Philadelphia Union to Hold Star Wars Theme Night on May 4th

Philadelphia Union to Hold Star Wars Theme Night on May 4th

It’s no great secret that the Union – a team
which sold out nearly every game at PPL Park during its first few seasons
– has a few more empty seats so far this spring.

The direction of this team is still a slight unknown,
and its consistency is somewhere north of maddening. It’s also been
relatively cold for the first three home games, kids are still in school,
etc. And while there were a few pockets of empty seats, 17,000 in a
stadium that holds just north of 18,000 is not embarrassing by any measure.
When the sun comes out – and, most importantly, if the team scores
more goals – people will come back to PPL. There really is no finer
place around to spend a warm summer Saturday.

With the next home game coming on May 4 (that becomes
important in a second), season ticket holders received an email on Wednesday
with the hilarious Photoshop job seen above (I sure hope it’s Photoshop,
and Jeff Parke, Jack McInerney and Sheanon Williams didn’t actually
have to dress like that). The subject line read, “May the Fourth be
with DOOP.”

Now, I am tired of the whole “DOOP” thing,
to be honest. It was Peter Nowak’s idea, and he’s long gone. The
team has driven it into the ground.

But a Star Wars
Theme Night
? With t-shirts, a costume contest, and
Harrison Ford (*not guaranteed to appear). Who wouldn’t like that?

Turns out, more than a few people who either take
life too seriously, take their soccer fandom too seriously, or just
don’t like Star Wars (who are you?).

A small Twitter revolt came out over the last 24 hours
claiming Star Wars Night makes the team look amateur-ish and minor league.

Look, do I wish the team was in first place with big-name
stars and people were falling all over themselves for tickets? Of course
I do. But just because a few people in the marketing department use
a play on words and some Photoshop to sell a few tickets, that doesn’t
mean the front office isn’t focused on winning (whether they actually
are or not is another issue for another day).

I understand some people love soccer. I love soccer.
But so do lots of families with little kids, who either come to games
regularly or attend a few games a year. You know what else those kids
love? Star Wars.

I’m not saying you have to dress up like Princess Leia on May 4 (most of you, please don’t do that), but what is the
harm in a few gimmicks. The Phillies have 70s night, 80s night, Jewish
Heritage Night and a birthday celebration for a monster born in the
Galapagos Islands. And they’re never accused of being amateur-ish
(except at the plate).

Enjoy the game, but for the safety of others, leave
your lightsabers at home.

For more on the "May the 4th be with You" promo, check out the Union's website here.


Enrico note: As both a casual Union and Star Wars fan, I kind of love it. I just hope they invite Patton Oswalt to get involved somehow. Dude has great ideas on at least one of the subject matters. Video from "Parks and Rec Let Patton Oswalt Ramble On for Eight Minutes Straight About Whatever and the Result is Pure Magic."

One thing about the costume contest which is kind of a bummer:

No weapons or fake weapons are allowed at PPL Park (including
lightsabers). All masks must be removed for inspection at entry gates.

What is a Jedi without his/her lightsaber?!?

Harrison Ford cussing out Chewbacca last night on Kimmel is worth your time as well..

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

The Eagles’ defense had two challenges on its mind Sunday. First, there was the challenge of outplaying Sam Bradford and the Vikings’ offense. Just as important was the challenge of outplaying the Vikings’ top-ranked defense.

“We wanted to be the better defense out there,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We wanted to match their intensity. That was the whole thing. That’s all we talked about — let’s be the best defense out there today. We wanted to make sure we were the most dominating defense in the game.

“We wanted to get more sacks, get more turnovers … that was our whole goal.”

In a clash of two of the NFL’s top defensive units, the Eagles beat the previously undefeated Vikings 21-10 Sunday at the Linc (see Instant Replay).

The Vikings defense was very good. It held the Eagles to 14 offensive points and forced four turnovers, but also had no sacks.

The Eagles’ defense was better. It held the Vikings to 10 offensive points, forced four turnovers and recorded six sacks.

If you watched this game and had to guess which defense is No. 1 in the NFL, you’d guess Eagles.

They were that dominating.

They outplayed the best defense in the game.

“We think we’re the best defense, but they’ve been playing great, and they were the best defense coming in,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said. “We knew it would come down to whichever defense played the best.

“You could see that the first quarter. We’d make a play, they’d make a play. But you’ve just got to keep on chopping. After the last two games, we wanted to get back to playing Eagles defense, and I feel like we did that.”

McLeod, linebacker Jordan Hicks, Connor Barwin and Graham led a ferocious defensive effort that saw the Eagles batter former teammate Sam Bradford, who absorbed his first loss as a Viking (see 10 Observations).

The Eagles sacked Bradford six times, intercepted him twice and mauled him snap after snap after snap. By the time the Vikings got in the end zone, with half a minute left, it was already a three-possession game.

Neither team had an offensive play longer than 29 yards.

“We think we’re the No. 1 defense in the league,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We think we can be that and should be that if we go out and play the way we’re supposed to.

“We have to do that every week. But we think we can hang with any defenses out there. And we have a lot of respect for that defense across the field, and we knew we would have to show up for us to even have a chance to be in this game. Because that defense is ranked No. 1 coming into this thing.

“But we also feel we’re the best defense in the league, even though we haven’t played like it. But this is the opportunity you want. On the main stage, you’re coming into our home, and this was our opportunity to face the best defense in the league, and I think we showed our worth.”

The Eagles, who looked nothing like a top defense the last two weeks in losses in Detroit and Washington, improved to 4-2 and dropped the Vikings to 5-1.

Six games in, the Eagles’ defense is allowing just 13.5 points per game. That’s No. 2 in the league, behind only … who else … the Vikings at 12.8 per game.

“For us, it’s a battle of the defenses,” Hicks said. “And we always want to be the best defense on the field and put our team in a position to win.”

Bradford has been sacked more only once in his career, back in 2011 with the Rams, when the Redskins got him seven times.

And after opening the season with no interceptions in four games, the Eagles picked him off twice.

Whatever it takes to get motivated. If it works, it works. And this Eagles' defense was clearly motivated by that No. 1 ranking the Vikings brought to town.

“It motivated everybody,” Fletcher Cox said. “We knew in order to win this game we had to be good up front, and the last two weeks we weren’t very good up front. But we got back to basics and went out and played a physical football game.”

Hicks had 11 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and two pass knockdowns in his finest game of the year. McLeod became the first Eagle since Quintin Mikell in 2007 with a sack, forced fumble and interception in the same game and added seven tackles. And Graham picked up his fourth sack to go with five quarterback hurries and a forced fumble (see Standout Plays).

The Eagles got back to the way they played defense the first three games of the season. They’ve now held their opponents to 14 or fewer points in four of six games and won them all. In their two losses, they’ve allowed 24 and 27.

“Pride … call it what you want, we knew we had to play well today,” Hicks said. “This defense has a certain standard, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else does, it matters what we do, and ultimately if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re going to be a top, top, top defense.

“For me, it’s not about them. It’s about us and what we do.”

Frequent blitzes lead to success for Eagles vs. Vikings

Frequent blitzes lead to success for Eagles vs. Vikings

Jim Schwartz’s entire defense is predicated on getting pressure on quarterbacks with just the front four.

On Sunday he blitzed. And blitzed. And blitzed.

“He’s not predictable,” linebacker Nigel Bradham said of his defensive coordinator. “That’s the main thing. Scheme-wise, you don’t want to keep putting the same thing on film all the time. You gotta switch it up. I think he takes that approach. And he knows when to do it and when not to.”

By the time the final seconds ticked off the clock in the Eagles’ 21-10 win over the Vikings (5-1) at the Linc (see Instant Replay), Sam Bradford had spent most of his return trip to Philadelphia on the seat of his pants, thanks in large part to linebackers and safeties generating extra pressure.

Bradford was sacked six times and the Eagles (4-2) finished the afternoon with 12 quarterback hits (see Roob's 10 observations from the win).

Many of those big plays came from zone blitzes, definitely not a calling card of Schwartz’s defense.

“He’s willing to adjust to win the game,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “He’s all about putting us in the best position to have success. So when you feel like something’s working or we have an adjustment we can make, he’s more than willing to make that adjustment.”

How little do the Eagles normally blitz? Well, according to ProFootballFocus, the Eagles had blitzed just 30 times in 181 dropbacks (16.6 percent) coming into Sunday. Against the Vikings, they blitzed on 11 of 47 dropbacks (23.4 percent). 

On those 47 Bradford dropbacks, the Eagles generated 20 quarterback pressures.

“They played aggressively, they were blitzing a lot,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I would too. We didn’t pick up anybody, so you might as well.”

According to PFF, Bradford entered the game with a passer rating of 108 under pressure. His passer rating under pressure on Sunday was 16.4.

Throughout the afternoon, the Eagles tried to do things they knew he didn’t like. That’s where many of the zone blitz concepts came into play. Jenkins said the added knowledge of Bradford from his time with the Eagles aided them in disrupting him on Sunday.

Jenkins explained that the Eagles’ blitzes on Sunday were zone blitzes, not man, so the defense was able to watch Bradford throughout the play. “It’s a little tough to see where those are coming from,” Jenkins said.

It certainly seemed like Bradford didn’t see them coming on Sunday.

“I think that anytime you know a quarterback on the other team and kind of know strengths and weaknesses, and things like that, just trying to give him some different looks and put some pressure on him from different areas,” Pederson said. “It was a great game plan. The guys executed it extremely well.”

When asked if the Eagles blitzed more on Sunday than they have shown on film, Bradford answered with one word: “Yes.”

They sure did.

By the end of the afternoon, Bradford was sacked six times by six different Eagles: Jordan Hicks, Bradham, Rodney McLeod, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham and Steven Means (see standout plays from the win).

Sunday was the first six-sack game the Eagles have had since 2014. It was the first time Bradford has been sacked six times in a game since 2013 and just the fourth such game of his career.

“There were some curveballs that Jim put in, to get on the quarterback and blitz a little more,” Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox said. “I think we did a great job of timing the blitzes out.”

While the Eagles blitzed much more against the Vikings and their depleted offensive line than they normally do, Schwartz’s defense is still predicated on getting pressure without them.

Still, Sunday was fun, wasn’t it?

“It’s always fun to blitz,” a smiling Bradham said.

Now the Eagles have proven they can. And will.