Damaris Johnson and the Eagles let one slip through their hands on Sunday. Credit: Getty Images
The Eagles didn’t just lose a big football game Sunday in Minnesota. They lost their ability to think logically — from the ridiculous coaching decisions of Chip Kelly to the confused performance of Nick Foles and the stupid play of the defense. This was more than just a day of mental lapses. This was a nervous breakdown.
What made the 48-30 defeat so stunning was the simple fact that the Eagles have been smarter than their opponents for most of this remarkable season. Behind every win during their improbable five-game streak was a moment of genius, or so it seemed.
Then they arrived in Minnesota, and became the dumbest team in the NFL. For example, how could a coach as intelligent as Kelly sacrifice field position on every kickoff just to avoid returner Cordarrelle Patterson? One of the biggest reasons the Vikings amassed an ungodly 455 yards of offense — without Adrian Peterson, no less — was Kelly’s decision to wimp out on Sunday after two special-teams touchdowns in the snow against Detroit.
Of course, Kelly wasn’t timid when he decided to go for it on fourth down from the Minnesota 24-yard line with 6:26 left in the third quarter, trailing 24-9. In that case, he was temporarily insane. If the coach were really alert, he would have challenged the spot on the previous play, when chronically inept referee Walt Coleman shorted the Birds a precious yard.
The truth is, the Eagles offense was lost for most of the afternoon, despite a hollow 475 yards. LeSean McCoy, fresh off his amazing 217-yard effort against the Lions, ran the ball eight times for 38 yards. Instead, the Eagles relied on a quarterback whose final statistics hid the truth — that Foles cost his team a touchdown on a peel-back block, took several terrible sacks and threw a damaging interception in a day of bad decisions.
His teammates were equally clueless. When the game was out of reach, Roc Carmichael and Cary Williams thought it was a good idea to taunt the Vikings, earning themselves 15-yard penalties. And then there was that charming exchange between DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, when they had to be separated by teammates.
The less said about the defensive plan, the better. Somehow, with no running game, Matt Cassel managed to complete 25 of 34 passes, for 382 yards. That’s Matt Cassel, not Tom Brady. After the game, defensive coordinator Billy Davis called it “a beatdown.” It was the first time he was right all day.
The big questions after that debacle are worrisome: Was Sunday just a stumble on the road to the playoffs, or did the bubble burst in Minnesota? Will the Eagles right themselves in time for the big game Sunday against Chicago, or the even bigger one at Dallas in two weeks?
Don’t ask Kelly or his team right now, please. Obviously, they aren’t thinking clearly.
Ruben Amaro lost with decision-making
What is it going to take for the Phillies’ top bosses to see Ruben Amaro Jr. for the overmatched GM he truly is?
If the mammoth Ryan Howard contract didn’t do it, or the absurd Jonathan Papelbon deal wasn’t enough, how much more evidence is required? Our best hope now is that the case of Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will finally seal Amaro’s fate.
Desperate for another ace starting pitcher, Amaro signed Gonzalez — a 26-year-old prospect with a 95-mph fastball — last July to an astonishing six-year, $48 million contract. At that point, only real baseball insiders had ever heard of Gonzalez, but it was safe to assume, at that price, that the general manager saw him as a difference-maker in the rotation.
Then Gonzalez flunked his physical because of concerns about his right elbow — concerns that cost the young pitcher $36 million.
That’s right, Gonzalez eventually agreed to a 75 percent discount — $12 million over three years — because of the problem. Still, Gonzalez was earmarked for the No. 3 rotation spot behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
That is, until Amaro said at the baseball winter meetings last week that he isn’t even sure Gonzalez will be on the team at the beginning of the season.
The GM revealed that Gonzalez hasn’t pitched competitively in well over two years because he was suspended after trying to defect in 2011.
In short, Amaro risked $48 million on a pitcher who wasn’t even a sure thing to make the 2014 roster of a 73-89 team — a pitcher who hadn’t thrown a ball competitively in two years. That the player had a serious enough elbow problem to merit a $36 million discount only amplifies the insanity.
Is there anyone left, other than his bosses, who thinks Amaro knows what he’s doing?
NFL milking Super Bowl for all its worth
Based on revelations last week about Super Bowl XLVIII, there is now an alternative spelling of the word greed. It’s just three letters: N-F-L.
In an announcement by Super Bowl committee CEO Al Kelly that only an NFL partner would have the gall to make, rules were established for what fans paying between $1,000 and $2,600 per ticket will get for their money at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
“You will be allowed to have food in your car and have drink in your car, “ Lewis said, presumably with a straight face. “And provided you’re in the boundaries of a single parking space, you’ll be able to eat or drink right next to your car. ... And it’ll all be watched very carefully.”
What will also be watched very carefully is the windfall of billions flowing into the NFL coffers. For example, since there are only 13,000 parking spaces for the 80,000 attendees, the NFL strongly urges patrons to park in satellite lots for a mere $150, where they can pick up shuttle buses charging $51 per person for the round trip.
Meanwhile, the NFL has already sold out all 69 commercial spots on the TV broadcast of the game, priced at an unprecedented $4 million per 30 seconds. Tack on the hours of ads from pre- and post-game programming, radio rights, stadium signage, souvenirs and countless other revenue streams, and what you have is the biggest financial orgy in sports history.
Of course, this is also the first Super Bowl that might just feature snow. You can expect an announcement soon on how much the NFL will charge for that.
Idle thoughts ...
» Just when all hope seemed lost, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo arrives with a performance so hideous Eagles fans can rejoice again. Romo’s meltdown against Green Bay on Sunday was one of his most shocking. If the Eagles season comes down to that last game in Dallas, you can count on Romo to provide a happy ending — for us.
» Flyers chairman Ed Snider said these magic words in an interview last week: “We never learn from our mistakes.” OK, now we’re finally getting somewhere. There’s one way to fix that, Ed. Retire.
» The Phillies are “very willing” to trade Jimmy Rollins, according to a report yesterday. This is news? The real story will be if any team is willing to pick up the contract of an over-the-hill, lackadaisical shortstop. Don’t bet on it.
» The most perfect Eagle of all time is current long snapper Jon Dorenbos. Now in his seventh season here, he has never made a bad snap, never been called for a penalty, never screwed up anything — not even in that snowstorm earlier this month. It should come as no surprise he’s also a professional magician.
» Despite a scandal involving an alleged $75 million loan scam, Curt Schilling has won the top analyst job on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.” Schilling said he hasn’t told the whole story of that loan mess. Isn’t that just like old Curt? Always holding back, a model of restraint.