Wednesday, February 7, 2018

And I'm Out

No Caption Exists After Mic Drop
This is going to be long and rambly, because it has to be. If you've indulged me before, you probably will again, so. On with it.

I've been writing online for longer than many of the people who might read this have been alive.

No, seriously. I was on the Internet during the first term of the Reagan era, when it was nothing more than CB radio on monochrome monitors. What existed back then was people writing paragraphs here and there about whatever it was that they cared about. The BBSes (Bulletin Board System) required you to tie up your only phone line, delivered nothing more than the copy that someone else pretty much wrote by hand, and were reactive and nerdy and insular and driven by the one profile in a hundred or so who looked female.

For me, as a teenager, it was glorious. It also changed my life more than just about, well, anything.

Being on a BBS made me type, every day, so that I got really fast and good at typing, at a time when typing was still taught in school. (Which helped me pay the bills after college, also. Anyway.) It got me writing, every day. It reinforced the (only?) thing that I thought I could do, and gave me the only thing that makes you better at any craft, which is repetition and an audience.

The BBS world to me was like the open mic womb room to a stand up, the improv class to an actor, the jam room to a musician. Eyes and reps. Talent and persistence and a style is all secondary to eyes and reps. Without eyes and reps, you have nothing.

I got pretty good at it. After a couple of years, one of the adults in the room, a guy by the name of Dave Goldstein, reached out to me to see if I wanted a job working for his company. Dave didn't blink when he learned that I was 16, and neither did his boss, Arthur Haines. They also decided that what the hell, I was cheaper than a grown up and utterly and totally dedicated to the thing, so let's give him a shot. My first of many start ups paid me about $240 a week after taxes for a 7 days a week work from home part time job, which is to say more money than any teenager in the '80s should probably have ever had. They also scratched me a sizable check to help me start the college experience. I provided them a news re-posting service on news, business, entertainment and sports. They also indulged me writing columns. Which led to an interest in journalism, which lead to a pursuit of a degree, which led to yada yada yada.

All of this is, actually, a little beside the point. Let's get back to that.

Back in the BBS days, people would occasionally get annoyed (imagine that, people getting annoyed with someone else on the Internet), and then discover that they had no more time for this, and screw you guys, I'm going home. So you'd write your exit post, make it as dramatic as possible because From Day 1 The Internet Did Not Notice Or Care About Anything That Wasn't An A+ Or An F-, and hit send.

Then you'd log back in some time later, maybe under some other profile, to see what people wrote after your suicide note. Because you pretty much have to.

I was not above this, of course. I was a teenager, prone to all of the usual drama and dumbness, and finding out What People Really Think about you is absolutely irresistible, especially when you are that age. (My return fake pseudo after my most dramatic exit was a guy who posted in constant Prince speak, which was an awful lot of work and so dumb, I'm still kind of proud of it. But I digress.)

So the very nature of Final Post has all of the Oh Grow Up And Who Are You Kidding and Who The Fuck Cares playing in the back of my mind. (Hey, he's cursing on his blog! It must be The End.)

But, well, still. I'm out.


> Well, the Eagles won the Super Bowl. If you are ever going to stop writing about sports, now would be the time. They could rattle off a dozen more of these during my lifetime, and none will have the impact of this win. As sports highs go, the heroin is never going to get more pharma-grade 100% pure than what we just experienced.

> But wait, don't you care more about hoop? Well, sure, and, but. Hoop takes games and games, and the Sixers have won in my lifetime. Joel Embiid is my Patronus and all, and Ben Simmons is the absolute tits, and I like great chunks of the rest of the roster, but. I don't really believe in the GM, they won't be as satisfying as Julius Erving and Mo Cheeks dunking the Lakers into oblivion, and so on.

> There's also this: one of the reasons that I did the blog was, well, For Money. There's really no money in blogging anymore, and even the money that there was isn't in the same world as ride sharing. Or anything else that qualifies as an occupation. If you aren't getting paid to write, you are, in fact, paying to write. Which seems like a bad use of time, at least right now. The audience on this blog has been going down for longer than it has existed, and what used to be a four-figure a year annual side hustle is now a small percentage of that. That's the nature of advertising on the Web, and this blog has never done all that well with the tip jar.

Need more? There's more.

> With the Eagles covering the spread in the Super Bowl, my all-time picks record is EXACTLY at .500. There's something poetic about ending on the perfect coin flip.

> I no longer have cable, or a television, or go to games. I also don't play fantasy baseball anymore, and my last laundry (the Oakland A's) do not seem to be in the business of trying to win baseball games, so caring about them is stupid. I don't care all that much about the Olympics, or hockey, or soccer, or golf. Pretty thin amount of stuff to cover for a sports blog.

> Sports are for people with free time, and if I've learned anything in this world, it's that Time Is Never Free.

> I've written a lot about poker on this blog, and while I still play and enjoy my home game, I'm no longer watching it on television, or thinking about it very much outside of my home game. Besides, I've come to the mathematically-driven realization that I am not all that great about it. I generally turn a small profit every year, and in the big casino tournaments that I've tried, I haven't been comfortable or enjoyed the experience. So, not sure that's terribly necessary content to write.

> I am 48 years old, with two kids and a wife that don't live on the same coast and don't get nearly enough support, love and attention. What they get right now is financial support. I have to be more than that. Watching and writing about sports doesn't check that box. There's also the fact that I turned off my phone during the final minutes of the Super Bowl, which did damage to people back home, and colors the memory of that, even. So.

> There's also this. Just look at the posts per year numbers on the right side of the board. I've pretty much been quitting this thing for a long time now, right?

The blog will stay up until the domain needs to be renewed. If something incredibly unlikely happens, I reserve the right to do something after this, but, well, really not seeing it.

I'd like to thank everyone who ever read this blog. I'd really like to thank Jason Harris, Phil Hollrah, Dave Scocca and Al Houser, who also posted to it at various times. I'd also like to thank the people in Blogfrica (what sports bloggers use to call the sports blogosphere a decade or so ago, when it seemed like writing about sports could create Fame Or Something), and the sites that have linked to this one over the years. At times, that's been Deadspin and ESPN and Awful Announcing and YardBarker, along with too many more that are no more. There's also some folks who have bought ads, and others who paid for content, and so on.

You've all been great, you've all kept me going for a really long time.

But, well, it's not enough anymore. Nobody's fault, nobody's tragedy.

Thanks for reading. Be well.

(And yeah, I'll check back and read the comments, because you have to.)

Monday, February 5, 2018

Eagles - Patriots Super Bowl Takeaways: Today, Now, Forever

20) Hope you enjoyed my Expert Level Reverse Jinx. I believed in Nick Foles the whole time! (No, not really.)

19) Here's how hard this was. The Patriots were called for one -- one! -- penalty all night. (Offsides on TE Rob Gronkowski. They also had a hold on a made field goal that was declined.) No holding calls on the Patriot OL, a unit that kept the best defensive line in the NFL to a single, incredibly meaningful, sack. No defensive holds on pass interference calls on a unit that the Eagles still somehow managed to annihilate on third downs. They also gave up over half a thousand yards on pass "defense". Didn't force a single punt all night. And, um, still won.

18) Patriot Fan might pule about the two offensive touchdowns that took time for the refs to confirm. The first to RB Chris Clement was close; the second to TE Zach Ertz would have been an absurd travesty of the spirit of the game. I've also heard that the refs might have missed a call on Fourth and Foles for an illegal formation on the offense, because whatever, I think the refs were too blinded by the awesomeness of that play to sully it with a flag.

Anyway, if you hear these people complain about those calls, there is one answer: the Patriots had one flag for five yards all night.

We can put any conspiracy issue to bed.

(And Patriot Fan? By all means, keep on crying the world a river. I want people to remember how regrettable you are.)

17) It says something about the greatness of QB Tom Brady that he did what he did tonight without, well, being at full strength due to the hand injury, and being 40 freaking years old in a game where people in their late 20s are lucky to still be around. Passes lacked zip tonight, he was behind on a number of throws, and many of the big chunks he got were just reading coverage and exploiting with his mind.

I grew up with Joe Montana, and have a hard time saying anyone can ever be as good as he was. Brady's better.

Even though he's lost nearly as many Super Bowls as anyone ever.

16) I'm still kind of amazed that the Patriots' Hail Mary at the buzzer wasn't caught. It hung in the air forever, the ball was deflected back and forth, and I'm pretty sure our lives all passed before our eyes. I watch replays of that play just to be sure it hits the ground. Probably will do that forever.

15) So much great work in this game from WR Alshon Jeffery. His touchdown was insane, the way he tracked balls over his shoulder was world class, and the only blemish on his record was the batted luck ball that led to the offense's only turnover. The organization made one hell of a move by locking him up in mid-season.

14) One day, fairly soon, we're going to learn why Patriots HC Bill Belichick put his best CB (Malcolm Butler) on the pine for everything but special teams play tonight. It made no sense to me, but as an Eagle Fan, thanks for that, Bill. Especially for sticking with the decision as your defense was getting torn apart.

13) It's all water under the bridge, but man alive, the defense was terrible tonight. I didn't think they could win a close game, or a game where the defense was bad, or a game where the special teams weren't airtight. They did. Still not sure how.

12) If Gronkowski actually is considering retirement after this game, he goes out as the best TE in NFL history, at least in peak value. His fourth-quarter score was absurd, and the Patriot offense went into Killing Mode as soon as he got going. Total nightmare matchup.

11) Doug Pederson, fourth down stud. Not just the unspeakably balls out trick play where Foles became the first guy in SB history to catch and throw a TD in the same game, but the call to go for it and execute to Ertz to keep it in the fourth on his own side of the field. I hated his failure to try a pass play just before the two-minute warning, and the visor look will never look good on anyone, but otherwise, the guy just hit on everything.

10) K Jake Elliott's habit of missing PATs is maddening in the extreme, but his 46-yarder to put the team up 8 with a little over two minutes left was absolute money. I don't know how to get the kid to stop derping away points, but credit where due. He didn't miss a kick they really needed all season.

9) National sports radio wanted to go down the path of Awful Philly Fan with police blotter action as soon as the game was over because the national media is never going to tire of the story that Philly Fan Is Awful. In this as in many other things, Who The Hell Cares. Game matters. Not Game does not. If some asshat wants to punch a horse, some asshat is going to punch a horse. It doesn't define the freaking city, except of course it does, because people who want to talk Not Game are always going to talk Not Game.

8) Similarly, there is much talk about how this might have been the End of the Patriot Dynasty, what with Gronkowski talking retirement, coaches getting hired away, Belichick possibly moving on due to Butthurt Moments with Bob Kraft, and so much more noise. Not believing any of that until it happens, or that anyone in the AFC LEast will ever put together two coherent thoughts and actually get good enough to make them work for a top 2 seed next year. But if this was the stake in the vampire's heart, so happy to have been the Slayers.

7) More on Pederson. So many times this year, I second-guessed his decisions; all in on Foles, put Hali Vaitai on an island at tackle with little help, keep feeding LeGarrette Blount even after getting the shiny new Jay Ajayi toy, keep playing Torrey Smith when it seemed like there were better options on the bench, and become the most aggro fourth down guy ever, even after QB Carson Wentz went down.

All of it worked out.

That can't ever really happen again, just from the sheer laws of, well, Math and regression to the mean. But for this year, Doug Pederson was the best damn coach any of us have ever seen.

6) I don't know about the rest of you, but by the end of this game, I was feeling like I had been through an insane emotional wringer. I was certain that after they finally gave up the lead that it was all going to come to tears; instead, the offense just kept on executing and moving the chains. I was certain the Ertz touchdown was going to be called back, or ruled a fumble into the end zone and somehow a Patriot touchback. That's how beaten down you become when you are a fan of a team that has never won a championship in your lifetime.

Up five with two minutes left and Brady with the ball, I was certain doom had arrived. Instead, Brandon Graham finally got to the QB, and Derek Barnett scooped up his second chance at the hop for the all-important late-game turnover. The first three Patriot drives and touchdowns in the second half were all incredibly easy, so much so that I started hoping for onside kicks with a lead, just because 40 yards of live surgery seemed less objectionable than 75. If this had someone gone to overtime, I don't know if I'd have slept in my bed tonight. And so on.

5) I watched the game at the home of a friend of nearly 20 years, and he marked out for the Eagles nearly as much as I did, such was his distaste for the Patriots. (He's a Bears fan.)

I also did ride share work this week with over a hundred pick ups (my usual workload, actually) and didn't find a soul who was rooting for New England.

(The Bay Area may be the least football-crazed part of America, though. I had to explain to several people today that the game was happening and all. Yes, seriously.)

4) The play that will live forever from this game, to me, is clear: the go for broke fourth down gadget play, Chris Clement to Trey Burton to Nick Foles for seven, en route to a 10 point lead at the half. When you look at it again (and you will), keep your eyes on Foles the whole time, as he sells out that he's just a bystander in this play for several beats before leaking out to open space. The discipline to do that, rather than just race out to the flat ASAP and blow up the timing, might have been his best play of the night. And I have no idea how he did it, other than he was incredibly present and in the moment for the entire damned game. And for the Vikings game before that, too.

3) Some other people will have to talk about ads, because I was WATCHING MY GODDAMNED TEAM WIN A SUPER BOWL FOR THE FIRST TIME. So, um, yeah, there were some commercials. Hooray. A very similar thing can be said here for Justin Timberlake's halftime show, which sadly did not feature guest star Janet Jackson ripping his pants off in cold revenge. Not sure why he needed to bum the world out by reminding us all that Prince Is Dead, but anything that gets more Prince in our lives is a win.

2) It's all kinds of wrong to talk about this stuff this early, but... this team could be *better* next year. You might have full time Wentz, let alone Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, a draft pick, another off-season of Howie Roseman tinkering (we can all agree he's smart now, yes?) and all of those guys are really good. You aren't losing anyone of note to free agency (again, Howie Roseman). The team didn't win on a gimmick offense or luck; most games were clear ass kickings.

Regression to the mean is a powerful force, and there's only one direction for a 16-3 team to go. They also are going to have to deal with the half dozen guys who played out of their minds when their number was called, and might not want to go back to the pine. But it might not be inevitable.

Oh, and they deserve their own bullet and aren't getting it, but what a performance by the offensive line. Best unit in the league, with their best performance of the year. For everyone who ever doubted C Jason Kelce especially, he was phenomenal. For anyone who ever wondered if Lane Johnson was worth the high draft pick, he was everything they could have hoped for. For anyone who ever wondered if Brandon Brooks was worth the money because guards aren't worth lots of money, he was dominant. For anyone who wondered why Steve Wiesnewski was so important after not sticking with Oakland, he just was. And for Hali Vaitai, who merely stepped in when the unit's best player, having his best year, was hurt? He was perfect tonight.

1) Finally, Foles. Couldn't have been more wrong about him, couldn't have asked for more from a player, and can't imagine that this performance won't wind up with him moving on to another team, because doing what he did in this game means he can't really be anyone's QB2 again. But that's another problem for another day.

Later, there will be stuff

The best team in franchise history is the best team, period. No qualifications.

Today, now, forever?

I'm reminded that things don't always have to turn out badly, and that hope isn't for suckers and chumps.

Today, now, forever?

I get to forget about all of the Andy Reid losses when the money was on the table. I can forget about so many other coaches who never even got to the point when real money was on the table. I can forget about so many draft picks and signings and players who were on the spectrum of terrible to tragic, all washed away by the gentle good force of the team finally winning.

I can if I choose to, stop blogging about sports altogether, and stop watching. Even if Wentz becomes the new overlord, and the team rattles off wins like the factory that New England has been, nothing will be better than this season and this team.

And I can just be happy.

We can all just be happy.

Or, in the rallying cry of the team that would not be denied...

We're all we got.

We're all we need.

Today. Now. Forever.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Eagles - Patriots Diary: Every Single Play Of The Game You Will Never Forget

> Patriots win the toss and elect to defer. Toss was done by a WWII vet who is clearly in the tank for New England.

> Short kickoff, return gets the status quo, so screw you, Belichick with your kickoff nonsense

> QB Nick Foles to WR Nelson Agoholor, dances and loses, but five yards and Foles Comfort

> Agholor again on the bubble screen gets two

> 3rd and 4 and Jesus Not A Three And Out is Foles with time, moving his feet, hitting WR Alshon Jeffery for the good pick up; really well done

> RB LeGarrete Blount stopped in the backfield, not sure why that's not Jay Ajayi, but the line failed big on that

> Incomplete on a rollout to WR Torrey Smith, not sure why it didn't work

> 3rd and 12 and points left on the table is time and a floater to Smith to convert again, and the line did great work; C Jason Kelce holding up two players

> Great catch by Smith, too

> TE Zach Ertz for seven, and this is all Foles so far

> Ajayi through contact moves the chains, and go man go

> Ajayi through a solid hole, tripped for a gain of six, lots of room there

> RB Chris Clement on a nice enough draw, and the line does fantastic work for a big, big chunk

> First and goal from the five is Blount for four, more holes

> Movement before the snap on Ertz makes it harder

> Trickery doesn't work and Foles throws it away

> Third and goal and money on the table is a fade to Jeffery which doesn't work, and its special teams time

> K Jake Elliott caps a 14 play drive that had everything but the touchdown, and it's 3-0 Green

> Not a fan of the trickery call on second down, and the third down ball to Alshon was a little late, but short of finding tape of a missed guy, all you could ask of Foles there

> Strong pressure and nothing on a throwback to WR Brandin Cooks

> RB James White beats S Malcolm Jenkins on an out, and that's a far too easy first down

> Screen for little, should be ineligible man downfield, but Green had 12 men on the field

> Wide open cross to WR Chris Hogan for 28, and tempo is doing work for Silver

> CB Jalen Mills knocks Hogan out on an end around after a gain of four

> Play action, wide open to TE Rob Gronkowski, another first down with ease

> Brady to White for another gain, and Brady is missing nothing at all

> White stopped by LB Nigel Bradham on the obligatory running play that isn't a great idea

> Third and 4 and money on the table is Mills knocking away an inaccurate ball, and that could have been a game changer of a pick

> K Stephen Gostkowski converts, and it's 3-3 at the 4:17 mark of the first quarter

> Another short kick that's more or less negated by a good return

> Pressure doesn't get there, and Agholor spins after contact for a fun little chunk; LB James Harrison looked bad on that

> Blount for a massive blast of 36

> Deep ball to Jeffery, who owns CB Eric Rowe in the end zone for an apparent touchdown; long and agonizing review confirms it

> Good throw by Foles, great catch by Jeffery, and yeah, everything you could hope for from the QB

> Elliott misses another PAT just to keep things grounded, and it's Green 9, Silver 3

> Short kick and good coverage shorts the favorites by six yards

> More commerce, but NBC, I'm not giving a damn about the Winter Olympics

> RB Dion Lewis runs through contact for eight; DT Tommy Jurnigan misses

> Gronkowski jumps for five, and that's a relief

> Weak ball to Hogan deep doesn't work, and the line is getting a little closer

> 3rd and 7 and crowd getting loud is Brady finding WR Danny Amendola crazy open, and that's just blown coverage -- dammit

> Another first down to Hogan, too easy

> Lewis for a chunk, tempo doing everything they want

> White for a few more, end of the first, break for the defense to get time off before a third down in the red zone

> Third and two and money on the table is Cookis trying to hurdle McLeod, who puts his helmet right in his junk for the stop

> Juggled snap, Gostkowski stop starts and almost makes it anyway, but doesn't

> Points left on the table, and that's a major break on back to back plays for Green

> Ajayi for a few on some odd formation fun, then Foles has all day, no one to throw to, and a toss away

> 3rd and 8 and keep the defense on the bench for longer, please, is Foles making a few miss, then not getting a flag on a try to Ertz

> Could have been defensive PI, but Foles also missed an open man; first real mistake he's made tonight

> Decent punt by P Donnie Jones and a fair catch

> Commerce might help keep the defense fresh, but a three and out is never helptful

> Cooks gets loose deep, who spins into death from Jenkins; Brady also took punishment

> Injury timeout and if that isn't the end of Cooks day, there's no teeth in the concussion protocol

> Back to football, and the secondary really isn't doing the job so far

> Jenkins with a knock down on another ball that's Brady a hair behind on; could have been a pick

> Lewis for five as Bradham loses his helmet and gets verbal

> Third and five and money on the table is trickey to Brady as the wideout, and the QB drops an easy first down

> Fourth and five and big money on the table is deep to Gronkowski, not tight, and the defense is off the field without poinuts again

> CB Malcolm Butler on the bench for a coaches decision, which is all kinds of odd

> Ajayi for a loss of one, then gets a few more after contact

> 3rd and 7 and can't have back to back three and outs is Foles to a wide open Ertz for 19, and that was all kinds of necessary; aggro contact on the DB didn't draw a flag

> Foles misses a wide open Jeffery, who almost bails him out anyway, but that's worrisome

> Jeffery with a great catch on an over the shoulder throw for 22, and that's just A-plus work by the wideout

> Blount explodes for the last 22, as fast as he's looked all year, and that was manly

> Serious revenge move by the back, who looks worlds better than Ajayi so far, and we're more than a little happy right now

> Going for two to get the Elliott miss back is a miss to Jeffery, with Rowe getting involved

> Eagles 15, Patriots 3 in one of the stranger scores you will see

> RB Rex Burkhead gets loose on a screen for 47, and that flips the field fast

> Brady with another wobbly pass, then Amendola nearly dies before a two yard screen

> 3rd and 8 and money on the table is trickery before a null screen

> Gostkowski connects from 45, and it's Green 15, Silver 6

> Cooks won't return

> There's a brief blip in television coverge here that made me wonder if nuclear armageddon had happened, because that would so happen to prevent what I want to happen

> Touchback on an angled kick

> Halfway through the second quarter with the Patriots getting the ball to start the second half is all kinds of important if you want to keep a lead

> Movement on Ertz for the second time today doesn't help

> Clement for one as Harrison makes a play, then Foles to Smith for 10, as he reads off the blitzer

> Third and 4 and keep momemtum is an odd call to Ajayi, but the RB reads through traffic and breaks a big one; offensive line is just owning

> Deep ball to Jeffery, who juggles it and creates a pick that's just all kinds of good luck for Silver

> Good throw by Foles, would have set them up deep with the chance to  build a big lead, but, um, well, nope

> Eagle WRs also don't tackle well enough to bury the Patriots with a deep arm punt, and dammit, dammit, dammit, why does this team get so much luck

> Lewis for 4 before LB Mychal Kendricks makes the hit

> Incomplete to Gronkowski in traffic; physical work by the secondary

> 3rd and 9 and actually get off the field quickly is Silver getting the gift defensive holding call

> Lewis for five, then seven more, and game flow is going in the wrong direction

> Incomplete to Gronkowski as the refs don't call a flag for fun

> Brady to Hogan for a massive chunk as the pressure continues to miss by a half beat; Mills got beat on a double move

> White for the touchdown, running through traffic, and the only good thing about that drive is that it happened so fast, the offense has a chance to answer before the half

> Gostkowski hooks the PAT try, and what the hell

> Green 15, Silver 12, and that could be telling

> You make one mistake against this team, and what could have been 21-6 is now 15-12

> Barner with a plus return, ended by Gostkowski, of all people

> From the 30, Foles with time to Ertz for seven; poor throw by the TE redeems it

> Foles to Smith, Rowe hand fights his way to an incomplete

> 3rd and 3 is a big moment, and Foles floats one to Clement, who fights through poor tackling for 55 yards; monster play

> Clement goes Full Marshawn for a positive play; Silver timeout to try to keep their defense from getting trucked

> Super shifty before a center dive for one, second Silver timeout

> Third and monster money on the table is an out to Jeffery, all kinds of DPI but not when a Patriot does it, but not a great idea

> Fourth and goal because that's how Doug Pederson rolls... but first, a timeout

> Still going for it, and it's hyper trickery for Clement to Burton to FOLES (!!!) for one of the most amazing touchdowns in the history of my laundry

> Seriously, that was one of the best moments of my life as a sports fan

> Elliott hits, and it's 22-12 Green with 34 seconds left in the half

> Crowd erupts with an E-A-G-L-E-S chant

> Brady with too much time, goes deep, should have been picked but wasn't

> Brady to WR Philip Dorsett for an agozingly long and easy completion, final Silver timeout with 22 seconds left

> Brady runs, can't get out of bounds, and follows up with a spike that ends the chance at a field goal

> Significant mistake by Brady to not throw it away on the scramble

> Empty calories screen to Amendola pumps up the yardage and ends the half

> At halftime, rather than pay attention to a show that clearly isn't for my demographic, I go for Sports Twitter which is blowing up over Pederson's Call

> Giant Prince hologram reminds Minneapolis what was lost, which seems

> Belichick defends the Butler benching, of course, and we're all good with that, Bill

> Brady misses a very open Gronkowski, and that's a break

> Perfect ball to Gronkowski for 25, defensive line still not getting there, not a great day for the secondary, either

> Gronkowski owns CB Corey Graham for another 25, and yup, too easy

> Lewis for four, then Brady throws one away as pressure continues to be a beat slow from making big plays

> Third and six and money on the table is an out to Gronkowski, owning Graham for another first

> Tempo to give it to White, who gets through contact for a small gain

> Touchdown to Gronkowski, and that entire drive was the TE beating every defender he saw

> Gostkowski connects, and it's Green 22, Silver 19 and so much for the defense adjusting after the halftime and making anything easy

> Barner with a decent return, but it comes back on a hold, and the flag count is going predictably Silver's way

> Blount for 4, then a drop by Agholor on a slow developing rollout into traffic

> Third and six and all kinds of necessary given the defense tonight is a long clock cross to Agholor, who gets past contact and snaps off 19

> Massive play in the flow of this game

> Blount for another effective five, long clock again, and hops like a bigger LeVeon Bell to move the sticks again

> Foles misses Smith on what could have been a hold or DPI, but LOL Patriots

> Ajayi for nine stumbling yards as the line continues to just blow up their matchup

> 3rd and 1 as S Patrick Chung goes off, outside of field goal range, but G Steve Wisnieski also goes off, and Pederson goes play action to Ertz for 14 -- just stone killer playcalling so far

> Blount for four and falling forward, then Foles throws it away on worrisome back foot improvisation

> Third and six from deep figgie range, up three, is money on the table time again... and it's just a stone perfect ball to Clement for a 22 yard touchdown, and that is the most amazing thing yet in this game, because it's a close call that doesn't go for Silver

> Another perfect throw by Foles, independent of any call controversy

> Elliott connects, and it's Green 29, Silver 19 in one of the more unlikely pinball games you'll ever see

> Lewis to the 25, because no special teams can look real good tonight

> NBC is going to troll this catch for, like, ever

> Lewis for 1 as negative running plays continue to not end right away

> Incomplete on a late out bailed out on a hold against Gronkowski, who looks like he was shot

> Lewis for 1, then a cross to Hogan that CB Ronald Darby can't close on enough for another first down, and yet another half second late pressure

> Jenkins with a nice hit after 3 for White, then 5 as Mills is the last man to get there

> 3rd and 2 and will we ever force a punt is yet another wide open WR deep, this time Amendola, and the defense just can't get off the field all night

> Easy touchdown to Hogan, and that's two drives where the Patriot was hot knife through butter

> I'm not sure where the team that makes good halftime adjustements on defense is, but I'd like to come back

> Brady already has 400+ yards

> Gostkowski connects, and it's Green 29, Silver 26 in a game that's going to kill me

> RPO to Agholor, another perfect ball, for 24, and yup, this is Peak Foles

> RPO to Smith, right down the seam, another first down, with the added benefit of full clock burn; Wisnieski back

> Blount for 2, then Agholor on the end around moves the chains

> Foles tries Burton in the end zone to no avail, and I'd much rather they keep it on the ground and avoid fast strikes

> Chung's back as well as Smith gets eight on a well blocked screen

> Third and 3 and only touchdowns matter in this game has Green burn the clock to end the third, and it's 29-26 after three

> Terrible call and execution on an Agholor screen kills any chance of fourth down hijinks

> Elliott from 42 is good, with an offside against the Pats declined

> Even the flags against the Patriots don't count

> Green 32, Silver 26, and it's be nice if the defense actually makes a play now, given that losing the lead is kind of a problem

> Pederson doesn't onside kick, which might have been an idea, honestly

> Burkhead for five, then for 10 more as even the run defense isn't showing up

> Burkhead for four, no one tackling well

> Hogan stopped in front of the sticks, and an actual third down outside of figgie gange

> Third and three and all I want is a single punt is an out to Amendola as the blitz does nothing; another poor play by Mills

> Cross to Amendola for another huge chunk as the defensive line isn't even getting close now

> Screen to Amendola for 9, and lather, rinse, repeat

> Second and 1 from the 7 is White for four, and the Patriots go tempo to keep the defense on the field, as if it matters

> From the four, an actual incompletion to White

> Second down is a fade to Gronkowski, who makes an absurdly difficult catch over Darby

> Just the best TE in NFL history, doing what he does, catching a pass from the best QB in NFL history

> Gostkowski converts the very not automatic PAT, and it's Silver 33, Green 32 for their first lead

> Brady with 457 yards and counting

> Long clock, then Ajayi for 4 as Things Get Tense

> Foles with too much time throws a jump ball to Smith, with full DPI/OPI not called

> Third and six and if you give the ball back here it's over is a Patriot time out on long clock, because Belichick understands the moment

> After the timeout, it's Foles to Ertz on a cross for a monster first down, and yeah, That Was Important

> Blount for 2, Things Get More Tense

> Foles to Clement for 7, good surge by the rookie on Chung, but couldn't quite get enough

> Third and one and my family needs to stop texting me is Foles to Smith on more gimmickry that doesn't work, and it's fourth down on a poor call

> Fourth down and Pederson is going to do what Pederson is going to do is Foles to Ertz, just enough, and my God, the draama from this team

> Five minutes left and just kill me, Eagle timeout

> Blount for a yard, then Foles scrambles and gets it to Agholor to move the sticks, and that's immense as well

> Clock becoming a factor as Foles hits Agholor for another nice chunk, and Chung goes down for a cheating New England timeout with 3:07 left

> Most yards in Super Bowl history and counting

> Agholor fights for a first down on a bubble screen, but the clock stops on the out of bounds, which is kind of not good

> Ajayi backs his way into a gain of three, and that's the second Patriot timeout

> From the 12, fade route to Jeffery, horrible play call -- not enough of a chance to work, and if it does, too much time left on the clock

> 3rd and 7 and total stress vomit time is Foles on a cross to Ertz, who bobbles it into the air and it's ruled a touchdown on the field

> The longest and worst minute of our lives ends with the latest NFL officiating debacle, where the clear and obvious good play by the offense is turned into... a touchdown, by Ertz

> Jesus Humping Christ Sports Is Going To Kill Me

> Most important 2-point conversion ever is Foles trying for Clement, missed, and I think the QB missed an opportunity had it come out faster

> Green 38, Silver 33 as the E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES chants are heard

> It's on the defense to stop Brady, with 2:21 and one timeout, plus the two minute warning

> Gronkowski for 8 and a clock stop

> Sack and strip by Brandon Graham, and HOLY UNRECOGNIZABLE JESUS IT'S A TURNOVER as Derek Barnett gets the recovery

> From the Patriot 31, Blount for 3, last Patriot timeout with 2:03 left

> If you are going to throw a pass, now's the time with the 2 minute warning coming

> Blount struggles for a few more, and if that had been a pass and a first down, this goddamn game is over

> 3rd and 5 and the chance for the killshot to end all kill shots is Blount for a loss, not helpful but at least not a disaster

> Full clock burn, then timeout at 1:10, and it's on Elliott to make from 46

> It's torture from NBC, then the kid hits, because it's not a PAT, and it's 41-33 Green

> Patriots try trickery on a short kickoff, and it loses for Silver; GOD DAMNED HELPFUL

> From the 9, 58 seconds left, Brady tries Hogan, was open deep on the sideline, but it falls short

> 53 left, incomplete to White as Brady scrambles and fails on a bad idea throwback

> 48 left, 3rd and 10, incomplete as pressure gets there late

> 42 left, 4th and 10, one play to win the only Super Bowl in franchise history is a cross to Amendola, clock running, 26 seconds left

> 26 left, throw to Gronkowski for 10 and out of bounds, a lot of time

> 20 left, throw to Gronkowski, 15 and out of bounds at the Patriot

> 13 left from the Patriot 49, out that Darby nearly intercepts

> 9 left from the Patriot 49, Brady avoids pressure, throws deep to Gronkowski for the Hail Mary, the ball is bobbled in the end zone and hangs for an eternity.. and it's incomplete

> A lifetime of waiting for the Eagles to win a Super Bowl ends

> And all it took was the most yards in NFL regular season or playoff history

> Much more later

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Super Bowk Pick: The Worst Days Of Our Lives

Too on the nose?
New England vs PHILA- DELPHIA (-4.5)

I need to tell you a bit of a story ab- out this pick. It will be long and sloppy because I don't have the time to make it better than that.

Last year's Super Bowl was, of course, profoundly depressing. I spent three quarters watching the most hated team in professional sports getting their comeuppance like a wrestling heel at the end of their program, with the Falcons just owning every aspect of the game. It was joyous. It was decadent. It made me giddy.

Then it all turned, and it was February in New Jersey, and the only thing I had to console myself with was that it wasn't my team.

The next day, I drove into work and expected to take abuse from my manager, a Patriots fan. I got in early, because that's what I did there, and went directly into the kitchen to store my lunch.

He was waiting there for me. With the head of HR. They proceeded to tell me that my role had been eliminated with the company, and that the policy there was for me to just leave, like, well, right now. Hand over the laptop, we'll mail you your personal effects, thanks for everything. Role was eliminated due to restructuring at the venture capital level, it was nothing I had done or could have done, here's your severance. Clear air turbulence. Tornado on a sunny day. Bang.

Here's how bad and sudden and unexpected all of this was. I had a half dozen people emailing me on my phone that day, asking for various work products.

So. One more thing to add to the list of lifetime events, attended by Boston Sports Fan, that have left me permanently scarred.

I am, of course, well and truly better off for being out of there. I work for a dramatically better company now, I'm out of a field (pharmaceutical marketing) that's agonizingly slow to innovate, and so on.

But I do all of that 3000 miles away from my family, because that's where the job is, and moving everyone out here with me on no notice, in a weak market for home sales, just wasn't feasible.

In the time since the last Super Bowl, my family has had personal setbacks, which manifest into financial ones. I work pretty much all the time now, either at the job or by doing side hustles. I haven't even gotten to the gym in the last two weeks. My free time is about an hour a day, hollowed out before going to work, because I don't tend to sleep more than four or five hours a night now.

Every day is a challenge to have hope over exhaustion, to make the nut on the side hustle to keep the credit cards working and get just enough ahead to cover the likely income tax bill in April. We're pretty much one more setback away from having to make some really bad choices.

Now, insert into all of that, this game. This team, which has been the sole consistent element of joy in the past 5 months. Against this team, who I associate not just with some of the worst people I've ever been near, but one of the worst days of my life.

People ask me if I'm looking forward to the game. If I'm getting excited. If I'm confident.

And I... compartmentalize it, because I have to go make the nut or get my laundry done at the laudromat while ducking the homeless guys panhandling, or figure out what I can eat from my mini fridge and mini microwave, or if I get to eat at all, given that the lack of gym means clothes that might not fit so good, and clothes that might not fit so good can't be replaced, because money.

So. That's where my head is at for this pick. And that's why it is the way it is.

The case for New England: The coach. The QB. The experience.

Offensive tempo has been the only way to beat this defense, and that's what they do better than anyone. Varied running attack that they don't forget about. Best play calling in the game, maybe ever. Special teams don't make mistakes. Defense bends, but usually doesn't break. Coach intimidates opposite number into mistakes, time after time. They also, let's be blunt about this, always get the better end of the officiating. Best preparation in the game, and maybe ever, especially when it comes to taking away the thing you do best. The Eagles are going to have to win this game without the running game carrying them, and the defensive line getting sacks. They are also going to have to win this game while still trying to do both of those things, because that's the only way you do beat them. It's maddening.

The case against: May be smoke and mirrors, actually. Won a weak division, then got past two historically weak teams at home, to get here. 30th ranked defense is a misnomer based around early season issues, but they still aren't all that great. If TE Rob Gronkowski isn't 100% after concussion protocol, takes away best weapon and biggest matchup issue. WR Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola are good, but not better than what the Eagles have already faced. Have gotten off to slow starts this playoff year, and the opponent has ran off and hid against teams like that.

The case for Philadelphia: Best overall team in franchise history. Varied and effective weapons at every level of the offense. System that doesn't key on one guy to the point of predictability. Coach is having the year of his life, with an inordinate amount of gambles coming home, and a locker room that sells out for each other more than any team I've ever seen.

The case against: Backup QB and 2nd year coach against the greatest ever at their opposite numbers. Kicking game can be shaky. Struggle when officiating goes against them, and it likely will.

The pick: The Eagles can win a blowout. They can't win a close game. The Patriots play close games. My laundry covers the spread in the hollowest victory ever, and I spend the rest of my life, if and until they break through, haunted by the loss.

And as soon as the game is over?

I'll be working.

Patriots 31, Eagles 27

Last week: 0-2

Season: 130-126-8

Career: 1012-1013-43

Past SBs: 5-6

Monday, January 22, 2018

Top 10 Eagles - Vikings Takeaways: The Big Lii

The Big Lii
10) Unlike last week's game, the turning play in this game-- the pick forced by pressure from DE Chris Long, and the remarkably patient return for touchdown by CB Patrick Robinson -- had less to do with luck, and more to do with the actions of the football team. Which makes it look more like the middle of the season, pre-Wentz injury, when the team was playing its best ball and was the clear top team in football.

9) Speaking of such things, I've never seen a team get contributions from so many players. You can rattle off a dozen names that made key contributions on big, game-changing plays, without even really trying very hard. Perhaps that's just what happens when you rip off 38 unanswered points in a blowout NFC championship game, but the depth of this roster just went to ridiculous last night.

8) You have to take these things with a grain of salt, but the team is also genuinely likable. Julie Ertz's reaction of bursting into tears in the middle of her US women's soccer team game, Malcolm Jenkins's activism, Chris Long dedicating his paychecks, and so on, and so on. People talk about the great job that GM Howie Roseman has done, but it goes beyond football. The atmosphere into the locker room is so good, it's rehabbed other guys who were problems elsewhere.

7) Like everyone else in the fan base, I'm thrilled to see the Patriots as the favorites in two weeks. Despite struggling to put away the Jaguars, despite having their best offensive weapon concussed, because Patriots. And like everyone else in the fan base, losing again to those people and their fans would be cruelty writ large.

6) Philly Fan got their full on troll going with a mock "Skol" for "Foles" chant, because of course they would. There was also the famous "Cops are greasing light poles" and the cops warned businesses in Northeast Philly that they couldn't protect their property. We care too much about sports, but we are who we are. (And if you think that the Super Bowl will be an even crowd, and that Eagle Fan won't travel more and harder than Patriot Fan, you are on something that's pharmaceutical grade. The crowd in Jacksonville a dozen years ago was also 70/30 Philly, and that was a stupid number of Patriot SBs ago. Pent-up demand for the win.)

5) People are going to talk about the dominance of this defense, and seven points is all that and a bag of chips, but. Dominant defenses prevent yards as well as points. What the Eagles have been for the last two weeks is absolutely lights out on the plays that they absolutely had to have, the third and fourth downs in the red zone. Historically, that would be unsettling, because it doesn't give them a lot of margin for error... but in this era of the NFL, that's more or less how it manifests. When you have to have a stop and you get it.

4) Nearly as shocking as the outcome was the officiating -- clean, nearly invisible outside of ruling WR Adam Thielen's fourth down attempt in the end zone as a catch before the overrule, and failing to delay the avalanche. Contrast that to the 10-to-1 flag aid that the Patriots got in overcoming the Jaguars, and, well, yeah. The game ran as quick and as true as the play on the field, and it's a little bit sad that this is now the exception, rather than the rule.

3) As for the Vikings, not to take anything away from the Eagles, but they played a flat out terrible
game. Couldn't protect the QB on downs that mattered, couldn't generate effective pressure on third downs, abandoned the running game too early, tried nothing on special teams when the tide was going against them, ran nothing on offense that didn't seem predictable. People are going to throw Case Keenum under the bus for this one, and have doubts about the defense for not showing up when it mattered, all while talking about how they can be back next year... but when you lay an egg as big as this one, it shakes the confidence in the coaching, too. If Green Bay has healthy Aaron Rodgers for all of 2018, and their QB dance doesn't go well, what looked like a team on the rise could easily slide back down. After yesterday's game, you'd almost have to expect that to happen.

2) Finally, Foles. This was the first game he's played this year that he definitively passed the eye test, along with having numbers. The Giants game was good, but that team was a train wreck on defense. Minnesota was, up until the middle of the third quarter of the Saints game, one of the best defense in the past ten years. He carved them. He had help all over the place, but he also made plays -- the touchdown to Jeffery where he had to move in the pocket, didn't take a checkdown or a throwaway, and hit his man in stride for the definitive killshot. The Eagles were 10 for 14 on third down, and he's got a 100 passer rating in his three career playoff games. I don't know if he's going to parlay this into a starting job somewhere else eventually, but, um, damn. Dude played the game of his life at the best possible time for it.

1) Super Bowl Lie. Seems as good a time as any to actually win one. (And yes, NBC has to be thrilled that the top two seeds in the top remaining media markets won out and saved them from ratings death.)

Savor this, folks. And hope like hell that the run continues for just one more game...

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Eagles-Vikings Diary: Well, I Was Wrong, And I Am Happy

Yup, It's Back
> RB Latatvius Murray for 6 to start, not encouraging, but penetration sets up short third down

> First major play of the day is a draw to RB Jerrick McKinnon, who gets just enough to convert

> Vikings seem slightly out of sorts on first, but get it away to Murray on a screen, who beats S Malcolm Jenkins in the flat for another first down

> Murray pushes the pile for 4, then another first down on a clear throw to WR Adam Thielen; Vikings near FG position

> McKinnon beats CB Ronald Darby in the backfield for another first down, and the defense is on its heels

> McKinnon for 4 as LB Mychael Kendricks is the latest guy to miss a chance at a negative play

> Wide open TD to TE Kyle Rudolph, perfect ball by Keenum, and that's just about the worst possible start to the game, short of injury

> Vikings 7, Eagles 0 after 4:46

> Having the best part of the team get punched in the mouth to start the game, killing the crowd and any good feeling, not ideal

> RPO from QB Nick Foles is on target to WR Nelson Agholor to move the sticks; useful

> WR Torrey Smith gets open deep, but Foles is slightly underthrown, and Smith can't bring it in; opportunity missed

> WR Nelson Agholor on a swing for six yards, good tackling

> Third and four and avoid disaster start is Foles to TE Trey Burton, who can't get his feet down on a terrible unforced error by the TE3

> On the plus side, Foles didn't look bad during that series; on the negative, everyone else is stinking it up

> Unforced error on special teams adds 15 yards to the Vikings offense, as if they aren't comfy enough right now

> Incomplete and DT Fletcher Cox with a shoestring tackle; 3rd and 10 is a big damned deal

> WR Stefon Diggs gets the perfect out and converts on Darby, and the avalanche is getting bigger

> Murray for 2 as negative play potential is missed, but Cox closes

> Diggs drops and suffers a back injury from LB Najeh Goode's knee, setting up 3rd and 8 and another opportunity

> Without Diggs, Keenum is modified just enough by DE Chris Long; CB Patrick Robinson collects the pick and patiently goes 50 yards for a shocking touchdown

> K Jake Elliott converts the PAT, which he's trained us not to take for granted, and the game is tied again

> First TD given up by Minny on offense all year

> Murray for 4, incomplete screen off pressure with a QB hit, and 3rd and 6 with a possible three and out and keep Big Mo is here

> Diggs can't get loose in the flat, with Jenkins holding on for dear life, and that's a three and out that's absolutely essential

> P Ryan Quigley is fair caught by PR Kenyon Barner for 44 yards, and we're back to fill equilibrium, ten minutes in

> RB Jay Ajayi's first touch goes for 13 with startling quicks

> Ajayi gets seven as the line does another nice job on a running play, and he loses a shoe at the close

> Nice catch by WR Alshon Jeffery on a slant to move the sticks without drama

> In Vikings territory, end around to Agholor loses ground, because Minny's seen the Atlanta tape

> Foles to TE Brent Celek is a drop, setting up 3rd and 10 outside of figgie range

> Foles to TE Zach Ertz, who bounces off tacklers to get 11 and move the sticks -- massive play, good throw, good protection

> Foles on RPO to Ertz for 8, then RB LeGarrete Blount mashes just well enough to move the sticks

> Foles to Jeffery on play action, looks as comfortable as he ever gets, nice gain again and that's the end of the first quarter

> 2nd and 2 is a run blitz that keeps Ajayi from converting, but it's in sneak range, except that Foles isn't great at those

> From the gun, play action to Ertz to convert, and it's a significant sign that HC Doug Peterson is putting the key plays in the hands of Foles

> From the 11, Blount gets a nice hole, explodes through contact, and the home team has a lead

> Elliott converts, and it's Green 14, Purple 7

> Elliott's curling line drive kickoff gets to the end zone, so no foul, but something to note for later

> Murray for 1 as DE Vinny Curry gets on the board, then Diggs gets 7 on a slant

> Third and 2 and maybe get some cushion is Keenum missing against a Jenkins blitz, on a play that barely beat the play clock; Keenum looking slightly shaky

> Quigley gives Barner a chance, and he gets 10 yards and pain

> From the Green 30, Blount for 2, then Foles tries Agholor, covered, late, incomplete

> 3rd and 8 sees Foles pump, pull it down, and convert to Ertz for 15 on a play that he clearly doesn't make in the last month; huge

> Ajayi for 3, then an incomplete on pressure that was borderline disastrous

> 3rd and 7 outside field goal range sees Foles hold it too long and take a violent sack, and the QB was lucky to avoid a fumble there

> Jones to the 15 with a fair catch, and so much for margin

> McKinnon for 2 on a play that a better back could have gotten more out of, then Diggs gets 22 on a wide open blown coverage

> Keenum throws it away on a long play that seems like it could have had holding

> Toss to WR Jerrious Wright gets 4 as Kendricks recovers well

> 3rd and 6 with 7:30 left in the second quarter is another major opportunity, and it's Diggs on an 8 yard out that lacked zip or difficulty

> Keenum to Thielen moves the chains again, as the secondary has been too soft

> McKinnon for 3 to long figgie range, then gets another first down on a well-designed screen

> McKinnon for a yard to enter the red zone, then a few to the flat as Kendricks is the lone man on the scene

> Third and five inside the red zone is make or break, and the defense makes a monster play, with DE Derek Barnett with the strip, and DE Chris Long with the recovery

> Second massive play by the defense of the half, and the reason why they are ahead

> Odd screen to Ajayi gets two, then Blount for 2 to get it down to the two minute warning

> RB Chris Clement with a great violent spin and conversion on a pass to the flat -- huge play

> Smith gets 11 on a bubble screen that almost goes deep, then Foles throws deep to no one while looking too excited

> With 85 seconds left in the half at midfield, Foles holds it too long and throws it away, and clock management hasn't worked out well here

> 3rd and 10 with both teams having full timeouts is huge, and Foles is able to avoid pressure and unload to a shockingly open Jeffery for another shocking score

> 53 yards on 3rd and 10 is just about as iconic a play as you can make, so you be you, Nick Foles

> CB Terence Newman, 39 years old, not all that good right now; CB Xavier Rhoades was off with a foot issue

> Elliott connects, and it's 21-7, and more points than I'd think Green would score all day

> 2 for McKinnon, then 5, and with 58 seconds left, opportunity for the defense to really get ahead of the game

> Slant to Wright converts, with Keenum making a big play; first Purple timeout

> McKinnon for 4 in the flat, then Keenum misses an open Diggs

> 3rd and 6 with 44 seconds left is Keenum missing Rudolph due to heavy pressure, and the defense does the job again

> Quigley to the end zone as the gunners miss a chance

> with 29 seconds left, near lateral to Ajayi for 10; dangerous and silly with just 23 seconds left, but Pederson is just playing with house money right now

> Foles to a wide open Ertz down the sideline for 36, and I have no idea what S Harrison Smith was thinking there; massive chance to add to the lead

> Screen to Ajayi gets it inside the 20, and only the clock is stopping this offense right now

> Seriously, Wentz couldn't have played that half any better

> Elliott from 38 makes it, and it's 24-7 Green

> Starting the third with opportunities for serious comfort, it's Foles to Smith for 4, then again to move the sticks on RPO; QB still on point

> Ajayi pinballs for 3, then Foles hits Jeffery on a hot read off the blitz; the WR spins for the first down

> Foles slow to get up as the fan base gulps, but stays in and hands off to Ajayi, who gets five on a nice burst draw

> In Vikings territory, Blount loses to Newman, setting up 3rd and 6 and decide the game kind of play

> Full clock burn, then a screen to Smith, who extends just enough for the first down

> Flea flicker with a bomb to Smith, who fakes the corner and gets to the pylon in front of Smith

> Oh, by the way, Foles makes one of the best throws of his life, and that's as much of a killshot touchdown to start the second half as you could hope for

> 31 unanswered points for the home team

> Murray for zero as Fox changes to coaching hire news, because why talk about the game in front of them

> McKinnon for 13 to quiet down the party, then a draw for 9, and another for 2 to move the sticks

> Keenum to a wide open Wright for 33 into the red zone

> Keenum tries Thielen on the sideline, but out of bounds, then Keenum is able to avoid a sack

> 3rd and 10 in a situation and distance that makes me wonder if it's four down territory is McKinnon getting enough on a hot read to convert, so oh well

> From the 7, incomplete to Wright as Mills closes well on the slant

> Keenum misses Thielen in the back of the end zone, Darby super tight on the coverage

> Third and goal is Keenum missing Thielen in the flat badly, not that he'd likely have gotten in anyway

> Fourth and goal and put the game away is Thielen making what seemed to be an impossible juggling catch, but the replay is clearly an incomplete, and That Could Be That

> Fox analyst Mike Pereria likes that he didn't have to work very hard in this game, and we're all with him on that

> With 21:21 to burn, Fox goes to Celebrity Watching time

> Ajayi for 4, then 1, always falling forward as Pederson goes for Clock Burn

> 3rd and 5 and keep the defense fresh with more burn is Foles to Ertz on a rollout, simple throw, bad coverage, easy conversion

> Ertz now with 82 yards against a defense that kept TEs down all year

> Ajayi for 5, then 1, ball security is everything

> 3rd and 4 and keep everyone thinking Nick Foles Is God is an improv off a scramble to Agholor for a massive chunk, and we're to the point of High Comedy

> Ajayi loses as the offense nearly lost clock containment, then Foles hits Burton, who fights for a first down as Purple looks quittish

> Toss to Clement who motors for another first, and it gets five more on hands to the face from the defense

> From the 5, Ajayi stretches to the 2, and that's the end of the third

> Ajayi loses, and on third and goal, it's Foles to Jeffery for the score

> Elliott converts prior to a pointless fight, and it's 38-7 Green

> I think the Eagles are out of fireworks and touchdown celebrations

> Eagle Fan with world-class trolling by changing the Skol chant to Foles

> Kicking from the 50, Elliott puts it out of the end zone for funsies, but Philly gives back the 15 with some dumbassery

> Vikings HC Mike Zimmer fails to make our day complete by trotting out QB Sam Bradford for victory cigar time

> Diggs for 4, then Wright for 8, clock

> Keenum misses Rudolph, then barely avoids a pick on an overthrow as S Rodney McLeod is a step short; pressure is a major problem for this QB

> For the first time today, Keenum gets 8, setting up 4th and 2; Purple timeout as crowd is in full delirium

> Pressure, incomplete, Fletcher Cox, and the Eagle defense wins on the plays that matter one more time

> Ajayi for 4, Blount for 2 but a Celek hold back it up

> 2nd and 16, Ertz for 4 on that double fake screen that Pederson can't get away from

> 3rd and 12, safe screen to keep the clock running goes to Ertz to pad numbers, and we're 10 minutes from ending this

> Jones to the 9, and it's Dog Mask Time for video panning

> Thielen for 4, because checkdown QBs are kind of his thing, then McKinnon converts for his fantasy football playoff owners

> McKinnon for 7, then 5, and they are very good at running tempo between the 20s

> McKinnon gets 14 and the sideline, but the clock keeps rolling at this point in the game, and the road team is huddling

> Curry nearly catches Keenum on a throwaway, then Diggs sits after a yard so Philly Fan can hate on him

> Diggs for 14 as we're in the Fluff Howie Roseman portion of the program (sure, he deserves it)

> McKinnon for more and LB Nigel Bradham gets his hand on a facemask for bonus

> Wright can't bring in a high throw in the end zone and nearly winds in in the first row

> Interception by CB Corey Graham as he jumps the route on Thielen, and Minny couldn't have been worse in the red zone today

> Ajayi converts as Pederson goes into full Nobody Get Hurt mode

> Ajayi for 15 on a play where he's hit in the backfield and just does not give a damn; sheesh

> Clement converts on third down on an obvious running play, because Purple stopped caring about an hour ago

> All season highs for the Viking defense today, and since the third quarter of the Saints game, they just stopped being the same team

> QB Nate Sudfled on to take the kneels as Dance Party Philadelphia kicks in

> Fox tells us how proud Mike Zimmer should be of getting completely trucked

> Eagles-Patriots II in two weeks, and let's not think about it for a while

Thursday, January 18, 2018

NFL Conference Championship Picks: I Want To Be Wrong

Jacksonville at NEW ENGLAND (-7)

The case for Jacksonville: Elite defense that would have won last week's game by a lot more if only fourth and garbage time weirdness hadn't kicked in. Power running game is a common element in teams that win in New England in the playoffs. GM Tom Coughlin has beaten the Belichick Beast in big games before. Playing with the most house money you could imagine in a stage of this size. QB Blake Bortles can make plays with his legs. The special teams don't make the killer mistakes that turn games against the Patriots into routs. Secondary is the best in the NFL right now.

The case against:QB Blake Bortles can be comically inept, and even at best, erratic. None of these WRs would start for any of the other remaining teams. RB Leonard Fournette is banged up, which is about the worst thing he can be right now. Gave up a ton of points last week, and can lose focus, like any young team. Oh, and young teams die in Foxboro. Forever.

The case for New England: Having as easy a route to the Super Bowl as any team has, well, ever. Best coach, QB, blah blah blah. Don't beat themselves. Defense has been very good at preventing points, because of course they are. After a weak start to the season, have looked more than good enough to win. TE Rob Gronkowski remains the biggest matchup problem in the NFL. OL has been solid, especially in run blocking. At home, as rested as you can hope for, nearly as healthy as you can hope for.

The case against: So spoiled that home field is barely a thing now. If QB Tom Brady is limited, serious dent in the armor. Fell behind early against a middling Titans team, then got momentum going with the usual gut punch officiating call. Might not get the gut punch officiating call. Could be secretly mediocre and propped up by their cakewalk schedule. We usually only find that out around this stage of the season.

Prediction: Death, taxes, Patriots. Lather, rinse, repeat. Close early, Jags don't convert their chances, Patriots do, you feel stupid for watching. Please all die in a fire.

Patriots 31, Jaguars 16

MINNESOTA (-3) at Philadelphia

The case for Minnesota: Best defense in the game. Lockdown run defense. Exceptional corners. Well coached. Deep. Get pressure, don't beat themselves, excellent tacklers. You only score against them with short fields and/or exceptional execution early. Then they get a lead, and the momentum continues. As good a defense as Seattle during their heyday, and unlike Seattle, the offense keeps them rested. Offense is competent, with two very good WRs; WR2 Stefon Diggs could be a nightmare in this game. Playing with a sense of destiny after unreal escape last week. QB Case Keenum made a bunch of big plays, even before the final one, and mobile QBs have hurt the PHL defense this year (see Russell Wilson in SEA, and Alex Smith in KC).

The case against: Should have lost, and would have blown a big lead in doing so. Keenum also looked shaky late and will give you chances for turnovers. Running backs are just ordinary at this point (due to injury). TE Kyle Rudolph isn't special, and special teams are also ordinary. Coaching is untested at this level. Could have road issues in elements, since they play in a dome. For the superstitious, no home team has ever appeared in a Super Bowl, and the game is in Minny. A team that pulls off a once in a lifetime escape after blowing a big lead at home and on a bye doesn't seem like one you should bet on. I'd probably be taking the Falcons against them if Atlanta won last week.

The case for Philadelphia: At home, with the best defense they've had in a decade. Deep stable of running backs and very solid group of WRs and TEs. QB Nick Foles resembled an NFL QB in the second half of the Atlanta win. Best home field crowd this side of Seattle or Kansas City, and they will totally sell out for this team, given what they have had to overcome on injuries. Coaching staff has been freakishly blessed on fourth down aggressiveness. Special teams no longer amazing, but haven't hurt. Offensive line might be the best unit left in the playoffs, especially on plays when they can get downfield. Secondary recovers from mistakes. Linebackers tackle well, defensive line gets pressure, especially on running plays. As the only #1 seed to ever be the underdogs in two successive games, incredibly motivated.

The case against: Foles was terrible in the first half against Atlanta, and the Minnesota defense is a lot better than that. Turnover rate has crept up since QB Carson Wentz went down as guys try to do too much to overcome the loss. Foles has historically bad mobility and can't extend plays; he also can't be trusted in anything resembling improvisation. WRs have had some drop issues. DBs are susceptible to double moves. They don't always do well with officiating, and K Jake Elliott misses more PATs than anyone ever should. He also makes the long ones, but, um, still. That kind of thing is worrisome. Hanging on by the skin of your teeth to beat a 6 seed with a goal line stand, when you are coming off a bye and they are not, does not exactly scream out team you should bet on.

The prediction: If I were a younger man, filled with hope and love for a team that is coming together to rally past adversity, I'd bet that way.

I'm not.

Foles is the original sin, and with the Minnesota run defense the way it is, they need him to play his best to win. He won't.

Vikings 19, Eagles 13

Last week: 2-2

Season: 130-124-8

Career: 1012-1011-43

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Eagles - Falcons Takeaways: 53 Pick Up

As accurate as Nick Foles
We've officially entered the Obvious Bonus Round of this Eagles season, where every moment of joy and relief is way beyond anything you could have hoped for at the start of things. Which makes quibbling and having a memory and sense of realism completely unwelcome, but I am what I am. (And I am a guy that run 10 miles on a gym treadmill with closed captions during all of this, in a region where no one gave a damn about the game. The sacrifices I make for this team, which can seemingly only contend for championships when I am far, far away.) And with that... on to the takeaways!

10) K Jake Elliott's habit of missing PATs, then making monstrously important 50+ yarders, is downright freakish. It also is a little worrisome and speaks to a need for coaching, but for now, the whole makes up for the flaw. (Fix the flaw already.)

9) LB Nigel Bradham seemed like a knucklehead last year with off the field distraction stuff and middling play. When people talk about Coach of the Year accolades for HC Doug Pederson, it's the improvement in guys like Bradham, more than the Xs and Os. (And yes, the best player on the field last night was DT Fletcher Cox, but saying Fletcher Cox is good is too obvious by triplicate.)

8) Pederson's seeming willingness to go for it on 4th and 2 while up 12-10 in the fourth was, well, insane. Cooler heads prevailed and the figgie was kicked, but only after a timeout was wasted. This game really was a coin flip away from being blown, but Pederson is having a year for the ages on shaky decisions.

7) Special shoutout to Falcons OC Steve Sarkesian for taking a unit that returned intact from a Super Bowl run and making them punchless and ineffective. This, despite multiple good RBs, a deep WR core, a credible QB and a Pro Bowl C. Oh, and his game planning in this game was also highly impactful in the Eagles winning. Seriously, go look at what the Falcons were getting on outside runs, then ask yourself, um, why not just do more of that?

6) That's not to say that Falcons QB Matt Ryan doesn't have a hand to play in this. That crazed shuffle pass to deep reserve RB Terrion Ward during the Eagles goal line stand to win it was a pure gift, and his inability to convert on any number of third downs when nearing field goal position put his team in a hole all night. I get that conditions weren't dome field ideal, but when they write your legacy as an NFL player, not winning exceptionally winnable playoff games matters more than counting stats.

5) Turning to the Eagles, there will be a great rush to hope in the second half play of QB Nick Foles... which I'd like to put into a trace amount of perspective. The team scored six points after the half. Foles didn't throw a TD pass. He should have been picked, easily, in the deflection ball that turned the tide of the game by getting the club in position for a long field goal before the half. He missed TE Trey Burton on what would have been a massive play in the first. He spent most of the first half looking like, well, a terrible QB, squandering opportunities from bailout defensive flags.

He, well, sucks. He sucked less in the second half, against a defense that sold out to stop the run and brought no pressure. If you think he's going to suck less against an actually good defense next week, you are living with hope that just isn't supported by facts or the eye test. But you do you.

4) Kudos to WR Alshon Jeffery, who did what he could with what was there and was huge in the win tonight. I don't know if he ever puts up monster numbers in this system, because this system spreads the ball and he's older and more brittle than you'd like, but in terms of impact per play, he's everything you could hope for.

3) Let's not diminish what the defense did tonight. The Falcon TD was aided by a short field and terrible officiating. They pretty much played perfect defense on the downs that mattered the most. They kept the Falcons not from moving the ball, but scoring points. And they did it while not getting very much in the way of turnovers and sacks. It's crazy that they won this game, but they won it.

2) Similarly, the offensive line was balls nasty all night. Trucking multiple DBs on screens and gash plays used to be just a Jason Peters thing, but now it looks like everyone is doing it. They avoided crippling holding and false starts, especially important when you are wet nursing a QB with little ability to improvise or convert long third downs. It's less crazy that they won this game, but they won it.

1) The team will be home, and an underdog again, for the winner of Saints-Vikings. I'm hoping for the Vikings for the simple reason that Case Keenum hasn't won a Super Bowl and Drew Brees has, but Keenum is more mobile, and the Viking defense might be the best in the game.

But all of that doesn't matter as much as this: the Eagles won as a full team tonight. With a liability at QB, they overcame adversity, sold out for each other, got past unforced errors (multiple fumbles, missed extra point) and several deficits, and gave us all a memory and hope. They've made it to the final four. Do that twice more, and one of the most improbable championships in NFL history, and the end to something that most of us have been waiting our entire lives to experience will end. Stranger things have happened, right?

Friday, January 12, 2018

NFL Playoff Picks: Mama Didn't Raise No Foles

Or quarterbacks
ATLANTA (-3) at Philly

There are many reasons to pick either team here, which is why you wind up with such a tight line. Atlanta has playoff experience, a vastly improved defense, game breakers at RB and WR, and a QB who's won these kinds of games before. Philly has home field, the bye week of rest, a running game that could control things and take the pressure off QB2 Nick Foles, and a rampant amount of motivation for a defense that's been great for most of the year. I fully expect the Eagles to come out of the locker room flying, to take an early lead behind RB Jay Ajayi and a healthy offensive line, and to look great for about a quarter, maybe a quarter and a half.

Then, Foles will be Foles; he'll fail in the red zone, turn it over, take a sack because he's trying to do too much and has the mobility of a spry 50-year-old, etc. A Falcon skill player will make a play. Dread will infect the place. The home field won't be such a benefit. And it's white-knuckle time until the close, with the team that's got a margin for error pulling away.

The problem is that QBs win playoff games, and they really win close ones. Atlanta's QB isn't legendary, but he's good enough, despite his historical record of not doing well in the Linc. Philly doesn't have a QB that you'd trust to run a lunch truck, and yes, I'd be picking my laundry with Colin Kaepernick. (Just as I might be picking Jacksonville with him. So glad the NFL decided that Ideological Purity was more important than winning games.)

I really hope I'm wrong, and I easily could be, but this year ended when QB and MVP Carson Wentz limped off in Los Angeles. The Eagles don't know it yet, but they will.

(Deeper analysis? Atlanta's got a better kicking game and special teams, too. Which also isn't cheery when it comes to a playoff game. Also, Eagle WRs drop too many passes, especially when the passes aren't particularly accurate, because the QB isn't a QB. Let's just move on.)

Falcons 24, Eagles 20

Tennessee at NEW ENGLAND (-13.5)

If there's a bigger collective moment of America motivating themselves to kick a football before the Patriot Lucys pull it away, I've never seen it. Yes, whatever, Mssrs. Kraft, Brady and Belichick can all get butthurt over Who Is The Most Genius, and New England will rue the day when it allowed an aging athlete to dupe them into a fire sale of his competent backup.

But that day isn't today.

Belichick isn't going anywhere at his age and comfort level, and the Titans got a massive number of breaks to be here. The road team can run the ball a bit, and maybe QB Marcus Mariota has a good game because no one really expects him to win, but in the end, New England's going to score a lot and Tennessee isn't. And then every New England fan will try to make you regret living on this Earth, because that is their superpower. And probably will be for another 1-3 years. Let's just move on.

Patriots 38, Titans 20

Jacksonville at PITTSBURGH (-7)

I love "The Good Place" on NBC so much that I kind of want Jacksonville to continue its improbable run, just so the best doofus on television (Jason Mendoza, a Blake Bortles fan) can have things to say about it. But QBs who run better than they throw don't win big games in college, let alone the NFL, and they really don't win on the road. Pittsburgh won't look good enough to make people think they should be favored in the most inevitable conference championship game in our lifetime, but they'll still cover this spread with ease. Just hope they can get through the game with all of their skill players intact, because there's really no more Patriotic way to win their win into another Super Bowl than to take advantage of injuries. Let's just... yeah, it's a running gag. (So is clinical depression!)

Steelers 26, Jaguars 13

New Orleans at MINNESOTA (-5)

A similar game to Atlanta/Philadelphia, but with everything just a little bit better for the home team. The dome makes the home field noise a little louder. The QB2 is a little (OK, a lot) better. The defense, especially the secondary, is more airtight. And it will all add up to a win, albeit not a very comfortable one, especially because the Saint running game doesn't look like it can take enough of the weight off, especially on the road. Five years ago, QB Drew Brees would win this game for the Saints. Now... not seeing it. But it really wouldn't shock me to lose this one on the spread.

Moving on!

Vikings 27, Saints 20

Last week: 2-2

Season: 128-122-7

Career: 1010-1009-43

Friday, January 5, 2018

NFL Picks: Wildcard Weekend, Because Pretending Is Fun

It's The Only Way To Delude
This week, with actual explanations! What can I tell you, I've actually got a human amount of free time right now, mostly because I'm 3,000 miles away from my car and second job. Fewer games mean more words. That's a win for everyone. (Or, well, not.)

Anyway, this weekend is usually a mix of boredom and delusion that makes you wonder why you watch... but then one out of four games is worthwhile, and when it's more than that, it's just an absolute gift. Besides, you also usually get a big terrible blowout or two that sucks on money for road teams in Round 2.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Tennessee at KANSAS CITY (-8.5)

Sure, the Chiefs don't defend against the run all that well, and the Titans are good at that, especially with Actual RB2 DeMarco Murray on the shelf with an injury, and Actual RB1 Derrick Henry getting the majority of the carries. KC also spent several months derping away any chance of a first-round bye. But while HC Andy Reid has a long history of blowing home playoff games with superior talent, this game is just too much of a layup for him to gack. The Titans aren't good against the pass, haven't gotten enough from QB Marcus Mariota to threaten anyone in a road game, and are the living embodiment of one and done. Everyone will get fooled by the Chiefs into thinking they can win a road game next week after this one...

Chiefs 38, Titans 17

ATLANTA (+5.5) at LA Rams

Falcons QB Matt Ryan has a surprisingly good playoff history, and while the Rams can get after the QB with defensive line pressure, that's a hard thing to sustain for 60 minutes. On the other side of the ball, this will be the first playoff game for QB Jared Goff, who has been in a wildly comfortable position with RB Todd Gurley wrecking the world all year. I think he struggles for a while, the Falcons get a lead that takes some of the Gurley Show out of the flow, and this one comes down to the wire. Yup, this is the one game this weekend that I think the road team takes, with WR Julio Jones reminding everyone that he's got a claim to Best In The League status.

Falcons 24, Rams 23

Buffalo at JACKSONVILLE (-9)

Poor Buffalo. In the playoffs for the first time in decades, but without do-everything RB LeSean McCoy, and facing a very good defense on the road. Trusting QB Blake Bortles to cover a big number in his first playoff game isn't exactly a recipe for comfort, but I don't think he's going to have to get more than 20 to cover the number, and Jacksonville does have some weapons at the skill positions.

Jaguars 20, Bills 9

Carolina at NEW ORLEANS (-7)

You hear this a lot: that it's tough to beat the same team three times in a season. Without getting too into the weeds and running the numbers on that... um, why? If you beat a team twice in the same season, you are very likely to be, well, better than that team. You are also at home, with lots of confidence, and probably have matchup reasons as to why you won the first two games. Which brings us to this game, where the Saints' strong running game and breakout defense goes up against a sputtering offense and intermittent defense. Oh, and they'll do it in a deafening dome, with a Hall of Fame QB. Sure, there's a chance that Panther QB Cam Newton drags his team to a win, but his accuracy just isn't there, and the weapons are pretty ordinary. Because the only thing harder than beating the same team three times in a year... is winning a road game with lesser talent.

Saints 31, Panthers 30

Last week: 9-7

Season: 126-120-7

Career: 1008-1007-43

Ads In This Size Rule