Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Running for cover

For the past couple years, Eagles fans have begged, cajoled and in some instances demanded that Andy Reid run the ball more.

Sunday night they got their wish. How did that work out?

With the game in the balance, the Eagles stood on the precipice of a dramatic come-from-behind win that would propel them to a 3-1 start and cement their position among the NFL’s elite.

The Birds had the ball inside the Bears’ 5-yard line. A running play moved the ball to the 1.

That’s when the normally pass-happy Reid decided to change course.

So you’re thinking he would utilize what most people view as a slam dunk, his 245-pound quarterback, and have Donovan McNabb sneak the ball that final, agonizing yard.

Uh, not exactly.

Maybe Andy would fool everyone, have Donovan play-fake, sucker everyone with a running play, then have Donovan waltz around that now-undefended end on a bootleg? Or maybe pull up after the play fake and hit his tight end all alone in the end zone?

One thing we know: He wasn’t going to be able to hand the ball to rocket-man Brian Westbrook and watch him launch himself up and over the mosh pit on the line into the end zone. Westbrook was standing on the sidelines in civvies.

No, instead McNabb handed the ball off three more times, first to Tony Hutn and then to backup Correll Buckhalter. Twice. Hunt missed a hole inside, bounced outside and was quickly swarmed under. On third down Buckhalter tried a Westbrook-like vault, only to come up short. On fourth down the Eagles tried to go the smash-mouth route, handing the ball to Buckhalter on a straight dive play. One missed block later, Buckhalter was wrapped up pretty much where the ball was snapped.

Four straight running plays. Zero touchdowns. Another bitter loss and a 2-2 record.

Now Reid and the Eagles are “running” for cover.

There’s another issue not being addressed here. In the two losses the Eagles have suffered this year, Reid and McNabb had control of the situation in the final agonizing moments.

And both times they have failed to get the job done. When the Eagles win, they usually do so comfortably. Occasionally they will get blown out.

But in a close game, with the money on the table, do you still want Reid and McNabb calling the shots? The doubts are growing bigger each time the Eagles fail to seal the deal.

And that’s not something the team can run away from by questioning a missed blocking assignment, a missed field goal, or someone who is not holding that giant laminated card on the sidelines each Sunday.

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