Comparing the Eagles to the Houston Texans, Themselves

Comparing the Eagles to the Houston Texans, Themselves

The Houston Texans played and won the franchise's first ever postseason game on Saturday, and the city's first since 1993, way back when Warren Moon was under center. We don't particularly care for Texas around these parts, but it's a nice thing for sport when a perennial loser finally makes some progress toward legitimacy. In fact, were it not for a bevy of injuries, Houston might have been the favorite to win the AFC.

There were some bumps along the way before the Texans arrived as a contender, not at all unlike the ones the Eagles faced in 2011. Two years ago, Houston was coming off a 9-7 season in which they narrowly missed the playoffs. Naturally expectations were high for 2010, but for a variety of reasons, the Texans hit a lengthy rough patch, and before they could regroup, had finished with a mediocre 6-10 record.

Houston was 10-3 at one point this season, likely headed for a first-round bye, but once quarterback Matt Schaub went down with an injury, their fortunes changed dramatically. They were fortunate to avoid a first-round exit instead. Still, point is the front office didn't take drastic measures to rebound from a disappointing campaign. They tweaked their coaching staff and roster in the offseason, but mostly they stayed the course.

It starts with the head coach. Last winter, Gary Kubiak looked like a goner. Five years after he was hired, Kubiak had a couple of 8-8 years, and of course the 9-7 season in '09, but he had failed to produce a single playoff appearance. Fans were growing impatient, and there was talk 2010's awful conclusion would provoke ownership to make a change. They stuck with Kubiak though, who rewarded the franchise with the best season in its ten-year existence.

Houston's other big problem was on defense. In fact, Houston made NFL history by becoming the first team to lose four games in which they came from behind to tie the score or take the lead in the fourth quarter. When you think about it, that's not very far removed from blowing five fourth-quarter leads like the Eagles did this season. The Texans responded in the offseason by changing defensive coordinators, and adding talented free agents to their trouble spot in the secondary.

Those types of changes could be on the way for the Birds as well. Adding a free agent and/or drafting a talented linebacker or two seems like it should be priority number one for the Eagles' front office. There is also a lot of about replacing Juan Castillo with somebody like Steve Spagnuolo -- although, the Texans had the 30th ranked defense, while Philly's was eighth this year.

And with Pro Bowlers at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, neither roster required many changes on the other side of the ball. They are already built in the head coach's identity.

Of course, the flip side to this comparison would be the 2010 San Diego Chargers. Disappointing season, embattled head coach, subtle changes to the coaching staff and roster -- 8-8 finish in 2011. Clearly there are no guarantees sticking with these coaches and players sparks the necessary turnaround a year from now.

The Eagles shared some remarkable similarities with another team this season -- themselves.

Friend of the Level Johnny Goodtimes put together a fascinating piece that asks, "Did we just relive the the Eagles' 2007 season?" Both iterations of the Birds finished 8-8, but the comparison runs far deeper than that. Many of the team and player statistics, as well as several of the events that transpired over the course of the year, are eerily familiar to their counterparts in 2011.

For instance, the Eagles ended this season on a high note by winning their final four games, two of those when they were already eliminated from postseason contention. In '07, they finished on a three-game streak after the playoffs were out of reach. Both teams had three-game stints with their backup quarterback at the helm as well.

Most of it probably doesn't mean much as far as the 2012 Eagles will be concerned, but it is interesting to note the '08 team made it all the way to the NFC Championship. Hopefully a deep playoff run the following season will be the last thing these clubs have in common.

Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 3, Oct. 1

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Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 3, Oct. 1

BOX SCORE

Ryan Howard gave the fans a treat with a two-run home run in his penultimate game in a Phillies uniform, but that was the extent of the highlights Saturday afternoon as the Phils suffered a 5-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

With the victory, the Mets clinched a spot in the NL playoffs as a wild-card team.

The Phillies clinched their sixth straight loss and eighth in the last nine games.

They are 70-91 heading into the final day of the season.

Starting pitching report
Phil Klein worked four innings for the Phillies and gave up one run.

Mets starter Bartolo Colon went five innings and gave up just two runs. Both runs came on Howard’s homer in the fifth.

Bullpen report
Patrick Schuster and David Hernandez gave up runs in the sixth as the Mets broke a 2-2 tie. Hernandez allowed a two-run homer and took the loss.

The Mets’ bullpen pitched four shutout innings. Jeurys Familia closed it out for his 51st save.

At the plate
Howard’s homer was his 25th of the season, tying him with Maikel Franco for the team lead. It was the 382nd homer of his career, tying him with Jim Rice and Frank Howard for 67th on the all-time list.

Howard has six doubles, 13 homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games since July 3.

Darin Ruf smacked a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning.

The Mets scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. James Loney put them ahead for good with a two-run homer in the top if the sixth. It broke a 2-2 tie. Asdrubal Cabrera drove in an insurance run with a single in the top of the ninth.

Up next
The Phillies close out the season Sunday afternoon against the Mets. Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.72) pitches for the Phillies. Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60) is the Mets’ scheduled starter.

The game will start at 3:05. The Phillies will honor Howard at 2:30.

Instant Replay: Temple 45, SMU 20

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Instant Replay: Temple 45, SMU 20

Recent history suggested that Temple and SMU would display some offensive fireworks Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field
 
The Owls lived up to their end of the bargain with a potent first-half attack, while the Mustangs are still wondering what hit them.
 
Temple began its defense of the AAC East crown by overwhelming SMU with 368 yards of total offense and sprinkling in a fumble recovery touchdown en route to a 45-20 thrashing of the Mustangs in both teams’ conference opener. All but 10 of the Owls’ points came in the first half.
 
The Owls’ defense kept the Mustangs’ uptempo offense in check most of the day, allowing 288 total yards and recording four sacks and two interceptions. SMU came into Saturday’s game averaging 448 yards of offense per game.
 
Temple (3-2, 1-0 AAC) effectively set a tone for the rest of conference play at the expense of the overmatched Mustangs.
 
SMU (2-3, 0-1 AAC) won’t be forgetting its first trip to Philadelphia since 1946 anytime soon.
 
Turning point
After Walker threw a pick-six to SMU’s Jordan Wyatt on the game’s opening drive, the Owls came back out with another uninspiring, fruitless offensive effort. The Mustangs had every ounce of the early momentum. But then the Owls unleashed their secret weapon in punter Alex Starzyk, who uncorked one of his trademark rugby-style punts. The ball bounced off a SMU player’s leg and Temple recovered at the SMU 42-yard line.
 
Seven plays later, Jahad Thomas scampered in from 12 yards out for a touchdown to tie the game. Temple went on to score 35 straight points and never looked back.
 
Injury report
Temple junior safety Sean Chandler was a sudden scratch Saturday with what the team called a knee injury. Redshirt senior Nate L. Smith started in Chandler’s place and recorded a pick in the second quarter. Thomas took over the punt return duties for the day.
 
Senior linebacker Avery Williams was a game-time decision with an ankle issue. He started but didn’t see his usual helping of snaps. Redshirt freshman Chapelle Russell and redshirt sophomore Jared Folks saw the field most in place of Williams.
 
Owls sophomore wideout Ventell Bryant, the team’s top returning receiver from last season, returned to action after missing the last three games.
 
Big men on campus
Sophomore Ryquell Armstead carried the rock 15 times for two touchdowns and a career-high 159 yards. It was his first career 100-yard rushing game. Those 159 yards are the most by an Owl since Thomas rushed for 199 against UCF last October.
 
Another game, two more rushing touchdowns for Thomas. He now has six touchdowns in three games since returning from a dislocated left thumb that forced him to miss the first two games of the year. He finished the day with 80 yards rushing and those two scores.
 
Romond Deloatch continues to do it all for Temple. Not only did the versatile senior have a 34-yard catch, he scooped up a fumble and brought it back for a defensive touchdown after lining up at defensive tackle in the second quarter. He palmed the ball off the ground like a basketball and trotted in easily from eight yards out.  Haason Reddick forced the fumble when he decleated SMU freshman quarterback Ben Hicks. Reddick had another sack and forced fumble on a huge hit of Hicks later in the game. The quarterback will be seeing Reddick in his nightmares.
 
Bryant made an impact in his return with a 43-yard touchdown reception.
 
Ugly day for Walker
For all the good things Temple did on Saturday, Walker, the Owls’ senior quarterback, didn’t have a game to brag about.
 
He wasn’t sharp at all as he went 7 for 18 for 124 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on awful decisions. He stared down his receiver and forced the throw on Wyatt’s pick-six. He forced another throw along the sideline later in the game that was picked and led to a touchdown for the Mustangs. SMU defender Rodney Clemons dropped another easy pick in the third quarter.
 
Rough field conditions
The playing surface at Lincoln Financial Field was not in great shape Saturday, to put it politely. It was brown and torn-up from 30-yard line to 30-yard line. Beware. This is what happens when you mess with the combination of Beyoncé and Mother Nature.
 
Style watch
Temple broke out some sharp new black jerseys for Saturday’s game and paired them with white helmets and white pants. It was the first time the Owls wore black jerseys in two years.
 
Up next
There won’t be much rest for Temple this week. The Owls have to travel to Memphis for a nationally televised Thursday night matchup with the Tigers at the Liberty Bowl.
 
SMU heads to Tulsa next Saturday night.