Monday, January 17, 2005

Nice performance by the Eagles yesterday, despite the fact that to some extent, critics' concerns about the effects of a month without competitive football proved valid. The defense was excellent, but on offense they made mistakes and left ten points on the field... and they still weren't really pushed in the game.

The game planning was excellent on both sides of the ball. The rested defensive linemen put pressure on Daunte Culpepper, blitzes were used judiciously and effectively, Randy Moss got discouraged early and never was a big factor. Donovan McNabb, who played very well, went back to the best of his pre-TO form in terms of spreading it around. WRs Freddie Mitchell, Todd Pinkston and Greg Lewis all played credibly and Brian Westbrook had his off-the-shelf standard Westbrook game: 120 total yards, a touchdown. They won cleanly on both lines--pass protection was really good, very much in contrast to last year in the playoffs. (I've been saying that's been an even bigger difference than the advent of TO.)

It also helped that they were facing a flawed opponent that had arguably played its Super Bowl the week before. The Vikings have a ton of talent, but are just not well coached. Seemed like the Eagles could do almost anything they wanted--particularly on offense, they ran the same plays for positive yards again and again. Even when the Vikings moved the ball, it often felt like Culpepper and his receivers were making great individual plays rather than exploiting systemic mismatches.

Next week against Atlanta will be a bigger challenge and might tell us a lot about whether Andy Reid has improved as a playoff coach. He'll have to go against his instincts and run the ball more, to keep the Falcons' two-backs-plus-Mike Vick ground game off the field so as not to grind down the Eagles' smallish defensive line. I'd like to see The Chiefs were able to destroy the Falcons 56-10 early in the season, almost exclusively with the running game. If Reid doesn't go pass-crazy, they should be okay.

It's tougher, but still possible, to find reasons for hope in the great affairs of our country. Apparently there's some pushback against the Bush administration's efforts to politicize the Social Security Administration for its ill-conceived push to neuter the most successful social insurance program in history, and news like this gives me some cheer in that it lays out how the tensions in the right-wing coalition might lead to a schism sooner rather than later. Of course this is dependent somewhat on the Democrats' ability to exploit the small fissures, and if the last decade has taught us anything about politics, it's that one should never underestimate the Dems' ability to blast their own feet off.

Today of all days it's also worthwhile to think about what idealistic Americans have accomplished in terms of social change, in the face of conditions that probably seemed far more daunting than what we see today. This PBS special on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., aired last night, featured a lot of informal footage--home movies and the like--that I'd never seen before in my fairly extensive trawling through the filmography and literature of the civil rights movement.

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