Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Road Diary: Eagles at Colts

Horsie Not Fat Enough
For the past six years, I've taken the Shooter Mom to a road game for our beloved Eagles. Why a road game? Frankly, they are more fun. It's more relaxed from our part, since we're not as life and death on whether the club gets a win; you just don't expect it so much on road games, so a win is more of a bonus than a relief. The players tend to eyeball you up as Road Fan, with real interaction going on at the sideline level. We get to see a city that we have, for the most part, never been to. Most of the time, we're splurging on seats, and getting a better deal on them than if we had stayed local. And, well, it's just easier and more fun for me, as a small and relatively taciturn man, to be in the camp of the enemy, rather than next to some guy losing his fudge over a game.

We're also able to dodge a major expense, as Mom's a bartender and DoubleTree employee, so she gets the employee rate on rooms in the various chains as a perk of employment. We really look forward to it as a trip where we catch up, have great conversations, eat and drink and relax. We've been to Green Bay, Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland and Tampa, and this year, we went to Indianapolis for our first Monday Night game.

Why Indy, and why a MNF game? Because we both believe that football in the cold is No Fun, and Mom's birthday is early in September. We also have one last rule on this: we're not giving our money to division rivals. Daniel Snyder is just regrettable on every level, Jerry Jones is just as bad, and going to a Giants game is just too close and too combative. That's a day trip into hostility, rather than a good time. 

So, without further ado, bullets about the game and experience.

> This is a real damned long drive: 670 miles from my place, and 10 to 12 hours with bio, gas and food breaks. It takes forever to get out of Pennsylvania, and it seems like hundred of the miles have barrels to cut it down to one lane. Shame we don't have, you know, unemployment and a need to maintain infrastructure. (Why didn't we fly? Nothing direct means we would have had to go through Atlanta, and it would have taken seven hours to get there with layovers and TSA hassle... and then we'd have to rent a car on the ground anyway. Also, there were no flights until the next morning, and I had to work, so the straight drive home after the game made more sense.)

> Once you get to Indy, you go back in time, honestly. We had a dinner in a restaurant that allowed smoking. Inside. (It was actually great.) The highways are huge, and the space is plentiful. And it's not unpleasant... but it's also pretty unremarkable. In a week, I'm not going to remember much except the game.

> Lukas Oil Field is as good as advertised, and probably the nicest modern football stadium I've ever been in. (Lambeau is still better.) Sight lines are good, the roof is retractable, concessions are monstrous (more on that later), and the seats are padded. It's as comfortable a place as you could hope for, other than being, well, in the middle of nowhere.

> The only real drawback to the place is the seeming lack of public transportation, which makes getting out of there a pretty big nightmare. Parking spots are relatively plentiful, but you're going to sit for a real long time if the game is close. And this one was. It took us 45 minutes to move at all, and considering the length of drive ahead of us after the game, that was unfortunate.

> I know that I'm a small man -- 5'-4", 140 or so, basically the size of your average middle school kid. But dear Lord in heaven, the people who go to Colts games are gravitational wells of fat. There are big and bigger people everywhere, filling the big and bigger yard, eating big and bigger food. I opted for a "prime rib sandwich", which was four slabs of carved beef on inch think bread, with a dollop of mustard and feeble roughage. For $11. Colt Fan isn't living long.

> You know how the Colts ask their fans for quiet when the offense is working? They aren't kidding. It's basically church in there when the home team has the ball, and I'm not sure it helps them. Colt Fan wasn't having a lot of fun last night, even when their team was up by 14 points, and while they got loud at the right moments, it wasn't exactly intimidating. Of course, the Colts' utter lack of a pass rush is also somewhat deflating, but the tone of the crowd is more worried or reverent, rather than fun.

> I don't really have anything against the team or town, and I'll certainly root for them over many more regrettable franchises... but man alive, are these people spoiled. You were the beneficiary of franchise theft, you got a once in a lifetime QB, you had just one year of suck, and now you've got a young QB with all of the measurables. And a cake walk division that you should roll, assuming the Texans remember that Ryan Fitzpatrick is their QB, and, well, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

> Man alive, Darren Sproles is this team's MVP so far this year, and it's not even close. He was just crazy useful in tonight's game, and the power run for the score was just manly on all levels. I didn't believe this was a good signing before the year, and I'm real happy to be wrong so far.

> Nick Foles wasn't sharp in this game, though he was better than the Jags' game. The pick to end the half on a deep ball to WR Jeremy Maclin looked underthrown to me, and while he kept the turnovers to just that ball, he was also lucky not to have a deflection in the end zone on much of their feeble work. But he hung in, understood that he had time for secondary reads, and didn't flinch in prime time and volume. Not the worst effort for a guy who is, lest we forget such things, not dripping in a great deal of NFL experience.

> Colt Fan has real grievance with the refs on this loss, though that always speaks to a lack of resiliency.  The PI call for WR Riley Cooper was marginal at best, and it set up the team's first touchdown. The horse collar call on McCoy in the fourth was more than a little silly. But it all pales in comparison to the play that Colt Fan will remember more than any other in this one: WR T.Y. Hilton going down on what appeared to be contact, setting up a game-changing pick on QB Andrew Luck.

This play happened right in front of me - our seats were at the Eagle 25 in the fourth quarter -- and what the fans in the stands missed was that Hilton had limped off the field two plays earlier. He was also the only Colt WR to do much of anything in this game, as the team's focus and success in the running game kept Luck from getting into a rhythm, and let's face it -- Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks aren't beating many people at this point in their careers. So it was predictable that, if the Colts were throwing, they were going there, and also, that Hilton was more likely to go down. Something that might have been in the back of the mind of the refs.

But that misses the point entirely.

Why on God's green earth are the Cols throwing the ball on third and long, in field goal range, up 7 with relatively little time left in the game?

I get the desire to be aggressive. I get that a first down is a kill shot. I get that Luck is your best player, and you trust him, and yada yada yada. But he's also turnover prone, and if the ball just hits the turf, it still prolongs things to an unnecessary degree. And it's not as if the Colts hadn't seen success running it all night. The pick was a gift that made the game an object of theft. But the call was nearly as friendly.

> It's nice that rookie K Cody Parkey hit the game winner twice after missing in the first half, and I love the kid's leg on kickoffs. But it's still a little disconcerting that when you look at him on the sidelines, he appears to be waiting for pubes to arrive via mail order. And when the guy in the next bullet started yelling at him not to miss the game winning kick, it took Jon Dorenbos and Donnie Jones to stare daggers at him to quiet the hell down.

> We had seats next to a couple of Eagle Fans, and the guy to my right was the walking advertisement as to why I don't wear the colors on the road. Loud, desperate, costumed, bellowing... check, check, check, check. By the end of the game, I was almost OK with my team losing, if only because I knew this guy would take it a lot harder than I would...

> But on the other hand? Colt Fan isn't exactly cuddly. In defeat, many of them were ready to bitterly cite their number of rings against my laundry's (um, whatevs; we didn't steal our team), and the clucking of "Cheaters Never Prosper!" (no, seriously) after the Luck INT made me think that my club had this game won. You know how Canadians get the rap of being surface polite, and kind of sharky below the surface? It seems a little more regional to me, rather than a border phenomenon.

> The Eagles became the first NFL team ever to trail by 14 in the second half of their first two games, while going 2-0. And while the first half of this game was better than last week (in that anything is), it's still a very open question as to whether they are a good team with focus issues, or a lucky team that's bound to be exposed.

> I don't really remember any member of the defense having a particularly good game, and outside of Sproles and maybe the mismatched offensive line, not really many members of the offense, either. They also made a ton of mistakes with dropped balls, jumping offsides, a missed field goal, bad red zone execution...

> And they won. We're 19 games into the Chip Kelly Era, and this team remains pretty damned lucky in ways that I'm just not used to rooting for. Whether that's from his tempo, conditioning science or attitude, I have no idea, but I can't say it's not fun as hell to watch.

> Next week is DC at home, with longer rest, a huge blowout win, and down several starters due to injury... and if my laundry puts them down, they might have a 2-game lead in the division in Week 3, with the very real possibility of locking down the division and going after a bye in the later games. Can't say the year hasn't been fun so far, really...


Mike_mykul@hotmail.com said...

This is just my point of view and I can't back it up but maybe you have a better perspective. With the improved conditioning and focusing on speed could the Eagles struggles be as simple as they sacrificed some girth for endurance so now when everyone is fresh the other team is bullying them around and as the game continues the extra size starts to wear the opposition out while Philly doesn't missa beat?

Anonymous said...

The defense did step up to stop the run much better in the second half. Part of it was scheme, as Trent Cole stopped selling out to rush the passer, and the defense did more to sell out against heavy sets. I don't doubt the theory that my laundry is better in the late going, though. Certainly has been the case for the offense.

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