By: Joe Staszak
September 30, 1990 started out as a beautiful, sun drenched day and a perfect day for football at the Vet. It was also a perfect day for the Eagles to right their ship after falling to 1-2 after an 0-2 start. A team with Super Bowl aspirations and expectations that boasted the likes of Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Randall Cunningham, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, Wes Hopkins and so on would surely stop the bleeding with an all-world performance against the lowly 0-3 Indianapolis Colts at home right? Well, it turned out to be one of those any-given-Sundays. But it was the way the Eagles blew this game to the Colts that made this one sting so much. With time running out back up quarterback Jack Trudeau led his team on a 91 yard drive capped off by a touchdown pass to Bill Brooks with no time left. The extra point gave the Colts a 24-23 victory and a loss that Birds’ head coach Buddy Ryan called the worst of his career. It was so bad that Eagles’ owner Norman Braman had to be talked out of firing Ryan moments after the loss.
That team, however, turned it around winning nine of their last 12 games to finish 10-6 and earn themselves a playoff berth. The same thing happened two years prior when the Birds also started the season 1-3 but also made the playoffs with a 9-3 finish only to lose to the Chicago Bears in the infamous “Fog Bowl” game in the divisional round of the playoffs.
29 years later almost to the day the Eagles are staring at a 1-3 start as they face the 3-0 Green Bay Packers in Lambeau field tonight. It’s only September 26th but don’t kid yourself tonight’s game is a must win for these Birds. With a daunting schedule ahead, a loss tonight to the Pack and we can pretty much write this season off as a disaster of epic proportions. This is a team that many pundits and “experts” had going to the Super Bowl or even winning it prior to the season starting.
The bad news is they face a hall of fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. The good news is is that Rodgers is off to an awful start. He has a 48 QBR and is on pace for the worst year of his career. He’s just 23rd in the league in passing with 215.7 yards per game. But let’s face it, he’s Aaron Rodgers. You can throw his stats out the window. He’s still as deadly as they come and with the Birds secondary being as vulnerable as they’ve ever been, well, it could be a long night for the Birds. Don’t believe me? Then chew on this. The Eagles are 29th in the league against the pass (293.7 ypg). They’ve given up seven touchdown passes, good for 25th in the league and are 25th in the league in points per game with 26. In case you were wondering that’s your textbook definition of vulnerable.
But the real problem doesn’t lie with the Packers’ quarterback. The problem tonight will be a very stingy Green Bay defense, a defense that boasts many new starters from last year. Take a look.
LB Preston Smith
LB Za’Darius Smith
LB Rashan Gary
S Adrian Amos
S Darnell Savage
That’s some serious turnover. And it’s paid off. The Packers have allowed just 11.7 points per game so far this year. That’s second only to the world champion New England Patriots. They are tied for third in the league in sacks with 12. They are however, somewhat shaky against the run. The Pack defense gives up 131 yards per game on the ground. This might be an area the Birds can exploit although the Eagles ground rotation of Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders and Darren Sproles comprises just the 17th best rushing game in the league, averaging just 99.7 yards per game.
It’s the first time since Chip Kelly’s final season in Philly in 2015 that the Birds have started the season 1-2. They missed the playoffs badly that year and have only made the playoffs twice in their history after starting the season 1-3. See what I’m getting at?
There are no excuses anymore. I keep hearing people blame the slow start on injuries. Really? Two years ago the Birds had three times the injuries they do now and they won the Super Bowl, remember? And they do get wide receiver Alshon Jeffery back tonight.
Dropped passes? Nope, can’t do that again because Carson Wentz needs all the help he can get. He’s been good at times so far this year but not great. He needs to be great. He’s had multiple chances to bring his team from behind in the fourth quarter to win games and has come up short (see there are no excuses). In his short four year career Wentz has had 18 opportunities to come from behind in the fourth quarter to win games. He has succeeded only four times. He must be great tonight or the Eagles will be staring into the playoff abyss. An abyss all too familiar to this team (see last year). Unfortunately, Nick Foles doesn’t play here any more.
It’s a short week and a tough place to play but if you are a potential Super Bowl team you should win a game like this. In a few hours we’ll have a better feel for how good or how bad this team really is. Right now they’re a bad football team. But a win tonight can change that narrative quicker than a Darren Sproles cut back. It’s a narrative that must change tonight if the Super Bowl expectations are to continue. Expectations that will vanish as fast as the Carson Wentz blind love will with a loss tonight. Thus, his role is clear.