TORONTO - Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Trent Cole likes the direct route — whether he’s rushing quarterbacks or answering questions.
So when asked about Sunday’s game against hated division rival, the Dallas Cowboys, Cole didn’t mince words.
“I don’t like the Cowboys,” Cole replied. “We circle these games on our schedule every year. It’s huge for the fans and for the players. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to get back. I want to bring home a win for the fans.”
Cole has missed the Eagles’ past two games with a strained calf but is ready for action on Sunday.
His presence will provide a big lift for the Eagles, especially their pass rush, which is one of the keys for their defence.
In the team’s opening four games when Cole played, the Eagles had 15 sacks, three of them by Cole. In the past two games, they’ve managed just three overall.
The player who was most affected by his absence was defensive end Jason Babin. When Cole played, Babin had seven sacks. In the past two games, when he was double-teamed, he has had zero. Now it will be Cole who will be double-teamed with Babin once again free to roam one-on-one.
“I’m planning on playing the whole game and doing everything I can to help the team,” Cole said. “Going out there (in practice), I felt good. I didn’t get tired at all, and I felt quick. I just want to go out there and help my team out.”
For Cole, that means making the night a long and dreary one for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
“Tony Romo is a quarterback who runs hot and cold,” he said. “You need to get pressure on him, hit him, and tell him to stay down. When you do that, quarterbacks start to make bad decisions. We want to overwhelm teams from the very first play of the game and just get in their heads.”
And into the backfield and chasing after Romo.
Cole, however, isn’t alone in stating the obvious, that the game looms large for both teams. It may be bigger for the Eagles given they are 2-4 and can hardly afford another loss at this point of the season.
“This is a big game,” Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said. “There will be story lines all over the place, but it’s a big game for both teams. We all want to make a statement and for us to achieve the goals that we set out to do during training camp, this is a team that we have to beat.
“If you got a heartbeat, this is a game you look forward to.”
In San Diego, the fans are puzzled.
They are happy enough to be 4-2 and in first place in the AFC West. But they also have a question — just who is the guy in the Philip Rivers jersey back of centre?
The usual question at this time of the season in San Diego is: What’s wrong with the Chargers? That’s been replaced by: What’s up with Rivers?
So far the Chargers quarterback has completed 141 of 218 passes for 1,715 yards which is just fine. But against seven TD passes he has thrown nine interceptions which is not so hot. On top of that, he has come up with flat performances in losses against the New England Patriots and last week against the Jets. His overall quarterback rating is a pedestrian 82.3.
The numbers and the way in which he has played have people wondering if he’s fighting an injury.
Rivers insists, though, that he’s “healthier than ever.”
He may be fit but he’s not pleased with the way he has played either.
“Am I playing my best ball right now? Absolutely not,” Rivers told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “What I’m saying is I feel weird (talking about it). We’re 4-2. We’re just battling through it. All I’m saying is, I could be playing like this and we could be 1-5. It’d be ugly. So that’s the positive — we haven’t really put it all together, and hey look, we look up and we’re 4-2.”
On Sunday Rivers and company is on the road against Kansas City. Back in Week 3, the Chargers pulled out a 20-17 victory in a less than sterling effort.
The Chiefs have rebounded from their dreadful start — they were outscored 89-10 in their opening two losses — and have won three in a row including a 28-0 whitewashing of the Raiders last week.
For the Chargers to maintain their grip on first in the West, they’ll need Rivers to regain his form.
QUIT THE JOSHING
While there is mystery surrounding Rivers’ performances in San Diego, there is outright concern regarding Tampa’s quarterback, Josh Freeman.
Last season the youthful Buccaneers and Freeman both had breakthrough seasons. The Bucs went 10-6 while Freeman tossed 25 touchdown passes against six interceptions.
But after seven games this season, Freeman has thrown just seven touchdown passes while being picked off 10 times. His inconsistency and what is perceived as poor mechanics has resulted in the Bucs having an up-and-down, 4-3 season.
The Bucs believe that Freeman at times is throwing off his back foot which results in less accuracy and velocity. Other times, he’s forcing the ball into heavy coverage.
“Last year he simply did a better job of going through his progressions throughout the whole process,” head coach Raheem Morris said. “Right now he’s probably playing his number in fantasy football because he’s trying to throw touchdowns. Sometimes it’s okay to throw to check-downs; sometimes it’s okay to go through your progressions. Right now he has a little too much confidence in what he’s doing with his arm and forcing some things in there.”
With a bye week, the Bucs have some time to work on his flaws before making the trip to New Orleans, Nov. 6.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH COLTS?
It wasn’t quite the mafioso kiss of death, but it was close.
With his team reeling at 0-7 and coming off the complete embarrassment of a 62-7 loss against New Orleans, Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian on Thursday came to the defence of head coach Jim Caldwell.
He didn’t issue any ‘His job is safe’ comments, but Polian told SiriusXM NFL Radio that the club’s record can’t be laid entirely at Caldwell’s feet.
“How you evaluate (Caldwell) is what you do with what he has,” Polian said. “You can’t hold him responsible for injuries. You can’t hold him responsible for an unforeseen surgery (to Peyton Manning) that no one anticipated would happen. The things that he can control, I think he’s done a terrific job of, given where we are from a standpoint of personnel.”
Terrific job? We’ll gladly debate that one.
And if it isn’t coaching, then it has to be the players that Polian provided.
But he wouldn’t go there either.
“The players are playing hard, and it’s hard for me to believe that Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney and Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner, and people who, on and on — Fili Moala — people who have played well in the past have all of a sudden fallen off the cliff,” Polian said. “That’s not been the case. That isn’t the case. So we’ve got to figure out what’s wrong and get it corrected.”
With the way the Colts threw in the towel last week, it’s hard to see how it can be corrected without massive changes — and that usually starts with a new coach.
It’s clear from last week’s lack of effort that they’ve stopped playing for the one they have.