Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Week 13 Wrap

Since I knew I was going to be watching -- like it or not -- last night's Eagles/Panthers game with the sound on, I figured I would revisit the big story of the preseason, which was ESPN's new Monday night booth. In the national media, the story has died because stories tend to do that, and because everyone realized the real "game of the week" had been shifted to Sunday night.

Nevertheless here is the quick report: Mike Tirico is a highly competent play-by-play man, Joe Theismann is well-prepared -- although somewhat of a Captain Obvious -- and is still less unlikable than I like to think of him as, and Kornheiser doesn't add much besides fawning praise of Brett Farve, the City of New Orleans or whatever celebrity they have in the booth. Last night that celebrity was Philadelphia's favorite adopted son, the always entertaining Sylvester Stallone.

In an upset, Theismann outwitted Kornheiser on the few occasions they spared verbally, including changing the word "rent" to "lent" to deflect an attack Kornheiser launched on Theismann's cheapness and fashion sense. Theismann also did a Rocky Balboa impersonation that was surprising and disturbing, although not necessarily inaccurate.

The biggest surprise was the play of Eagles' Quarterback Jeff Garcia. Garcia used to be a pretty good QB -- in fact his lifetime statistics (including rushing) are on par with Donnovan McNabb's -- but that all ended a few years and a couple failed stops ago.

Because of his small stature, slingshot throwing motion and lack of arm strength Garcia resembles a high school quarterback. When he is inaccurate, as he was in the first quarter of last night's game, it feels like your favorite team has -- in some sort of reality TV/sweepstakes winner stunt -- inserted an actual high school quarterback to led the offense. This is not a fun feeling.

And, with the Eagles deep in a funk that predated McNabb's injury, I wasn't feeling good about the game to begin with.

But a funny thing happened mid-way through the second quarter: Mustering all of his strength Garcia began lofting the football over the outstretched arms of Carolina's giant defenders. OK, he'd been trying that obvious strategy from the beginning, but now his passes were landing, softly, in the hands of his receivers. Suddenly he was back to being the circa 2001 little-engine-that could -- scrambling around to find passing lanes, refusing to take sacks, and running when he had to.

The signature moment of the game come late in the third quarter when Garcia took his second straight vicious, post-pass hit and lay motionless on the turf. The crowd roared as fan favorite, third string QB AJ Feeley, put on his helmet and rushed onto the field. When the gritty Garcia got up and Feeley was summoned back to the bench, the crowd booed.

It was one of the most shocking booings I've ever witnessed. Garcia isn't Santa Claus, but he was in the process of leading his team on its third straight scoring drive, and he just risen bravely from his second straight mind numbing hit!

Not only didn't the booing bother Garcia, it encouraged him to up his level play to from good to perfect, as he led his team to a come from behind victory. Now, out of the ashes of a lost season, the Eagles are in complete control of their playoff destiny.

A cursory glance of the blogs and message boards reveals regret over the booing and a "let's not boo Garica again " sentiment among Eagles' fans.

Unfortunately for Garcia's prospects of ever getting the kind of raucous reaction Sylvester Stallone did when he was introduced during the pregame, the Eagles don't play again at home until New Year's Eve.

But if Garcia keeps his head above water on the road, the man who has always had an awkward relationship with the fans wherever he's been will get a final chance to recast himself as a Rocky-like hero in a city that loves an underdog.

Picks -- the baby steps towards break even continues. 9 - 7 for the week, 82-88-5 for the year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Almost 80% of Philly.com readers voted Garcia the game's MVP. The 22 percent who did not are more in the wrong then the boo birds were. You get the feeling that Garcia would love to knock Owens and the rest of the ‘boys out in the post season. He might have the eye of the tiger that Superman McNabb lacked.