(Audio Rant below)
So there we were again, about to leave the Nifty Fifty’s in Bensalem, PA. My son Josh, looking to augment his helmet mini-mug collection, deposited the necessary coinage and waited anxiously to see which NFL team he would add to his “roster.”

If you recall, last week, the gods seemed to be speaking directly to him as he left with an Eagles mug. This week, however, there would be no such divine inter-vending, er, vention.

Even taking home TWO mugs this week could not reproduce a similar fate. On this day, he took home the Raiders and Giants. To make matters even worse, I did not replicate my breakfast of last week, oatmeal, opting instead to split a bacon-cheese omelet with my daughter. Yeah, you heard right, I actually split an omelet rather than devouring one of my own. Truly hard to believe, Harry.

So no mug and no repeat breakfast. We were left to fend for ourselves.

And away we go…

Since the last half of the season, including the playoffs, the Eagles were very much a Jekyll & Hyde team, so I thought ‘why not write the last TMA in a J&H manner, too?’

So, here goes, First Half we’re going rapid fire/bullet manner; the Second Half… chronological.

  • Fox’er Terry Bradshaw said during the pre-game “the Eagles fans don’t want/like Donovan McNabb.” Reason #1,456,734 why you should never believe anything any “national” broadcaster says because they have no clue what really goes on in each individual city. The media exaggeration of Eagles’ fans supposed dislike of Donovan is an all-time high, helped of course by another moron, Deion Sanders, who recently said he knows for a fact that Donovan wants out of Philly cause of all the supposed disdain Eagles fans have for him. Eagles fans want to win. Period. And if Donovan McNabb is the one to take us to the promised land, we will support him to the death. BUT, if he’s not and he does not perform well, we will let him know about it just as we would any other player. Period.
  • Speaking of #5, he played a downright horrific First Half. Lord knows the Defense wasn’t much better, but #5 made some throws that smacked of nervousness, which I cannot fathom given this was his FIFTH NFC title game.
  • Speaking of the Eagles Defense, obviously someone forgot to tell them and Jim Johnson that this was NOT Tarvaris Jackson or Eli Manning they were facing. The blitz packages they were throwing at Kurt Warner were having little to no effect.
  • Play-calling. Time and again, we’ve seen Andy & Co. get ultra-conservative on the bigger stage and we saw some of that in the First Half BUT not as much as years past. What hurt the Eagles was their inability to execute when given a chance to make something happen. And nothing epitomized that more than the completion to Hank Baskett. Streaking across the middle, had Donovan hit him in stride, he more than likely scores a TD. Instead Donovan threw a poor pass and Baskett did a fine job of just holding onto the ball.
  • A major reason behind the Defense’s poor play in the First Half was due in large part to the poor play of their young linebackers. Out of position and missed assignments were commonplace and when you’re facing a QB like Kurt Warner, who relies on timing perhaps more than any other QB, the Eagles’ linebackers inability to clog passing lanes were a key reason why the Birds were behind 24-6 at Halftime.
  • Yet there I was at Halftime, writing the following: “The Eagles are going to win this game.”
  • One last time before we get to the Second Half. The new LeBron James commercial features him playing for the Cleveland Browns. To this I say, ‘stop LeBron, stop.’ Enough already. We get it. You’re all-world, all-everything, but you’re also getting annoying. We realize what with Tiger out, someone from the sports world needs to be on every other spot, but enough is enough is enough. Take a seat on the endorser bench. Thanks.

So Mr. Hyde was certainly front and center in the First Half, fortunately Dr. Jekyll was about to make an appearance but alas that damned Mr. Hyde would come back one last time.

4:51PM Correll Buckhalter takes the Second Half kick back to the Eagles 40. Good start.

4:55PM Another errant throw by Mac Five, this one in the direction of Kevin Curtis; would have been a first down, kept the drive going.

4:57PM Very next play, Donovan is sacked, ball loose, Cards ball.

5:03PM Eagles D holds; Cards punt

5:10PM That same Curtis guys catches a bomb from Mac Five; Uncle Mo changing hands? (that’s “is momentum changing sides in Dick Vitale-speak)

5:13PM Yeah Uncle Mo is definitely changing hands; Brent Celek TD

5:17PM David Akers, despite the benefit of kicking off five-yards closer thanks to a penalty on the extra-point, kicks the ball out of bounds. What in the world is going on with David Akers on this day?

5:21PM Eagles D holds again; Cards punt

5:29PM There’s that Celek guy again; his second TD

5:30PM Akers misses the extra-point; What in the world is going on with David Akers on this day?

5:38PM Eagles D hold again; Cards punt

5:44PM Desean Jackson goes yard; suddenly Cards’ fans collective mouths are as dry as the weather and some kind of lump is forming in the Cards’ players collective throats

5:52PM Cards Offense is successful on a 4th and 1; yeah , this would be considered a “key” play as 10 minutes later…

6:02PM Cards score a TD; Eagles Defense clearly spent after using so much energy in keeping the game close

6:12PM Eagles fail to complete their own 4th Down despite the fact that there appeared to be a pass interference call that was not made on our old friend Rod Hood; game AND season over

What others are saying…

The Associated Press via ESPN.com & NFL.com :
“If the Cardinals, the first No. 4 seed to host a conference championship game, were supposed to be thunderstruck by their surroundings, instead responded like playoff veterans.”

RaisingArizona.com:
“Now that they are going to Tampa, it gets even tougher. At least I won’t have to read about any more ridiculous Philadelphia writers who lacked the respect for this Cardinals team. The Philadelphia fans and players though for the most part had the utmost respect for the Cardinals and that was what allowed this to be such a great game. Now those writers can go back to Philadelphia with their mouths full of crow and trying to figure out a way to explain to their readers why they ended up being so wrong.”

mvn.com/thecardinalsreport:
“Oh my God! That’s all I have to say until I collect myself!”

phoenix.fanster.com/category/cardinals:
“A cold front just blew through hell and the devil is frantically searching for a coat. Yes you read that right. The Arizona Cardinals are headed to the Super Bowl, I said the ARIZONA CARDINALS ARE HEADED TO THE SUPER BOWL!”

The bottom line… the LAST bottom line of the year…

I cannot in good conscience call this a successful season. As I said on my Audio Rant (below), only one team can call their season successful, and that’s the team that wins the Super Bowl.

Now having said that, there are a lot of positive things to take from this particular Eagles season. There was a tremendous sense of teamwork and camaraderie that came over this team in the second half of the season.

Remember kids, this team was left for dead. After the tie with the Bengals and the debacle in Baltimore, the epitaph was being written for both Andy Reid AND Donovan McNabb.

But this team came together and yes, they got in the playoffs by the grace of the football gods, but once they were in, they dispatched the Vikings and Giants, two teams that many thought were the better team(s).

So while disappointment will reign supreme for quite some time, let’s take a look at what’s to come next season.

Offense: It was plain to see that, despite the flashes of above-average-ness, the Eagles wide receivers are in need of some help. Donovan is in need of some help. The need for another offensive weapon or two is paramount this off-season. But whither Tra Thomas, Jon Runyam and Correll Buckkhalter? Free agents all, how the Eagles handle these 3 players’ contracts will be very interesting to watch this off-season. And clearly Brent Celek has assumed the role of starting TE and LJ Smith has played his last game as an Eagle.

Defense: A lot to be encouraged about including a solid nucleus of linemen and linebackers. Obviously the question whether Brian Dawkins will be back will be one of the most important on the defensive side of the ball. BDawk showed his true value to the team goes way beyond his play on the field. BDawk should and will be back.

Special Teams: This game notwithstanding, I believe the Eagles should and will bring David Akers back. Now they present him with some “healthy” competition but in the end, look for #2 to be kicking for the Birds come the opening game. Not so sure about Sav Rocca, the punter from down under. Very sporadic at times, Sav may not be back based on what’s out there re: free agency.

Coaching: Big Red is back. Period. He kept this team together and he never lost his players, unlike say Dallas?

Audio Rant…

So, that’s it. I’m out.

Til next year, time’s yours, food’s mine.
Steve O

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