Perhaps the best-kept secret in the NFL this week is that the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins were playing a game that counted. Fox Sports sent their D broadcast team while the Dade County area fans couldn’t even brag that level of commitment. Both teams entered the contest with identical 4-8 records, all playoff hopes dashed. For Miami it had been their 0-7 start which ruined their season and then salvaging a 4-1 run provided some hope for 2012. Philadelphia had begun the season with Super Bowl expectations which were soon ruined due to a 1-4 start – then completely abandoned with a 3-4 skein. Oddly enough, the Eagles could still make the postseason at 8-8 with very slim hopes of overtaking both the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in the weak NFC East. Miami is trying to establish a pulse for 2012 but heading into this game those Dolphins had encountered more recent success in 2011.
Speed and turnovers both kill in the NFL. This time it was the latter, assisted by the former. After a 7-0 Dolphins lead (Brandon Marshall from Matt Moore), Philadelphia put up 24 unanswered points in the second quarter, essentially putting the game away. 17 of these Eagles points came on Miami’s turnovers (1 INT, 2 fumble recovery). Blame the first quarter rain and slippery turf but both teams had to play under the same conditions. Initially neither Michael Vick (15-30, 208 yards, TD, INT) nor LeSean McCoy (27 rushes for 38 yards) managed to get the Eagles offense going – both spending much of their time scrambling in the pocket or scrambling east to west trying to find the line of scrimmage. By the end of the first half, DeSean Jackson (4-59, TD) found the end zone as did the man they call “Shady” – twice.
Despite their best efforts to throw Juan Castillo under the proverbial team bus, the Eagles defense made the difference in this game. This defense allowed just 7 points to be scored in the first quarter and then a mere field goal was surrendered for the rest of the game. How? Sacks, pressuring the QB and generally applying sound fundamentals. Despite their best efforts (including Kurt Coleman’s 35-yard INT run) Philadelphia managed a razor-thin margin in the realm of time of possession (less than 3:00 differential), offensive plays (66-64), total yards (239-204) and of course Penalties (7-69 vs. 7-81). Solid win or failure to lose, the fact that Philadelphia did not blow a fourth quarter lead to a lesser opponent displays marked progress in their 2011 effort. It does not, however salvage their season… at least not yet…
Still needed for any shred of hope would include defeating a team with a winning record, displaying an ability to dominate a game on both offense and defense (preferably with ball control, sustained drives and mistake-free football) and of course maintaining a 10+-point lead in the fourth quarter to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Five times the 2011 Eagles have failed in that last category, which means their record could easily have been 10-3 after 13 games rather than 5-8. The crux of the matter remains that even at 5-8, the Eagles are mathematically alive in the NFC East. Holding a tiebreaker over Dallas (with one remaining game) and having split with the Giants, Philadelphia has a remote if unlikely chance to finish 8-8 and make the playoffs. That would require the Eagles to win their remaining games and hope for some help because Dallas (7-5) and New York (6-6) need to lose two of their last three games to make this remotely possible. By Monday morning, the situation will have changed as these teams play head-to-head on Sunday Night Football.
Consider it a stay of execution for the Eagles as a team, but also for their coaching staff. For now, Andy Reid, Juan Castillo and the rest have jobs and can confidently finish their holiday shopping. They may want to hold off on planning a New Year’s celebration pending the outcome of the next couple of weeks. Still on the schedule would be the New York Jets and Washington Redskins both at home in Lincoln Financial Field and a Christmas Eve showdown in Dallas with those Cowboys. 8-8 will not be good enough for a wildcard berth in the NFC this year so it is either win the weak NFC East or watch the playoffs on TV for Team Midnight Green.
RELATED ARTICLE: DOLPHINS – EAGLES…SO WHAT? http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/12/10/dolphins-eagles-so-what/
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org