Eagles 26, Stillers 23 ��. Nov. 12th, 2000 Game #10
Stillers-Iggles Post Game Analysis & Grades:
This was the kind of game Billy Cowher loves -- close to the vest, fairly low-scoring, play not-to-lose. Problem was, this is precisely the kind of game Billy has lost down the stretch the past 2 seasons, and in a remarkable fashion quite similar to crushing defeats to Detroit in '98 and Cleveland in '99, the Stillers snatched defeat from victory with a disastrous loss to the Iggles. The game was there for the taking, with the Iggle offense struggling mightily and the Iggle defense getting rolled over by Bettis and company. But the offense produced little (Joey Porter scored 7 of the 23 points), and left the Iggles close enough for a heroic comeback. Just as in 3 of the 4 previous losses, the defense faltered badly at the end and failed to make the big stop to win the game.
1. Stewart's hideous INT late in 1st quarter, snuffing a decent drive and giving the Iggles an easy FG.
2. PI call on Chad, giving Philly 1st and goal, which resulted in a short TD pass to Thomason.
3. Short dump to wide open Cecil Martin, with huge RAC for 26-yard gain, setting up 3d qtr. FG to push Philly to 13-6 lead.
4. Bettis' 7-yd TD run, tying the game at 13.
5. Porter's fumble recovery and 32-yard dash for TD, giving the Stillers a 4th quarter lead.
6. Small fails to see a wide open receiver near EZ on "double pass", and instead keeps ball for one yard. Next play, Akers' FG attempt hit the upright, which would have made it a 20-16 game.
7. Philly recovers onsides KO to set up game-tying FG.
8. In OT, Pritchett catches middle dump and rumbles for 16-yards, putting Philly in easy position for game-winning FG try.
QB: The Western Union Man had another miserable outing, going 14-31 for a paltry 159 yards. Stewart spent an extraordinary amount of time telegraphing throws by staring at receivers, as well as throwing at least 10 passes into the turf at the feet of wide open receivers. The INT was a low throw aimed at no one in particular, and just as in last week's game, there easily could have been 3 other INTs had Eagle defenders not been so generous in dropping the pigskin. Also annoying was Stewart's poor pocket presence, which, due to his locking in on a receiver, inhibited him from sliding a few feet here-and-there to gain an open line-of-sight or elude some corner pressure. Failing to do any of this, Stewart had several passes either batted, or sprayed off-kilter when his arm was hit. Stewart was also stripped of the ball in the pocket, and then foolishly failed to jump on the ball, but luckily we recovered to avoid a brutal turnover. A sorry showing. D.
RB: Bettis, as expected, had a field day against the soft Philly run defense, gaining 134 yards on 34 carries, and a TD. The TD run was a good 7-yarder, in which he read and cut well. Bettis dished out plenty of punishment as well. Huntley was actually permitted to carry the ball on a play other than 3rd down and 13. Though he did have the obligatory 3rd down carry, he had 4 rushes on the day for 31 yards, plus 1 grab for 5. A.
FB: Dan Kreider continued his strong work, leading the way for many of Bettis' runs, including a bone-crushing pancake block on MLB J. Trotter that paved the way for Bettis' TD run. As each game goes by, I continue to get more and more perplexed as to how this man was cut in favor of Jon Witman. A.
WR: Courtney Hawkins, of all people, led this crew today with 4 grabs for 71 yards. Most of that came on a 33-yard reception, in which Hawk caught a mid-range lob and gained decent yardage after hauling it in. Burress had his usual drop, and chipped in only with a 4-yard dump as a safety valve on a blitz. He was blasted by a personal foul after the drop, and apparently was woozy thereafter. Troy and Ward each had 2 grabs on piddly underneath stuff. Shaw had his usual clutch 25-yard gain, but that was the only time the ball was thrown to him all day. Ward was flagged for not one, but two PI penalties. C.
TE: Cushing had 1 catch for a whopping 3 yards. The blocking by Matt and Breuner was pretty solid. Breuner committed his usual false start on a play that was a simple line plunge. B.
OL: As a whole, the OL played fairly decently. When your RBs average 4.5 (Bus) and 7.8 (Hunt) YPR, there's some good blocking going on at the point of attack. Duffy even filled in admirably for Dawson. However, Gandy was guilty of getting caught flat-footed a couple times, and was also flagged for a hold. Tharpe got abused by a speed rush from Mamula, which resulted in a sack. Appaerntly Tharpe is locked in stone in the starting lineup, but it's becoming apparent that Shar or Smith should be getting platoon work to assist the fatiguing Tharpe. Faneca committed his weekly boner by allowing a defender to race right by him for a free shot at the QB. All in all, facing a sack-happy Philly defense, this crew held its own. B.
DL: The DL was fairly solid today, though they melted a bit as the game wore on in the 2d half. Up to that point, they'd stuffed Autry for a measly amount of rushing yards. However, Pritchett came in and found some holes for decent gains. Smith did stunt in for a sack, and Kimo chipped in one, but the pass pressure and pocket-push were pretty negligible all game. Kimo was also flagged for a questionable holding call on a 3rd & 9 pass play. B-.
LB: This was a decent overall effort. Kirkland had a pretty strong game, both in run-stuffing and pass defense. Holmes led the team in tackles with 6 solos and 2 assists, plus two passes defended. He was, however, guilty of a foolish 15-yard masking penalty. Gildon and Porter each had a sack, both of which were coverage sacks, and Gildon had a bat at the LOS. Gildon was also pancake-blocked by center Bubba Miller on his rush on a 4th and 1 pass, and also whiffed on an easy stop of Pritchett in the 4th quarter that bloated into a 9-yard gain. Porter had the big defensive play, returning a fumble 32 yards for a TD. B.
DB: Facing a lowly Eagle receiving corps that had done little all season, the secondary took some unexpected beatings. It was pretty obvious that Philly's game plan was to target Chad Scott, and they picked on Scott all frigging day. Scott ended up being called for two PI calls, one of which he was beaten on & could have been a TD had he not interfered. The other was far better coverage and was a pretty ticky-tack call. There was actually one other flag thrown on Chad, on a post pattern to the EZ, which really should have been PI on Chad, but the refs, perhaps feeling guilty on the 2nd PI call, picked up the flag and ruled "no-penalty". Flowers was flagged early on for illegal contact, and then for a ticky-tack personal foul on Pritchett on the late TD drive. Since Lee had both feet in-bounds, and was simply responding to Pritchett's lowering of head & shoulders in an attempt to plow, Lee had no choice but to deliver a blow, and there's no way he could have seen Pitchett's toenail go out-of-bounds just prior to the hit. Townsend, too, was flagged for a ticky-tack blow-to-the-face penalty in the first half. Flowers was the man who delivered the crunching hit to cause the Pritchett fumble, which Porter returned for a TD. Overall, the coverage was decent, but down the stretch, they played a bit soft and allowed Philly to move the ball with good effectiveness. B-.
Spec Teams: The spec teams really let the team down today. Aside from the onsides kick, there weren't any monumental fiascoes, but there was enough spotty play to help Philly stay close and claw back into a tie. Both the kickoffs, and kickoff coverage, denigrated badly in the 4th quarter and OT. After we'd taken the 10-point lead with about 3:40 left, Kris kicked a pitiful kickoff that went only to the Philly 20, and Philly began at its own 43. Then, to begin OT, Kris boomed a kickoff all the way to the 13, and a solid return by Mitchell gave Philly the ball at the 37. Hawkins had the best chance for a decent punt return on the one returnable punt he fielded, but instead diddled and danced for no gain. Hank tried returning 3 punts, but sparse blocking gave him no chance at all to do much. Troy was a bit hesitant and meek on his KO returns. Simmons allowed a rolling punt to bounce over his head and into the EZ, which prevented a punt being downed at the one. Fiala was flagged for a 15-yard mask, and Chad Scott flagged for a holding on a punt return. Then there's the onsides kickoff, which Philly actually recovered twice, but the 1st time the man was only 9 1/2 yards downfield. What was hilarious, was listening to the boneheaded TV announcer prior to the first attempt, when he boldly stated, "This is about the last team ya wanna try an onsides kickoff against, since they're so well coached and prepared by Bill Cowher, blah blah blah." Yeah, right!! The onsides recovery team was so well coached, that on both occasions, the Stillers were standing BACK flatfooted while the Eagle "hands-team" was racing and jumping and diving at the ball. On the successful onsides kick, Breuner missed a catchable stab at the ball, and then Alex missed, too. All the while, Jerame Tuman was inexplicably trying to tackle the Eagle who was jumping after the ball, as though Tuman thought he was trying to stop a goal-line plunge rather than trying to pluck a critical onsides kick. The only bright spots from the ST all day, was Kris Brown, perhaps with a brisk wind at his back, booting a 52-yard FG, and Amoz's dumping of Brian Mitchell onto his head on the opening kickoff of the 2d half. Other than that, the special teams stunk like owl shit. D-.
Off Coord: It's a pretty sad state of affairs, when you tune-out your 4 best receivers and make Courtney Hawkins the focal point of your passing attack. Hawkins was thrown at least 8 passes today, while Burress, Shaw, Edwards and Ward were oftentimes ignored. The running game worked well, as it should have against a porous run defense. But the offense converted only 4 of 15 3rd down conversions, which is entirely unacceptable for a team that was dominating the line of scrimmage and jamming the ball down the Iggles' throats. In the first quarter alone, this offense had two 3rd-and-2's, and miserably failed both times. It's evident that Gaypride has done nothing to improve the crispness and conduct of how plays are planned & called. Late in the 1st half, we completed a crosser to Troy for 18, and then called a TO with 1:00 left. Ok, fine. The next play, we hit Shaw on a crosser for 25 yards, and we call another TO. WHY ??? This is ludicrous for an NFL team to continually either refuse, or be unable, to run 2 consecutive plays that should be decided upon during a timeout. Then, on the 1st drive of the 3rd quarter, two plays showed Gaypride's poor coaching, poor preparation, and poor handling of time management. Just before the third play, Stewart had to call a TO because the clock had wound down way too far as the team departed the huddle. Somehow this promising drive pushed us to the Iggle 25. But on 2nd and 5, a D.O.G flag cost us 5 yards. I attribute both the wasted TO & this penalty to Gaypride, in the Gay Play o' the Day, for taking an absurd amount of time to get the play called and in to the huddle. This nonsense has gone on nearly every game the past 2 seasons, and I'm far past being fed up with this middle-school bullshit. D.
Def Coord: The defense played a pretty solid game for about 57 minutes, but as is their nature, they got soft, tentative, and too wrapped up in a "play not to lose" mindset, allowing Philly to march up and down the field the last 3 times they had possession. The occasional use of the 3-man rush during the game was sickening. Even more sickening was how Philly, apparently during their halftime pow-wow, decided that they'd get the ball to RBs in the flat, and Lewis never once adjusted to this. After the half, time after time after time, Philly killed us with dumpoffs -- sometimes planned and sometimes valve dumps -- to wide-open backs in the flat or cutting back to the middle. Just look at Philly's longest receptions --- Martin, 26, Autry 20, Pritchett 16, Mitchell 13 & TD. McNab was scattering his passes as poorly as Stewart was, but Lewis made his life a cupcake by failing to put pressure on him and failing to adjust to the wide-open dumpers to RBs. The end result was this defense once again, in four of our five losses, giving up a late scores in the 4th quarter after the Stillers had a lead. I was actually a bit pleased the TD-less streak came to an end, because, frankly, this defense couldn't hold the jock straps of the '76 defense. D.
Head Coach: Little Billy, ever the lover of the "let's keep it close and see how it turns out in the 4th quarter", once again saw how it turns out -- into a loss. It's doubtful he'll learn from this, but this is what happens when you play "play not to lose" football. You allow a team to lead you at home going into halftime, despite being significantly outgained. You then get the lead, but then get soft and allow 3 consecutive marches down the field for scores that end up losing you the ballgame. The mindset is established by the head coach, and when you play with a "play not to lose" mindset, you're immediately on weak footing facing an opponent who is trying to win a ballgame. D.
Without question, this is the kind of game that can divide a team, and the exact kind of game I feared would occur. The fingers will be pointed at the defense for its shameful imitation of a sieve the last 3 Philly possessions, and rightfully so. But the defense will quickly point to an inept offense that was incapable of putting a sagging Philly team out of its misery. Games like this -- much like the Detroit and Cleveland losses of yesteryear -- tend to stew for a long period of time and tend to lead to miserable finishes, such as the ones the Stillers suffered in both '98, and '99. It'll be interesting to see if this loss, too, leads to a long nosedive in the stretch run of this season. Regrettably, I think this will erode into a miserable stumble to the finish line. The passing offense hasn't improved even one ounce since camp began, and it's absurd to think it will magically "see the light" this late in the season. More and more teams will stack the line and dare Stewart to beat them, which clearly won't happen with any regularity. The defense is capable of hanging tough, but their patience, spirit, and fight is gradually eroding, just as it did the past two seasons.
The Still Mill