the problems that have plagued them last season, they might not be above .500 when their bye arrives in Week 7.
Then again, if they don’t fix what ails them soon, Vick might be sidelined by injuries before they reach the bye week. That should end the Super Bowl talk, once and for all.
GOING, GOING, GONE: Sunday was an equally bad day for the Phillies. Their margin of defeat was much slimmer than the Eagles’, but Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Braves eliminated any rational thoughts of the Phillies making the playoffs.
The loss dropped the Phillies five games behind the Cardinals in the race for the National League’s second wild card berth. The Phillies not only have to catch the Cardinals, but they have to pass the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Brewers on the way. That’s a lot to ask for a team with just nine games remaining.
One factor that makes the Phillies’ task even more difficult is they don’t face any of the teams in front of them. In fact, in a scheduling quirk, none of the contending NL wild card teams face each other during the season’s final 10 days.
Even without all the teams in the way, there’s considerable doubt that the Phillies could catch the Cardinals. With their season on the line, they managed just 11 hits during their series against the Braves, including a total of five in their two defeats.
RED FLAG: Phillies fans’ concern about Roy Halladay is warranted. After lasting just 1 2/3 innings against the Braves on Saturday and allowing seven runs – all with two outs – Halladay’s record dropped to 10-8 and his ERA ballooned to 4.40.
Halladay, 35, did not have good location Saturday. He hasn’t looked like himself all season, from the early reports of his velocity decreasing to how he’s looked since coming off the disabled list (right shoulder) in July. Halladay pitched more innings over the previous six years than any pitcher in the majors.
Manager Charlie Manuel has insinuated that Halladay might have to change his offseason routine. Perhaps the workaholic Halladay could spend less time throwing during the offseason. Although injuries haven’t been a big problem for Halladay, there is a lot of mileage on his arm. Whatever he does, Phillies fans have to hope Doc finds the cure for what’s ailing him before next season.
OFFICIALLY AWFUL: While watching Penn State’s 24-13 victory over Temple, I wondered if the NCAA had followed the NFL’s lead and started using replacement officials. The calls in the secondary were particularly egregious.
On third-and-four at Penn State’s 28-yard line, Temple quarterback Chris Coyer lofted a pass down the right sideline. After the pass fell incomplete, a late penalty flag was thrown for pass interference on what seemed like incidental contact.
But the officials were just getting warmed up. On Penn State’s ensuing possession, Temple was called for pass interference for even less contact than the play described in the preceding paragraph. Those two calls paled in comparison, however, to the pass interference call on the Nittany Lions two series later, which wiped out a 15-yard gain.
Penn State completed a pass along the left sideline, but was called for offensive pass interference. The pass interference was apparently called in the middle of the field, although replays failed to show anything that could be vaguely construed as pass interference. By comparison, the offensive pass interference call that wiped out a Ravens touchdown against the Eagles was a Hall of Fame call.
If I were a supervisor, the official who threw this flag would not work another game until a review of his work is completed. If I had a replacement available, I would have removed him at halftime. Seriously.
One play later, another Penn State gain on a pass to Michael Zordich was wiped out by a terrible holding call. Every time a hustling defensive lineman falls down with an offensive lineman near him is not holding.
By the way, did I mention that all of these calls were made during the second quarter? The second quarter culminated with a “targeting the head” penalty on Temple safety Justin Gildea on a tackle of Penn State tight end Kyle Carter. This was another awful call. Gildea was square to Carter and hit his shoulder, not his head. Fortunately, this half-the-distance-to-the-goal penalty occurred at the 2-yard line, only costing Temple one yard.
There were additional examples in the second half, including a fumble ruling against Carter, who was hit in the head (not called), had his knee down and rolled over before the ball came loose. Fortunately, that ruling was overturned on replay. We weren’t so lucky on the other judgment calls. Thank goodness this game wasn’t close enough to be decided by an official’s blown call.
WILDCATS REBOUND: After losing its opener to Temple, Villanova has bounced back with three straight wins, including Saturday’s 24-8 triumph over Penn, exceeding its victory total (2) from last season.
BIG MAC: Temple departed for the Big East, but the Mid-American Conference (MAC) is still looking strong. Saturday’s results indicate that Ohio’s season-opening victory over Penn State may not have been a fluke. Northern Illinois upset the Big 12’s Kansas, 30-23; Central Michigan slipped past the Big Ten’s Iowa, 32-31; Ball State beat the Big East’s South Florida, 31-27; and Western Michigan defeated Connecticut, 30-24.
Before Penn State’s opener, I warned that Ohio was a very good team and was the class of the MAC. After Saturday, I’m more convinced of the veracity of the first half of that statement than I am of the second half.
GIANT RISK: All the trends seemed to be against the Giants entering Thursday’s game at Carolina. They were going on the road with only three days off between games; they were coming off an emotional comeback victory; and they were decimated by injuries to key players. The Giants, the defending Super Bowl champs, were favored by just one point.
The result? Giants 36, Panthers 7. That’s why they call it gambling.
SHIFTING RESPONSIBILITIES: The promotion of Tony DiLeo from assistant general manager to general manager, with GM Rod Thorn moving into a consultant’s role, makes a lot of sense. The move allows for continuity, and we already know that DiLeo can work with Thorn and head coach Doug Collins.
What doesn’t make sense are the reports that DiLeo was the top choice. If that were the case, there would have been no need to interview and contact all the potential candidates the Sixers contacted. DiLeo might do a very good job, and he deserves the opportunity to be GM. But don’t insult us with the “he was our top choice all along” nonsense.
LOCKOUT TALK: The first NHL preseason games will be wiped out this week. Try not to get too broken up over this news.
ROUND AND ROUND: The first two Chase for the Sprint Cup races were won by Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. But the constant in the two races was Jimmie Johnson, who finished second.
Johnson leads the overall standings, one point in front of Keselowski and seven in front of Hamlin. I listed these three drivers as the favorites to win the Chase, although I went outside the box to pick Jeff Gordon, who finished third Sunday at New Hampshire, as the surprise winner. Johnson will try to build on his lead Sunday when NASCAR comes to Dover, one of Johnson’s favorite tracks.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 24 years, was disgusted with the officiating during the Penn State-Temple game – as you might be able to tell.