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BIRDLAND: Don’t Call It A Comeback

 

BY JOE PAONE IGGLES CORRESPONDENT With an atmospheric gloom smothering the city, it was prime Bird-watching time. And there I was, jumping out of my comfy chair, pumping my fist and screaming “YEAH!!!!” at key plays during an Eagles game like I’d done countless times in the past—but not a single time this year.

Even when this team won three of its first four games, the wins weren’t exactly scintillating. The view back then was, “Wow, they’re a mess so far, especially the defense, but what a bunch of gamers.”

Then came the next eight games, which were perhaps the most trying and dispiriting stretch in my long history of Eagles fandom. Worn down by the endless negativity surrounding the team—including my own, in this very column—it seemed hope was lost, that the franchise was hopelessly adrift with no real prospect of competing in the near-future.

And then yesterday happened, and my bipolar romance with my gridiron muse was rekindled.

I was mildly impressed by the first half performance of the defense—a feeling that dissipated in the second half. With my nemesis Kurt Coleman out, most of my ire was directed at the continually baffling Nnamdi Asomugah. I’m not sure if his position is “cornerback” or “chaperone” at this point, but he has been really, really painful to watch throughout his disaster of an Eagles career. I really would like to see more Curtis Marsh and less Nnamdi the rest of the way.

The D may have been collapsing (although it ultimately held), but all the while, the Eagles offense slowly but surely plugged away, despite a complete shutdown and, as usual, abandonment of the running game.

Three cats in particular were ballin’ out there: Nick Foles, Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin. Those three willed this team to a win by displaying remarkable skill and determination. Their performance was all the more impressive, given the absence of Shady McCoy and DeSean Jackson and the shutdown of Bryce Brown. The Buccaneers took Brown away and dared Foles to beat them, despite the pitiful pass defense they’ve played this year. Their plan backfired.

I’ve looked in Foles’ eyes during games and press conferences and wondered if he wasn’t a bit slow on the uptake. But now I’m wondering if Foles’ eyes just take the world in at a different speed. He showed great confidence and poise amidst the heat of the Bucs’ pass-rushers’ constant pressure. He displayed a seemingly innate ability to effortlessly sidestep rushers while continuing to look downfield and stay square. His midrange accuracy was impressive (though he still needs to work on the long ball). His teammates fed off his preternatural calm and his skillful field generalship. In short, Foles kicked ass, right down to that big-time winning touchdown pass to Maclin as time expired.

Yeah, they’re just 4-9, but an exciting last-second win is, really, why we watch in the first place. I really enjoyed seeing Andy Reid pumping his fist and hugging his assistants after the game. I took note as Foles, in his postgame press conference, explicitly thanked his coaches for his progress and performance. I thought, maybe we should let Andy and Marty Mornhinweg continue to tutor and mold this quarterback in 2013. The players clearly don’t want Reid to go, but the great majority of the fans still do. The most important opinion, however, will be Jeff Lurie’s. Whatever happens at season’s end, it obviously will be worthy of endless discussion.

But all that can wait. For the next three games, just enjoy watching Foles develop, delight in watching Maclin and Avant display true grit, take solace in the fact that the Eagles played spoiler yesterday in Tampa.

I’m actually looking forward to Thursday night’s game. Sometimes you have to find joy however you can.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Paone has attended nearly every Eagles game with his dad since 1978 and he has the lasting psychological scars to prove it. He also runs a PR firm, plays rock music, and hunts New Yorkers for sport. You can follow him on Twitter  @Birdlandia or contact him at  BeeElevated@gmail.com.

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