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It’s been awhile since we had a home game, that’s for sure. The last time the Eagles played at the Linc was September 25th versus the Raiders. A month is a long time the NFL, and a lot has changed since then with the Eagles.
In the last home game, David Akers was lost for a couple months (he might be back practicing in a couple weeks). After a rough start, his substitute, Todd France, has filled in admirably, but the Eagles are looking at yet another kicker to replace France, Cortez. The Eagles had one of their most entertaining come back games in memory, coming back to beat the Chiefs from a huge deficit – and giving Dick Vermeil something to really cry about. Donovan McNabb’s injury was an excuse for the denizens of Our Fair City to learn all about sports hernias, and the treatment thereof. And the Eagles had one of their most disappointing games in recent history, losing to the Cowboys in Dallas – and managing to play poorly in all aspects of the game.
Then, we had the bye week…can you hear the crickets chirping? While Eagles fans all across the Delaware Valley suffered a 14 day stint of “agita” gnawing on the loss at the hands of Parcells and Company. It’s never good to lose before a bye, and the Eagles under Andy Reid have a losing record heading into the bye, so this is nothing new. Although it’s nothing new, it doesn’t make the agony any better.
All week long the radio talk shows (including the station we broadcast on the New Sports Talk 950 AM …yeah, a shameless plug) talked about what a horrible loss it was and how the Eagles were truly miserable. And most people were right, and we surely don’t feel as confident as we did before the season started. We Eagles fans are diehard, we thing the most diehard, of course and to quote the Late Great Tug McGraw, “Ya Gotta Believe…” As Eagles fans and as fans in Philadelphia, we really have no choice but to believe, because in lieu of championships, faith is all we have.
Going into the game, despite the fact that the Eagles had an extra week to rest and the Chargers had to fly across the country, plenty of people felt nervous about the game. It seemed that San Diego was perhaps the last team (besides the Colts) that the Eagles would want to play at this point in the season. They were a 3-3 team who should have a better record, and they run the ball well, and defend the run well. Well…maybe defending the run doesn’t matter against the Eagles, but the Chargers certainly provided a very tough challenge for the Eagles to have to face, especially considering the injuries to McNabb and others on both sides of the ball.
The tailgate was a little subdued as we headed into the stadium grounds a little earlier than usual. We got into the area around the Linc around 11:30 AM, 90 minutes before kickoff. Now, you know us, we’re all for a good party and long tailgates are fun, but it’s always nice to get a different pre-game experience.
The local top bar/cover band Mr. Greengenes was playing music appropriate for the occasion in one corner of the plaza. Sponsors were giving out trinkets to get personal information from the fans all over the place. There is a bar set up on one side of the plaza, where patrons can watch the network pre-game show, and catch one last brew before heading to their seats. All in all, quite a festive area – a good place to hang out before the game.
In that very area, we were treated to a visit from the Eagles mascot and the Eagles sham mascot. Namely, Swoop and “Stout Swoop”. Swoop is the Eagles official mascot, he gets his picture taken with the team, he drives around on a 4 wheeler like a poor Phillie Phanatic imitation, and generally makes a nuisance of himself. “Stout Swoop” is the unofficial mascot – an angrier looking eagle than Swwop, and 3 times the size – he’s a guy in a giant inflated costume. In fact, he doesn’t even have a real name he gets so little respect from the organization. But Stout Swoop is the REAL mascot, as far as we are concerned, while Swoop is a sham – plain and simple. **(See the bonus section below on Swoop v. Stout Swoop for our reasoning)
Anyway, Dolfi even managed to get Stout Swoop to pose for a picture taken by Last Row guest star Tom Braun. (Thanks for the pic, Brauny!) When Swoop then approached and offered to take a picture with him, Dolfi replied “No thanks.” A guy’s gotta have his standards.
We hit the escalator up to the top row, thanking our lucky stars that we avoid the approximately 42 millions steps up to our seats, stopping only to gather up a few beers each in preparation for the siege that lay ahead of us.
The game started out with the refs blowing their whistles left and right. We aren’t sure exactly how many were passed out (and how many were declined, and so now officially recorded), but let us tell ya – we haven’t seen yellow flags flying that much since the last Philadelphia Lemon Festival. (Ok, ok – you caught us. There is no Philadelphia Lemon Festival. But we couldn’t think of anything else to throw in as a simile, and we felt like it really needed one. So sue us.)
Donovan McNabb looked more mobile after his week off with the bye last week, but somehow he forgot how to actually throw the ball during that week. McNabb was really terrible for the entire day. And he wasn’t just missing guys by a few steps, he wasn’t in the same zip code on some throws. There were a few passes that he threw so short, they literally bounced about 6 yards in front of people – and that was on 10 yard curls!!
This was also the game where Coach Andy Reid was finally going to admit that the Eagles need to run the ball more than 20% of the time to win. Oh wait… we forgot – Andy Reid would rather be covered in honey and rolled in fire ants than ever admit he might in some small part have to adjust his plan for the season. Forget that his QB is banged up – he’ll throw more rather than less. Forget that Dallas exposed the Eagles as a one-dimensional offense last week – he’ll do more of the same to try and prove it was a fluke. So pass, pass, and pass some more is what they did. And with Donny Mac turning in one of his poorest games as a pro (in terms of his individual throws), it looked like the Eagles might be doomed from the start of this game.
Well, not quite the start of the game… the first quarter was so penalty-riddled and so poorly played by both QBs that it might have been hard to imagine either team winning this thing. And the Eagles did manage to get on the board first, when mid-way through the second quarter McNabb was able to wake up out of the funk he was in long enough to find T.O. for a score. At that point, considering the defense was doing an UNBELIEVABLE job against the NFL’s #1 offensive weapon LaDanian Tomlinson, things were looking up for the Eagles.
The rest of the second quarter was largely uneventful, and unexciting – right up until just before halftime. The Eagles manage to stumble down the 13 yard line, just that far away from a 17-point lead (or at the very least a 13 –point lead if they have to settle for the FG) going into the half. There are only 15 seconds on the clock and no time-out for the Birds, so we’re all expecting to see one shot at the endzone, and then Todd France to be sent out if they don’t get it. Well, with 13 yards to go, Andy Reid calls a 10 yard pass play that goes to L.J. Smith and McNabb actually completes a sharp pass – except that it isn’t to the end zone. It’s only 10 yards forward!!! (Actually 9, but what’s a yard among friends?) The clock is still running, the Eagles have no way to stop it but spiking the ball, they run up, McNabb tries in vain to get the line settled, and they hike the ball and down in with 1 second left on the clock. But they couldn’t even get enough people up to the line, so it’s an illegal formation, and by rule 10 seconds are run off the clock. TWEEEET! Halftime. Great job Eagles coaching staff – great job of clock management and great play selection. People in the stands (including your two fearless reporters) are livid. Only a few halftime brews can console us.
To make us feel even better, the Eagles held the Chargers to 3-and-out to start the second half, and then drove down to add a FG and extend their lead to 10-0. Maybe things are looking up, right?
That’s right about when the wheels fell off. Drew Brees starts hitting intermediate route receivers on their next possession, and marches the Bolts down-field, adding 7 points in the process. The Eagles follow with a 3-and-out series where the plays were so predictable, people in the stands were yelling the exact plays as the Eagles would line up. (The Last Row’s Tom Walls was particularly accurate at this.) San Diego ball again, and another drive for 7 points put SD up 14-10 just a minute or so into the 4th quarter.
The Chargers kick-off, rookie Ryan Moats is injured on the play and doesn’t return. (Great season so far for Moats… -sigh-) On the first play, McNabb throws a pass that was so bad it defies explanation. McNabb is (supposedly) trying to hit T.O. as he crosses from right to left, but waits until he is almost to the left sideline. After locking his eyes on T.O. the whole way, when he finally does let go of the ball, T.O. is now TRIPLE covered. For the life of us, we can’t figure out what McNabb was doing here. This was no bad route running, it was just a horrific decision that ends in an interception and gives the Charges the ball just 15 yards away from another score.
Tomlinson finally gets some work now, and after a hand-off to him and a McCardell catch, the Chargers are knocking on the Eagles door – down to the 3 yard line. With the NFLs best RB 1st and goal from the 3, things are looking bad. That’s when, like the Grinch, the Eagles D had their heart grow three sizes that day. They stop Tomlinson from getting in the end zone, only a 2 yard gain to the 1. They upend him, landing him on his head again at the 1, he doesn’t get in. The Chargers are called for offensive holding and backed up to the 11. Tomlinson has a nice little 5 yard run, and on the play following that we saw an all-too-rare sight – Jevon Kearse actually getting penetration and sacking Drew Brees. Kearse has looked a lot less pro-bowl-ish and a lot more Mike-Mamula-ish, lately. Thank god he snapped out of his funk today. The sack puts the Chargers too far back to score a TD and they settle for a FG, San Diego 17-Eagles 10.
The Eagles offense isn’t doing anything so it’s still up to the defense to try and win this one. They pick off Drew Brees and give the offense a short field to work with to try and tie it up or at least close the gap. The offense sputters worse than a Pacer without its 50,000 mile checkup, but the refs come to the rescue -0 tossing a slew of penalties the Chargers way, and forcibly moving the Eagles in FG range. France hit it and it’s 17-13, San Diego still on top.
The Chargers don’t do much on their series and the Eagles get the ball back but are forced to go for a 4th and 1 on the 30. Remember that lack of a running game we mentioned? 4th and 1 and the Eagles try a PASS to Lamar Gordon. Another great coaching call, another Eagles flop.
People start filing out of the stadium at this point – I mean what’s the point right? The Birds stink on offense so bad, no one there has any faith that they could drive the field and tie it up – and that’s only if the Eagles D can hold the Chargers on this series anyway. Not your intrepid reports though. We stayed. We always stay. We preyed like hell for a turnover or something – heck who knows, with T.O. maybe a long TD could still happen if the D could get us the ball back, right?
The Chargers now have only 30 yards to go for a TD, and are pretty much in FG range to really put it away on the Eagles. The Eagles D does another great job, forcing the Bolts to attempt one last FG to widen their lead to 7 points. That’s when the 60% or so of the fans that were still in their seat start yelling as loud as any stadium packed to capacity. We’re really pulling for them to miss this and give the Eagles some sort of life. It’s a chip shot though, so you’re cheering like mad, and you want so BAD for something to go your team’s way, but you know it’s a one-in-a-million shot.
Hike. Ball caught by holder, set down, laces spun out. Keading runs up, strikes the ball… WAIT! From the Eagles left side, someone has made it through the line… QUINTIN MIKELL BLOCKS THE KICK !!! The ball shoots out to the Eagles left side, oh my god, oh my god….MATT WARE HAS THE BALL !!!!! He’s at the 40, the 50, the 40, the 35, gets a final block… the 20, the 10… TOUCHDOWN !!!!!! TOUCHDOWN !!!!!!!
We’re trying to write this in such a way that captures for you the excitement of the moment… but let’s face it – we can’t. You simply had to be there, be a part of the moment, in order to fully appreciate it. People in the stands hugging, crying, exhausted from the nervousness of it all. Only thing was – it wasn’t over yet.
The Chargers get one last chance with the ball, and they don’t waste it. A short kickoff, a decent runback and the Chargers have life. Bang – 9 yards to Gates. Bang – 22 yards to Caldwell. A couple good defense coverage plays, and Bang – a 9 yard pass to Caldwell, and he’s able to run for more, 5 more to the Eagles 25 yard line, a move, 6 more to the 19 yard line – BANG!! Hit by Sheldon Brown…and…and… IT’S LOOSE !!! THE BALL IS LOOSE!!! 2 or 3 guys seem to have it for a second, but don’t. WAIT – I THINK DARWIN WALKER HAS IT! ….. HE DOES!!! HE HAS IT!!! EAGLES WIN !!!! EAGLES WIN!!!!! EAGLES WIN!!!!!!!!!!!
The offense was bad. The coaching was awful. The only bright spot was a defense who held the league’s most dangerous rusher to 7 yards on 17 carries (he had negative yards until the 4th quarter) and stopped his NFL record streak of consecutive touchdown games at 18. They blocked a kick, caused multiple turnovers, and were flat out amazing.
The win wasn’t pretty. It might not have even been deserved. But when it was all over, we saw one of the all-time top-5 finishes to a game in Eagles history. And in the end… that’s all that really mattered.
**Bonus Section: Swoop v. Stout Swoop
Now, we see people who seem to love Swoops antics, but they are typically so contrived, and so unfunny, that we really can’t stand him. That is why, even though Swoop is the official mascot – he is in actuality a SHAM of the highest order – a cheap turkey who has difficulty in throwing a 20 yard pass to fans trying to win gift certificates, let alone doing anything remotely entertaining.
“Stout Swoop” is a FAR better mascot than Swoop could ever hope to be. If you ever saw him, he somehow is able to walk, but his giant inflated legs never bend, and the inflated feathers to either side of his head bounce around crazily. Now THAT is amusing.
But the real reason why Philadelphians have to love Stout Swoop all stems from the only showdown between pee-wee football players and mascots from around the NFL (and other sports franchises – for example the San Diego chicken), we’ve ever seen. It was Stout Swoop and not Swoop who shone as the brightest star.
Stout Swoop was put in on the offensive/defensive lines, I suppose due to his immense size and bulk. But kids are pretty much running by him on the first play or two since he doesn’t really have fine motor skills. And then on offense he is fining it difficult kids who can easily side-step him and run unimpeded to the mascots QB (Swoop).
This only lasts a play or two, and then Stout Swoop begins to put on one of the most dominant displays of mascot vs. pee-wee footballers ever imagined. Stout Swoop begins to use his creativity to open the game up.
On the offensive side, he starts jumping and falling on his side, creating a giant impenetrable balloon-barrier that is too tall for the kids to go over and too wide for them to go around. The mascots can now move the ball seemingly at will as Stout Swoop takes out between 7 and 8 children on every play.
But his most amazing moment came when he was back on defense. The pee-wee team hands the ball off to their star running back, and this kid takes off like a shot. He starts breaking to the side of Stout Swoop, but good ol’ SS isn’t fooled this time, he does the “jump and lay down in front of the kid” maneuver. Well, let me tell ya, this kid hits Stout Swoop, and gets his legs taken out at the knees. His body gets launched up in the air, and his half rotates, eventually crashing to the ground on his head. Easily the biggest hit we’ve ever seen a mascot lay on anyone – and trust us – this kid didn’t try running to Stout’s side again for the short time left in the match. In fact, the kid didn’t run much of anywhere after that.
Oh, we know some people will say “aww!” and their eyes will well up with tears at the thought of that young boy sustaining some possible injury. But let us tell ya, in a town that loves defense and hard hits as much as ANY city in the world – Stout Swoop will forever be the REAL Philly mascot in our hearts.
Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love…B****!!! Award
We always like it when someone we haven’t seen in a while (or ever) rolls into town and we get to award them this very special recognition, so it is with great pleasure we give the WTTCOBL…B award to San Diego QB Drew Brees. Now, I’m sure over the course of his tenure as QB at Perdue and now as the signal caller for the Chargers, Mr. Brees was sacked a few times. A few times, it probably smarted enough for him to even remember the guy’s name who hit him. So we’re assuming that he now has Sheldon Brown on his “guys I should really watch out for” list after Sheldon introduced himself to Brees early in the 3rd quarter. 3 and 8 from the SD 27 and Brees drops back to pass, Brown comes shooting in from the corner on Brees’ left side. No one blocks Brown, not even a little, and lil’ unsuspecting Drew is pivoted to his right side looking for Gates – so he never even sees Brown. Brown hit him so hard we believe he smacked the taste right outta Brees’ mouth. 11 yards behind the line of scrimmage as Drew peeled himself off the ground, we’re pretty sure he wasn’t mentally adding Sheldon to his Christmas card list. Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love…B****! (And B**** doesn’t stand for Brees, we can tell ya that!)
Final Thoughts from the Last Row
- One thing we’ve noticed this season is a LOT more penalties being called in NFL games. Maybe the players are simply not as disciplined as before. Maybe the refs have been instructed to keep tighter control of the game by the league. Whatever the reason is – cut it out refs – while we’re sure you think we enjoy seeing you tossing hankies around like it’s a Women’s Studies group watching Steel Magnolias, we don’t. We just wanna’ watch some football, guys.
- Tom of the Last Row spent the week before the game in Ireland. He arrived on the Emerald Isle early Sunday morning October 16th. Now, as you probably noticed, that’s a Sunday. Needless to say, Tom wasn’t looking forward to missing the NFL in all of its glory.
Tom was staying in Dublin and did some research into where NFL games would be shown, if they would be shown at all. After getting some very sketchy answers from a Google search, he asked the concierge at the hotel (it was a very nice hotel…you should see the phone bill) where he might be able to watch an NFL game. The Concierge told Tom to go to the Temple Bar area, and look for “the Yardle Rock” bar, where he thought NFL games might be shown. So, Tom had him write it down, because that sounded like a horrible name for a bar, let alone one that he had to find wandering the streets of Dublin.
Sure enough, in the Temple Bar area, (keep in mind this was late in the afternoon, there’s a 5 hour time difference from the East Coast) there was a Hard Rock Café , no “the Yardle Rock” bar…how exactly can a concierge screw that up? Anyway, after looking around the Temple Bar area for awhile (let it be said, Dublin is a great city to walk around in: awesome sites, lots of pubs and restaurants, even the scenery did not completely pass Tom by) he finally broke down and asked a bouncer about a place to see American football. They were very unsure, but they did manage to direct Tom to the right place to go – a bar/restaurant called Buskers.
Tom got there just as the last football (OK, soccer) game was ending and he sat down in a pretty small back bar area, where people gather to watch NFL games. All told, there were about 30 people there, and the atmosphere was pretty friendly. A couple of people had jerseys on, there was a McNabb and some Cowboy jersey there…and the two guys wearing those jerseys actually said hello to each other without getting into an argument! Amazing!!
An early Sunday game and a late afternoon game are broadcast over there, but Tom only had time enough to catch the early game – and it wasn’t a very good one. The early game shown was the Dolphins and Bucs. It wasn’t very good, except for some solid play from Joey Galloway, it was a real stinker. Tom sat next to a German guy who is a huge NFL fan (and really knows his stuff). He said the NFL dictates which games are shown, and thought they were trying to cycle through the teams so each team gets shown at least once. Well, let me tell ya – if the NFL is trying to get Europeans involved in the NFL, showing the Dolphins isn’t the best way to go about it.
As far as the broadcast itself went, the pre-game show featured an ex-NFL player (I believe…I didn’t recognize the guy, and I don’t recall seeing his name) and a British guy talking about the NFL in general and then more specifically about the game we were about to see. The British guy was pretty good, and seemed to have a good technical knowledge of the pro football game. The ex-NFLer was… not so good. They would answer viewer e-mails or text messages (as big as ‘texting’ is in the States, it’s much bigger “across the pond”). The production value was pretty poor, though. The set was a desk about 8 feet wide with an American flag in the background – that could use some work.
The satellite service is Sky Sports, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and the presentation itself was very strange. The game in the States was a CBS game, so we would see the play by play, but whenever there were updates from other games, we weren’t shown the updates…Instead we went back to the British guy and the ex-NFLer and they talked about the highlights we weren’t seeing – I guess they aren’t allowed to show highlights. Anyway, Tom got to see the game, but it certainly was a very different experience.
- Team America: World Police…it’s the funniest movie since Army of Darkness. Nuff said.
- Some types of horned toads can actually shoot blood out of their eyes when they feel threatened. How cool would it be to have your boss tell you that you aren’t doing so well on your project, and then you tag her with some blood that comes squirting right out of your eyes?! We bet she figures you have hemorrhagic fever or something and gives you some much needed time off, and then feels sorry about pushing you so hard at work to boot. Oh well, we can always dream, can’t we?
- Note to self: Never rent a boat after a Minnesota Viking has had his way with it.
Top Six List
Top Six Ways to Leave your Lover
(Of the Ways Listed in the Paul Simon Song ‘Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover’)
6. ‘You don’t need to be coy, Roy’ – Sure it rhymes, and it certainly rolls off the tongue nicely, but really – how successful can you be in your breakup if you’re coy about it? I mean, if you keep avoiding the girl, maybe she won’t know you want to break up… maybe she’ll just think you’re really busy. Or worse yet, she’ll think you’re busy planning some special weekend and the ‘avoiding her thing’ is just part of the setup. Being coy never works – better to do it like removing a band-aid – fast and the pain only lasts for a little while.
5. ‘Make a new plan, Stan” – Maybe you should have had a better plan in mind from the first time you met the girl, Stan. But, like we often are, you were probably too drunk to know who you were talking to, let alone notice that she was already 6 months pregnant. At least Stan realizes his mistake and is trying to do something to improve his situation. Maybe a little less planning and a little more action though, Stan.
4. ‘Hop on the bus, Gus’ – Ok, Gus certainly takes a little more initiative than Stan. He figures he doesn’t want to be with this girl, he’ll just leave town. Well, we can understand the sentiment, but maybe leaving all your possessions behind so she can trash them was not your best move, Gus. Besides, you already probably had to spend a bunch of money on the girl (women are like that) so why waste more on a bus ticket? Don’t you even own your own car, Gus? Jeez – you might want to stick with the girl, after all – how many other women are jumping at the chance to date a guy who doesn’t even own his own car to pick them up in?!?
3. ‘You just slip out the back, Jack’ – Jack wants out of there just as bad as Gus does, but he’ll be damned if he’s leaving town just to get away from her. He figures leaving the immediate vicinity of her annoying habits like gargling before bed or putting doilies under everything will suit him just fine. Only problem is, she might think someone kidnapped you or something. Then she’s gonna’ get the police involved, and maybe the FBI, and then think of how silly you’ll look when they bust into your apartment on Sunday, right in the middle of the Eagles game, and you have to stand there in your underwear and wife-beater tee trying to explain to them you just couldn’t stand her nasal, whining voice any more and weren’t man enough to say anything.
2. ‘Just drop off the key, Lee’ – Now we’re getting somewhere. Lee has the right idea. Make a clean break of it. Just hand her back her apartment key and tell her it’s all over. This also gives you a chance to grab any important items you might have left at her apartment (like your favorite sweatshirt that she insisted on wearing as ‘pajamas’ or that Jenna Jameson porn that you convinced her to watch with you when she was three sheets to the wind). Get your key off of her, too – you don’t need her slipping in someday while you’re at work and then have to come home, finding your pet rabbit boiled on the stove.
1. ‘………………’ – WHAT ?!?! Damn you Paul Simon!! You advertised FIFTY ways to leave your lover, and you fell short by 45!! That is simply inexcusable –if you would have given us 48 instead of 50, we probably wouldn’t complain – I mean, maybe you were listing the ‘ways’ by weight, and you got a couple bigger ones in the bag that made you think you had all fifty in there already or something. If you would have given us 40 instead of 50, we probably would have figured it was a typo or something, and they figured it wasn’t far off enough to have a total song recall or something. But FIVE ?!?! C’mon Paul – you certainly slept with (and dumped) enough women in your folksy-ballad lifetime to give us a little more insight than only 10% of the total ways you claim to be familiar with! Or was the song just a teaser for you to try and hit us up with buying a series of DVDs giving us the complete explanation of how to leave these women? Thanks for nothing, Simon. By the way – you owe us our money back for this song or we’ll be forced to sue for false advertising. Our lawyer will be in touch, jerk…