At some point in your life, you’ve probably known a rock-bottom person. Maybe a friend, or family member, coworker, acquaintance, etc. (Editor’s note: For me, it’s The Pundit. He’s a carousal of emotion). Essentially, a rock-bottom person is someone who absolutely won’t change their life, however bad it may be getting, until it gets to the indisputable breaking point. Someone who doesn’t learn their lessons in life until those lessons add up and push them to a place of darkness and despair.
The 2008 Philadelphia Eagles are starting to resemble a rock-bottom team.
It seemed that the tie against the Bengals would be the absolute low for this team. And in terms of a team performance, it may have been. But then came the blowout loss to the Ravens, and the benching of Donovan McNabb at halftime during a 10-7 game. To me, that was the rock-bottom for both the face of this franchise, Donovan McNabb, and its head coach, Andy Reid. The season seemed lost.
But that’s the funny thing about the rock-bottom person – if they are able to pull themselves back from the depths of their fall, they often become people who do well for themselves in life. See, many rock-bottom people possess a lot of potential and energy, but never learn how to harness their abilities. Thus, once they start focusing this energy in a positive direction, the results are often staggering and inspiring.
For the 2008 Philadelphia Eagles, a revitalized focus on the running game has seemed to pull them from their own place of darkness.
It was evident last week against the Cardinals, and it was apparent once more this week against the Giants. It should be noted, of course, that the defense played a wonderful game, stuffing the Giants’ potent ground attack and seemingly keeping Eli Manning off-balance all game. McNabb avoided making big mistakes, taking the plays that the Giants defense gave him. L.J. Smith rose from the ashes and gave a brilliant performance, eating up yards after the catch and remaining Donovan’s favorite target throughout the day.
But this was a day that belonged to the Eagles offensive line, and the man among boys, Brian Westbrook. B-West finished the day with 131 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries, and 72 yards and another TD on 6 receptions. Think the extra days of rest helped Westbrook a bit? He was the best player on the field, and patiently, in his ever-shifty way, broke the Giants defense in the second half.
But he couldn’t have done it alone – the Eagles offensive line played their best game of the year. They won the time of possession battle, 34:54 to 25:06, which was absolutely huge. A gigantic reason for that success was that they ran the ball effectively, and often. But they also kept themselves on the field, converting 12 of their 18 third-down attempts. And while much of the credit has to go to Donovan McNabb’s execution in the passing game, the Eagle’s offensive line gave him the time he needed to run the offense; he was sacked only once the entire game.
Surely, it wasn’t a perfect performance. The Birds were penalized nine times to the tune of 73 yards. They had two field goals blocked. The road to recovery is a long one – it isn’t whether you have setbacks that matter. That is to be expected.
It’s whether you overcome them. (Editor’s note: And now I feel like I’m reading a script for an episode of Intervention or something).
So the question remains – who are these Eagles? Is this the team we can expect for the rest of the year? Or was this game the combination of a stellar, well-balanced performance by the Eagles, and a flat one by the Giants, each unlikely to be repeated by their respective teams?
Quite frankly, I don’t give a damn right now – I’m just really glad that next week’s game actually matters. And being a Monday night game, Westbrook will have an extra day to rest his surely weary bones. The extra rest this week certainly helped the Birds. That being said, its hard to argue against the notion that the philosophy-shift in Andy Reid’s offensive gameplan the past two weeks has been the major reason for their success. And really, after the debacles against the Bengals and Ravens, what choice did Andy have?
See, sometimes, for a team to maximize their potential, they need to hit rock bottom. They need the motivation that comes from desperation, from having the season hanging in the balance every time they step on the field. Here’s hoping the Eagles keep fighting back toward the light.
And more importantly, the playoffs.