Friday, September 24, 2021

Eagles Throw Themselves a “Pity Party” in Home Opener

By Anthony Brancato

On September 12, 2011 — the day after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — the New England Patriots went to Miami to take on the Dolphins in the season's first Monday Night Football game.

With six minutes left in the game, the Dolphins, trailing 31-17 and with two timeouts remaining, faced a fourth and goal from the New England 1-yard line. Instead of kicking a chip-shot field goal to pull within 11 points, Miami head coach Tony Sparano — who was fired after 13 games that same season — decided to go for it.

The Dolphins didn't make it — and on the very next play, Tom Brady hooked up with Wes Welker, who was never known for his world-class speed, for a 99-yard touchdown that put the game away.

The late Stuart Scott liked to refer to such displays of abject gutlessness as a "pity party."

Exactly a decade and a week later, the Philadelphia Eagles went one better — or, to put it more accurately, one worse — in their home opener against a San Francisco 49ers team that was "desecrated" with injuries, as one sportscaster, whose name will be omitted out of sheer empathy, once put it.

On their first four possessions, the 49ers netted a mere 57 total yards, and as many three-and-outs as first downs (three in both cases).

But then came the blunder that triggered the pity party: following an electrifying 91-yard catch by Quez Watkins (who finished second to Henry Ruggs III in the 40-yard dash derby among wide receivers at the 2020 combine), the Eagles had fourth and goal from the San Francisco 3-yard line with four and a half minutes remaining in the first half. Since the Eagles have no legitimate power run option — Jordan Howard is languishing on the practice squad, and they are carrying only three running backs on their roster (and one of them, the diminutive — to say the least — Boston Scott, has not had a single solitary carry since Donald Trump was President), they rather obviously should have kicked a field goal, in which case they would have almost certainly gone into the locker room with a 6-0 halftime lead; and with the Eagles slated to receive the kickoff to start the second half, — which is admittedly out of its element in these matters — would have likely given the Eagles at least a two-out-of-three chance of winning the game.

What did they do? They tried the same "Philly Special" gadget play that worked like a charm in their Super Bowl LII win over the Patriots.

When the pass fell incomplete, the pity party began.

As if on cue, the heretofore-moribund Frisco offense mysteriously came alive, with a 97-yard drive that conveniently concluded with an 11-yard Jimmy Garoppolo touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings with 12 seconds left in the half, after which the suddenly dispirited Eagles took a knee (and not in the Colin Kaepernick sense) when they still had all three of their timeouts.

Following the intermission, the pity party resumed, with the Eagles going three-and-out, including allowing a Nick Bosa sack. After the two teams traded punts, the 49ers embarked on another marathon drive, this one encompassing 92 yards. Following another go-nowhere Eagles drive that featured another sack by Bosa, the Niners marched down the field to the tune of 52 yards before they were forced to settle for a 46-yard Robbie Gould field goal that made it 17 unanswered points since the "Philly Special" turned out to be anything but special this time around.

If it waddles like a pity party and quacks like a pity party, it must be a pity party.

And where was the vaunted Eagle pass rush, which ranked third in the league in sacks in 2020? Not only was Garoppolo not sacked even once in the entire game, but most of the time he could have made himself a sandwich back there, given how much time he had to throw.

At this point, paraphrasing the late Fred Capossela, it was now garbage time — and the Eagles "responded" with a 75-yard touchdown drive that required exactly 65 seconds. Yet with 4:02 remaining in the game, no timeouts left, and their defense having showed all the endearing characteristics of a sprinkling can since there was essentially the same amount of time left in the first half, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni refused to attempt an onside kick — even though he had gone for two after the garbage touchdown, and made it.

Predictably, the Eagles never got the ball back.

Looking at their next five games, as WFAN's John Cloghessy once said of the Jets, the Eagles are staring down the barrel of 1-6, after which they will travel to Detroit to take on the Lions in what will very likely be billed as the "Sam Howell Bowl" — just as their 1968 game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh was billed as the "O.J. Bowl": Both teams were 0-6 going into that game, won by Pittsburgh, 6-3 — and while the Eagles would lose their next four games as well, there would be no "Juice" for them because they won their next two after that, setting up the iconic booing of — and snowball-throwing at — Santa Claus in the season finale at home against Minnesota.

The Eagles will be playing three of their last four games at home this season.

Kris Kringle would be well advised to stay away. Had Nick Sirianni not showed the brains of a retarded flea — and his players, the courage of a field mouse — in their home opener, the prospect of this happening would not be anywhere near as imminent.

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