What a game.................not too many other thoughts enter my mind as I continue to rehash parts of the Eagles-Steelers game this past weekend. Let's take a quick look at all three phases of the game and how they contributed to the final score 15-6 in favor of the Eagles.
Offense: A number of major factors entered into the inability of the Eagles to create the consistent offensive rhythm which they showed during their week 2 matchup against the Cowboys. Multiple injuries seemed to dictate how effective the offense remained throughout the course of the day, including a low ankle sprain to Brian Westbrook and a chest contusion to Donovan McNabb. McNabb was able to return to game action after only 1 series of plays, while Westbrook did not return. During the time before Westbrook was injured, McNabb was a sizzling 15-15, only to show more medicore numbers when Correll Buckhalter took over for Westbrook.
Offensively, enough production was had to score 13 offensive points, with the remaining 2 coming courtesy of the defense. These 15 points proved to be more than enough to win the game, but some lingering questions remain on offense. Can the Eagles continue to produce if Brian Westbrook is sidelined for an extended period? Can Correll Buckhalter fill the gap adequately enough to provide the running game the boost it needs to allow the aerial attack to continue. These questions should be answered as early as this weekend against a very good Bears defense.
Defense: While offense is typically the first facet of the game that most people want to talk about, this Eagles-Steelers matchup was about two words.........Eagle's Defense. After spending the week 2 matchup against the Cowboys playing more zone coverages and secondary matchups, Jim Johnson again proved to be masterful in reworking the Eagle's defensive gameplan to rectify the weak spots in the week 2 loss. The gameplan focused on one area, pressure. Ben Rothlisburger and Willie Parker were completely neutralized by the speed, blitzes, and physicality of the Eagles defense. The end result was Big Ben being sacked 8 times, knocked down another 4 times and hit a few more. These staggering statistics boiled down to a offense who could not develop any type of aerial attack because of limited throwing time Rothlisburger was allowed.
On top of the pressure created through blitzing, the Eagles front 7 was dominant against the run, holding pro bowler Willie Parker to a meager 22 yards on th ground. Teams who give up the fewest rushing yards in the NFL typically have success and win at a high percentage. This week's matchup will test the ability of the front 7 to continually create pressure and fill gaps, while the secondary holds tight man based coverage. If this formula continues to prove successful, the Bears offensive line will have their hands full protecting a young, highly immobile quarterback in Kyle Orton.
Special Teams: Unusual to say this, but the MVP of the Eagles-Steelers matchup was none other than punter Sav Rocca. Rocca was able to pin the Steelers inside their own 20 on more than 3 critical occasions including one 64 yd. punt going out inside the red zone. Seems that this Austrailian rules football star is really coming into his own in the NFL. David Akers was...........well he was David Akers.
Bottomline: Wins could become absolutely critical in the highly competitive NFC East, where 3 of the NFL's top 5 teams are located. With that in mind, this weeks matchup against the Bears is another important contest matching the Eagles highly powered offense against a very good Bears defense. The key to the game should be the Eagle's defensive to create pressure and turnovers against a very mediocre Bears offense. As long as Brian Westbrook remains on the sidelines, the defense will have to carry the Eagles.
Prediction: Even without Brian Westbrook, Eagles prove too much winning 27-10