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The Birds Final Flight

Gilbert's voluminous shooting has made the transition away from football easier than expected, but I figured I'd stick one last fork in the 2006 Birds with a few final thoughts on their final loss and the forthcoming off-season...

Leaving points on the field

  • Following a nice special teams wrinkle with Jason Avant returning a kickoff on a reverse, the Eagles drive stalled after Brian Westbrook dropped a sure 7 yard 2nd down gain. The ensuing 3rd and 10 attempt was incomplete and the Eagles had to punt. The Saints were struggling mightily to stop the Eagles in the stretch prior to this drive, but the Westbrook miscue let them off the hook.

  • The Eagles faced 2nd and 1 inside the Saints 10 yard line early in the 4th quarter, trailing 27-21. Following a run for no gain, Jeff Garcia completed a pass in the flat to fullback Thomas Tapeh for a loss of 2 or 3 yards. Philly settled for a David Akers field goal rather than completing the drive with a go-ahead touchdown.
Second-guessing Philly brass
  • I loved the early strategy of attempting to exploit the Saints secondary by featuring our suddenly dangerous wide receiving corps. However, as the game progressed, I thought the Birds started to lean on Westbrook much more and the receivers became an afterthought. There was a point during the 3rd quarter that I felt Brown, Stallworth and Baskett simply couldn't be stopped. A few more shots to those guys in the 4th would have been nice.

  • Todd and Rich agree with those who have second-guessed a 4th and 15 punt decision late in the game, in fact Coach Reid even admitted he'd do things differently. But The Sports Reporter's Bill Conlin has gone overboard.
Other thoughts
  • With his back up against the wall, Jeff Garcia completed what would have been a huge 4th and 10 pass to Hank Baskett with a little over 2 minutes left in the game. Of course, the only false start of the game nullified the gain and Garcia would not get another opportunity to make a play. Granted, he failed to move the team on the previous drive, but it would have been fun to see what he could have done with a new set of downs in that situation. It's hard to believe he wouldn't have found a way to get the score they needed.

  • I'm dying to bring some stats into this recap, so let's consider Time of Possession. The curse of the big play returned in this game for the Eagles as 2 of their TD drives were converted in 3 plays. Combine that with a lousy opening drive and two bad ones to close the game and Philly totaled 6 3-play drives. These brief drives lead to a deficit of over 10 minutes in Time of Possession. The Saints ran 25 more plays than the Eagles (74-49).

  • Every game is huge in the NFL and this playoff match-up served as a reminder of this. Both teams finished 10-6 and the Saints earned the higher seed thanks to a regular season win over Philly in New Orleans. Getting back one or two of those ridiculous mid-season losses (Matt Bryant!) would have meant home field advantage for the Birds in this one, a factor that they would have undoubtedly benefited from.
Looking ahead to the off-season
  • I know the glaring need appears to be at the linebacker position, but I'm not sure I wouldn't spend a high pick on a nickel corner who can boost our return game. Rod Hood and William James were disappointments against the Saints. Another young, quality corner would sure up coverage and provide assurance for Sheppard/Brown injuries.

  • Can't we put together a serious, in-depth package for 3rd/4th and 1 situations? Maybe a mini-playbook just for this down and distance? Draft a bruiser and get rid of Moats or Mahe. Put Feely in at QB to take the hit on a plunge. Can Westbrook only launch if he's on the goal-line? Just do something other than resorting to passes in these spots!

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