Eagles @ Patriots 1st Half Live Blog

Eagles @ Patriots 1st Half Live Blog

It's Sunday night and the Eagles are playing.  This is usually cause for an abundance of beer and wings to be guzzled down amongst fellow Birds fans all across the Delaware Valley.  Tonight's match up has quite a different vibe.  It's like we're going to watch our best friend get his face pounded by Mike Tyson.  Sure, we got our boys' back, but it could get ugly.

We're in front of our TV wondering what the heck Keith Olberman is talking about half the time.  Anyway, more of our random ramblings after the jump.  Send us your tips if you're watching along with us.

John Madden is doing the game this evening, which should be fun, and if his video game is any indicator, the Eagles are going to give the Pats a battle tonght.  Madden 2008 says the Eagles lost 33-36 to the Pats in a simulation.  (they forgot to take McNabb out.)

Early games: It's good to see Eli Manning looking like himself.  Man, that guy is not good.  Also, anyone see the end of that Cardinals game?  Wow.  Tough way to lose.

This NBC Sunday Football opener makes me want to do lots of things.  Watching football is not one of them.  Sending text messages on my Sprint PCS phone? Yes!

Andrea Kremer tells us that the Patriots are the healthiest they've been all season.  Perfect.

KICK OFF -- Eagles get the ball first.

Well that was quick! A.J. Feeley throws a pick-six on only the third play of the game.  7-0 Patriots.  On the plus side, A.J. Feeley won't have to wait long to get back out on the field.

I may need to start surfing the Internet for other ways to entertain myself on this nice Sunday evening.  Don't know how long I can take it.  At this pace, the Eagles will lose by a score of 420-0.

The Eagles throw together a couple nice little plays there and get a first down.  Westbrook slithered his way for a first when there wasn't really a hole.

The Birds' line seems to be giving Feeley enough time to find open receivers.  If you take away that horrible interception, Feeley has looked fine.

4th and a half yard...  They're going for it?!? and Feeley sneaks it up the middle with no problem.  Gutsy play for call from Big Red.  That could have hurt a lot of you gamblers out there early.

TOUCHDOWN Brian Westbrook!  Eagles 7 Patriots 7 After a nice little play from Reggie Brown, Westy jumps into the endzone.  Man, the Eagles could be winning this game right now.

The great and mighty New Enland Patriots offense led by the infallible one, Tom Brady, will take the field for the first time this evening.  Put the women and children to bed now.

Jabar Gafney sighting!

JUQUA THOMAS! sacks the shit out of Tom Brady.  But did he lay on him long enough afterwards?

Anyone see a hold there on Trent Cole? on the completion to Gafney?  It's a good thing Tom Brady throws like Joe Montana 'cause he runs like a girl.  The Pats move the ball fairly easily down to the one yard line and are then forced to call a timeout because Brady saw a super model in the stands whose number he wants to get.

TD Patriots.  14-7

They just showed a shot of the Boston Harbor Hotel.  My parents stayed there when I graduated from BC.  One of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed at, complete with a great view of the hahbah.

Matt P. seems to have some great seats at the game tonight.  He also seems to have a crappy cell phone camera.  Here is a cellphone pic he sent me.

If you hadn't heard all of the hype regarding the New England Patriots, after watching the first quarter, you would think these two teams are fairly matched.

2nd QTR: Brian Westbrook is good.  Very good.

The Eagles try to run a little trickery with Avant getting a backwards pass and then failing to find anything open downfield.  Pats didn't bite for a second on that one.  I guess that's the kind of shit you have to pull if you want to beat The Darkside.

Ha!  A.J. Feeley connects with Greg Lewis, who apparently scares the Patriots and no one else, to tie the game up 14-14.  A heck of a touch pass from Feeley.  What's up now, chowdaheads!

The Eagles are hanging in early and the offensiveline hasn't allowed the Pats defense to really get to Feeley.  You give a backup QB enough time and he'll beat you.

ONSIDE KICK! ONSIDE KICK! GOD BLESS ANDY REID! ONSIDE KICK! EAGLES RECOVER!  Ah, this game just became fun.  Andy Reid is a little happy inside to outsmart Belichick on that one.

Madden makes a point: Tom Brady can't beat you if he's sitting on the sideline.  Madden makes another point that I've been making: that maybe Brian Westbrook is the best RB in football.  Thanks, John.

The euphoria of the onside kick lasted about 2 minutes.  I will now have some Thanksgiving desert leftovers to regain a high.  Sugar high.

Jabar Gafney, Eagles killer.  Randy Moss isn't too bad either, eh?  I think this drive shows us something, the only way to slow the Pats is to get a body on Brady.  I'd say holding the Best Offense Ever to a field goal is a moral victory.  17-14 Pats

That NBC show Chuck would be infinitely better if it starred Sir Charles.

Greg Lewis is the Patriot killer.  A.J. Feeley connects on a nifty little pass to GLew for a nice first.

The football gods are smiling on the Eagles tonight after A.J. Feely throws a blooper to Matt Schobel for another amazing first down.  A play like that never goes the Birds' way.

Greg Lewis, recognize! The Eagles lead the Patriots 21-17 late in the second half.

This is getting fairly interesting.  I'd pay to be a fly on the wall of Belichick's locker room at half time.  Not to see Tom Brady in his underwear either.

As many commenters are noting, the Eagles defense is stepping up on the big stage.  From Chris Gocong getting his first sack to BDawk preventing Randy Moss from making the big play, the Birds defense is making their statement.

People make fun of Peyton Manning all the time for his mannerisms at the line, but Tom Brady is pretty loud and commanding up there as well in the no huddle.

I think the Birds got the shaft on the offsides call.  Clearly Mr. Perfect got away with one there.

Whew, dawgy.  J.R. Reed has been laying some hits down.  But the Pats keep moving the chains but are running out of time.

Jabar Gafney, Eagles killer.  He catches a TD on a throw from Brady in which it looked as if he may not have had possession in the end zone.  Ouch, and he does the Eagles wing flap.  Ouch, you scrub, ouch.  24-21 Pats.

That'll do it for the first half.  Kudos to the Birds for a pretty good first half.  Pret-ty good.  Pret-ty, pret-ty good.

Click here for the 2nd half live blog.

Beau Allen, Taylor Hart prove they’re scheme fits, outlast competition

Beau Allen, Taylor Hart prove they’re scheme fits, outlast competition

Plenty of people outside the Eagles’ organization — and probably a few inside — doubted that Beau Allen and Taylor Hart would be able to play in Jim Schwartz’s aggressive 4-3 defense. 

But Allen and Hart never doubted themselves. 

“I think for whatever reason, we got brought in to two-gap and I think we got labeled as two-gappers, and for whatever reason, that kind of stuck,” Allen said. “And when people think of two-gappers, they think, ‘This guy will stay on blocks and aren’t as athletic.’ I guess what I’m trying to say I think there’s a different perception between guys that two-gap and guys that play in the defense we play. 

“We’ve known all along that we can do this. And I think all the guys in the locker room have known that. It’s just kind of flipping that switch in your brain and getting used to a new mentality and scheme and being comfortable in it.”

Over the past month, they’ve shown they can indeed fit in Schwartz’s defense. 

Allen and Hart were drafted in the seventh and fifth rounds, respectively, in the 2014 draft. Allen was seen as a prototypical nose tackle and Hart a 3-4 end. While Allen played in an attacking defense in college, Hart had never played a 4-3 tackle in college or the pros. 

Still, they have both seemingly earned spots on the Eagles’ 53-man roster. 

“I hope that the play I’ve done out here in these three preseason games has shown that I’m not just a 3-4 guy,” Hart said. “I can play both schemes.”

For a long time, veteran free agent pickup Mike Martin was considered not just a roster lock, but also a rotation player on the defensive line. He worked as the third tackle for a lot of the offseason before hurting his knee. He missed a couple weeks and was recently cut. 

So how did Martin go from being a contributor to off the team?  

“The knee just never came back,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It just never bounced back, and it is hard. It's tough for players and veteran players like that. You're making decisions that are kind of out of his control.”

With Martin gone, the top two backup tackles appear to be Allen and Hart, while undrafted rookies Destiney Vaeao and Aziz Shittu appear to be on the outside looking in.

With a roster spot already likely locked in, Allen will play in the preseason finale against the Jets, where he joked he hopes to pad his stats. Hart’s preseason is already over. He has knee and ankle injuries that will keep him out for the Jets' game, but Pederson said Hart will be ready for the opener. 

Ready for the opener? That sounds like Hart has already won a job. 

“I didn’t hear that,” Hart said. “Well, we’ll see what happens.”

Allen and Hart roomed together during their rookie seasons and remain close friends. They also worked incredibly hard this offseason to pickup a new defense and shed that “two-gapper” label. 

One guy who might not be as surprised about Allen and Hart’s success in the defense is the guy in charge of it. Back in early August, before the pair showed what they could do in a game, Schwartz was asked about them and said, “Don’t sell those guys short. Just because that's what they were asked to do doesn't mean [that’s] the only thing [they’re capable of doing].

Turns out he was right. 

Was there ever really that preconceived notion that they couldn’t play in this defense? 

“Maybe from you guys (media),” Hart said with a smile. “I believed in myself.”

It looks like that belief is paying off. 

Josh Huff has been talking to a sports psychologist

ap-josh-huff.jpg
AP

Josh Huff has been talking to a sports psychologist

One of the most frustrating Eagles in recent memory, talent has never been the issue for Josh Huff. The third-year wide receiver can create separation and runs well with the ball in his hands. He's a plus blocker, contributes on special teams and gives constant effort.

Huff makes big plays from time to time, but what really stands are the miscues. The dropped passes. The fumbles. The missed assignments. The only think that's been keeping the 24-year-old from carving out a bigger role in the offense making an impact is himself.

Apparently Huff realizes that too, because as he revealed to Turron Davenport for USA Today, the 2014 third-round draft pick has been seeing a sports psychologist. In fact, apparently he's been reaching out for a little help since last year.

“I have been talking to a psychologist about football,” Huff said. “I have been too hard on myself when dropping balls. I also know that it will happen in this league. It’s a long season; you’re not going to catch every pass. That’s what I had to realize.

“I did it some last year (sports psychologist), and it didn’t help me too much. The one that I have now, he’s amazing. He is helping me elevate my game. I had a pregame routine that I got away from but after talking to him, I started doing it again.”

Huff certainly seems to believe it's helping, but whether it will equate to results on the field remains to be seen. He had a big game against the Colts on Saturday, catching two passes for 60 yards and carrying twice for 10 and a touchdown. Of course, Huff dropped a ball against the Steelers one week earlier, and fumbled another against the Bucs in the opener.

If Huff can keep his head in the game, this Eagles coaching staff appears poised to find ways to get him the rock. They've been designing all sorts of screens and quick passes to make more use of what is arguably his best skill, running after the catch.

Of course, the first part of running after the catch is catching the football, and the second part is not fumbling afterward. You have the appreciate Huff's dedication to his craft that when he admits speaking to a sports psychologist, but it's only him out there on the field on Sundays.

Penn State season preview: Is James Franklin on the hot seat?

Penn State season preview: Is James Franklin on the hot seat?

There are certain corners of the Interwebs where things are said and written just for effect.

Perhaps you’ve heard.

That being the case, it should come as no surprise that one scalding take heading into this college football season is that Penn State coach James Franklin is on the hot seat.

It’s understandable if you consider the fact that the Langhorne native has finished 7-6 each of his first two seasons, or that he is a combined 0-6 against Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan, the three teams he absolutely must beat to succeed in the rugged Big Ten East.

(Also to be taken into account is that the Lions lost to Maryland two years ago for the first time since 1961, and to Temple last year for the first time since 1941.)

Take a step back, though. Consider that he is still dealing with the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal — that, specifically, the draconian NCAA sanctions left him with a threadbare roster when he arrived from Vanderbilt.

Consider further that his own athletic director, Sandy Barbour, has his back, and that he is entering just the third year of a six-year contract.

Hot seat? Well, maybe a little toasty, but nothing more.

For the record, Franklin declined to play along when asked Tuesday afternoon about any noise pertaining to his job. He said during the Big Ten coaches’ conference call that he was concerned only with the task at hand — Saturday’s season opener against Kent State in Beaver Stadium and the day-to-day machinations of his team.

“Focus on that, not anything else,” he said. “Not any other conversations or anything else going on. Focus on the things we can control.”

He has said on other occasions that he considers this Year One of his program, since he finally has a full complement of 85 scholarship players (or thereabouts) at his disposal. He and his staff have consistently brought in top-notch recruits, something best reflected at the skill positions.

The Lions, however, are painfully young (12 players with senior eligibility) and have a new quarterback (redshirt sophomore Trace McSorley), questions along both lines and little depth on linebacker. They are also facing a tough schedule, especially early. September includes visits to Pitt and Michigan sandwiched around a home meeting with Temple, and later they not only face the Buckeyes and Spartans but an always-respectable Iowa club.

So if they tank — if, say, they go 4-8 (not an impossibility) — then it is safe to say that Franklin might be in jeopardy. If they again piddle along in the middle of the pack, which seems more likely, he will almost certainly get another year.

McSorley, a smallish run-pass threat (at 6 feet, 201 pounds), would appear to be a better fit for Franklin’s preferred offensive mode than the departed Christian Hackenberg, a classic dropback type — particularly since new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, formerly the head coach at Fordham, has brought his no-huddle spread attack to Happy Valley.

McSorley spelled an injured Hackenberg midway through last season’s TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Georgia, going 14 for 27 for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and he certainly has a pedigree. He was a rare four-year starter at Briar Woods High School in Virginia, leading his team to four consecutive state finals and winning the first three of those.

“Trace just has that gene inside him that just makes him a competitor, and just a winner,” said Wake Forest tight end Cam Serigne, once McSorley’s high school teammate.

That is literally true. McSorley’s dad, Rick, played football at Richmond, and a paternal uncle, Jeff, played at Marshall. But McSorley has seemingly taken that DNA and run with it.

In his very first high school game he led his team, minus its top two running backs, on a game-winning 88-yard drive in the final minutes. And in his career he won 55 of 60 games.

“He was kind of smart beyond his years,” Briar Woods coach Charlie Pierce said. “I’ve been coaching for 27 years and a head coach for 17 years at a couple different high schools, and I’ve only experienced a couple players that had a football acumen like Trace. Trace had the best, by far, at an early age.”

Now he will be entrusted with a unit that promises to be heavy on run-pass options.

“I think that’s going to be one of the best things of our offense,” McSorley said, “because the defense can in one sense never be right.”

He has a guy who can run in sophomore Saquon Barkley (a school freshman-record 1,076 yards last year) and a bunch of guys who can catch, headed by Chris Godwin (69-1,101-5 TDs) and DaeSean Hamilton (45-580-6 TDs).

But the line remains a question, and only one projected starter — right tackle Andrew Nelson — will open in the same position he filled a year ago. (The new left guard is Ryan Bates, a redshirt freshman from Archbishop Wood.)

The defensive line, which lost three NFL players in Austin Johnson (Titans), Anthony Zettel (Lions) and Carl Nassib (Browns), is likewise unsettled. Only end Garrett Sickels returns.

Linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White, a Philadelphia native, was lost for the season with a knee injury sustained in the 2015 opener against Temple. The fifth-year senior is back and will man the weak side, after playing the middle last year.

Jason Cabinda slid over from the weak side to fill the breach when Wartman-White was injured, and led the team with 100 tackles. He’s also back. So too is Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J./Oakcrest High) on the strong side. He made 65 tackles last year despite “playing with two bad wheels” and “a shoulder that kept popping out,” according to Brent Pry, who was promoted to defensive coordinator after Bob Shoop left for Tennessee.

The secondary is likewise well-fortified, and includes cornerback John Reid, a sophomore from St. Joe’s Prep.

Bottom line: There are too many questions surrounding the Lions to believe they can challenge Ohio State and Michigan atop the division, and (perhaps) enough to drop them below the .500 mark for the first time since 2004. Split the difference, then. Figure that they remain a middle-of-the-road club, and that Franklin’s seat doesn’t become too hot to the touch.

Not yet, anyway.

Freelance writer Gordie Jones is a regular contributor to CSNPhilly.com.