A lot of people are upset, bordering on distraught, over the way Pittsburgh manhandled the Birds on Thursday night. The Steelers managed to amass a 21-0 halftime lead, despite pulling their starters midway through the second quarter, and the Eagles made history, becoming the first team in NFL history to lose the Super Bowl in August, falling 24-14 in preseason week number two.
Of course there is a part of everybody--players, coaches, fans--who want the Eagles to do well, particularly the starters, especially against the reigning AFC Champions. Unfortunately, nothing we saw from either the first team offense or defense was even remotely encouraging, and there are a handful of areas that were perhaps exposed.
But if you really believe last night's result means anything in the grand scheme, you are mistaken. It's an easy philosophy to fall back on after the game, but also happens to be 100% true. The way these preseason contests play out simply are not representative of the real thing.
The coaches don't put a fraction of the preparation into the gameplan they would for a game that counts toward the standings. You don't think Michael Vick was watching film of the Steelers defense all week, diligently studying in anticipation of an opponent he would see two quarters of action against, do you?
Nor do the coaches have the players operating on a regular season schedule. Andy Reid closed training camp a day early this week, then the team traveled to Pittsburgh. These guys have been basically off or traveling for most of the week, not getting ready for a serious football game.
Even if you insist on assigning some type of meaning to last night's action, it should at least be put into context. After one quarter, the Steelers owned time of possession 12-3. After the first half, it was 23-7. The offense wasn't on the field enough to establish any kind of rhythm, and afterwards, Vick admitted he was trying to make something happen before he came out of the game.
Meanwhile, a single play could have changed the defense's fortunes. They had the Steelers stopped on the opening possession, but a facemask penalty against Cullen Jenkins extended the drive. The night might have taken a different direction from there, but instead the defense was stuck on the field far too long, and playing without their two best run stoppers in Mike Patterson and Antonio Dixon to boot.
It was one of those nights where everything that could go wrong certainly did. If you have one of those in January, that's your season. When it happens in August, that's nothing more than a teaching device.
Is it still disappointing the Eagles looked terrible? Absolutely. Ideally, you want to see the ones go out and have a strong performance against a great opponent, and build confidence as we close in on the games that count.
And if nothing else, it's clear the coaching staff must make some adjustments before then. Maybe they need to reconsider their current linebacker alignment, or reevaluate how far along their safeties are. Vick definitely didn't look like he was there reading defenses.
It just so happens, correcting that stuff is exactly what preseason games are for.