Eagles' Dream is dead

Michael Vick lies at the feet of Arizona defenders during Sunday's loss to the Cardinals. (US...

Michael Vick lies at the feet of Arizona defenders during Sunday's loss to the Cardinals. (US Presswire)

Bill Lankhof and Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:05 AM ET

The Philadelphia Eagles have hit some potholes this year, but it is now official: This Dream Team has turned into a nightmare.

“Just because they got a bunch of Pro Bowlers doesn’t guarantee success. Philadelphia for the playoffs? I’m going to put the fork in them,” Fox-TV analyst Jimmy Johnson said Sunday. And, that was before the Arizona Cardinals pulled the chair out from underneath them, making the Eagles spit up a fourth-quarter lead for the fifth time this season.

John Skelton’s five-yard TD pass to Early Doucet with 1:53 to play lifted the Cards to a 21-17 win.

Michael Vick had another mediocre performance as the Eagles fell to 3-6, pretty much putting an end to this embarrassing season, except, for the finger-pointing.

The defending NFC East champions were expected to be Super Bowl contenders after signing a bunch of big-name players in the off-season. Instead, they’ve lost seven of their past eight home games.

Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format, only three teams have made the playoffs after starting 3-6, and none of them reached the Super Bowl.

“We were never able to get in a rhythm,” Vick said. “You have to find a way to get it done. I didn’t do it.”

And, that, for the Eagles, has been an all-too-familiar refrain all season long.

— Bill Lankhof

***

Players who hold out often get off to poor starts, but Chris Johnson was setting a new standard for disappointment.

Luckily for the Titans, one of the game’s premier running backs finally resurfaced in Sunday’s 30-3 thumping of the Carolina Panthers with a season-best 130 yards and a touchdown.

Much to the chagrin of fantasy owners, Johnson had only one other touchdown heading in and this was just his second 100-yard rushing game since signing a $50-million US contract following an at-times bitter holdout.

Johnson finally seems to have found his footing, though. He has set yards-per-carry season highs each of the past two weeks and had his longest rush of the year and his heaviest workload of the campaign on Sunday.

Earlier this month, there had been speculation the Titans would think about letting Johnson go after the season, citing a decline in skill, saving themselves a ton of cash.

Johnson clearly was paying attention.

— Ryan Wolstat

***

Ugly met the Masters of Mayhem on Sunday in Indianapolis. And ugly won out as Jacksonville left the Colts the NFL’s only winless team, the league’s two worst offences tripping all over each other.

Maurice Jones-Drew had 25 carries for 114 yards and a three-yard TD run. Other than that, there was little to cheer about. Curtis Painter completed 13 passes but for only 94 yards, and got pulled.

Blaine Gabbert was 14-for-21 and a piddly 118 yards with a 77.1 quarterback rating.

Still, between yawns from the folks who paid to see this disaster, he did throw an 11-yard TD pass to Jarrett Dillard in the third quarter to break a 3-3 tie to give the Jags their first road win of the season.

—Bill Lankhof

***

What’s the deal with the Baltimore Ravens?

Super Bowl contender some weeks, underachievers the next.

At least they stick to script.

On Sunday, the Ravens followed a rousing 23-20 win in Pittsburgh with a shocking 22-17 loss in Seattle.

The team started the year by beating Pittsburgh 35-7 at home and followed that up with a 26-13 loss to Tennessee. The Ravens also followed up a 29-14 win over mighty Houston with a dismal 12-7 loss to lowly Jacksonville the next week.

Baltimore’s play selection has been a tad odd for most of the season – Ray Rice is a top five running back, why feature him so little? – but it was especially odd on Sunday.

Rice was handed the ball just five times, while Joe Flacco launched 52 passes, completing just 29 of them. A week ago, Flacco attempted 47 passes and Rice attempted just 18 carries.

Earlier in the year, the Ravens barely got past Arizona despite three touchdowns by Rice, partly because Flacco threw the ball 51 times and Rice ran with it only 18 times. In the Jacksonville disaster, Rice had just eight carries.

Surely, turning to Rice more often — and before they fell way behind — would help prevent some of Baltimore’s letdowns.

— Ryan Wolstat

***

The Detroit Lions are a good football team. But greatness will have to wait. The Chicago Bears brought soaring expectations and the Lions back to reality Sunday with a 37-13 victory.

The Bears short-circuited Detroit’s passing game by intercepting Matt Stafford four times and turning six turnovers into 24 points. The Lions were never in this with Julius Pepper and Tim Jennings forcing turnovers on Detroit’s first two possessions to make it 10-0.

Major Wright and Charles Tillman returned interceptions for touchdowns on the Lions’ first two possessions of the second half. Game over.

Detroit has dropped three of four after winning its first five, and, in a game that had huge wild card implications, this one was brutal. A Detroit win would’ve put them in control with a 7-2 record. Now, tied with the Bears, they end up in a scramble that could also involve Atlanta and Dallas.

Bear QB Jay Cutler wasn’t much better than Stafford completing just nine of 19 passes but, for one week, he didn’t need to be.

— Bill Lankhof

***

Is it injuries? Is it the sophomore slump?

Could be both. Either way, St. Louis QB Sam Bradford is having a rough second season.

Sure, the Rams escaped from Cleveland with a 13-12 win, thanks to a blown snap, but Bradford didn’t have a lot to do with the victory.

The No. 1 overall selection of the 2010 draft threw for 18 touchdowns as a rookie and looked like one of the league’s next big things.

But 2011 has been different. Bradford has spent some time in a walking boot and, when he has played, has found the end zone just four times — including once on Sunday.

That’s the fewest touchdown tosses among regular starting quarterbacks this year.

Sure, his interception numbers are down this season, but so is everything else.

At the other end, another promising young signal-caller, Cleveland’s Colt McCoy, looked solid (20-of-27 for 218 yards), but could not guide the Browns into the end zone.

McCoy has thrown only two touchdowns over his past four games.

— Ryan Wolstat

***

Don’t tell Alex Smith that San Francisco is having a great season in spite of its starting quarterback.

The surprising Niners improved to 8-1 with a 27-20 home victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.

Smith takes a lot of heat because he is a former

No. 1 overall selection who is not an all-Pro, but he has played well this season and was crucial in the latest San Francisco win.

With Frank Gore hobbled, Smith did his own damage on the ground (27 yards) and, more importantly, did well in the air (19-for-30 for 242 yards).

After New York rallied to take a 13-12 lead late in the third quarter, Smith found Vernon Davis for a 31-yard touchdown. He then hit Michael Crabtree for a two-point conversion.

Earlier, mostly using short pin-point passes, Smith had been able to get the chains moving enough to give David Akers the opportunity to nail four field goals.

Smith is never going to awe with eye-popping stats, but he showed again on Sunday that he’s good enough to lead a winning team.

And this time he did it without the help of a usually dominant backfield.

Gore’s knee injury cost him a shot at a fifth straight game with at least 100 yards on the ground.

— Ryan Wolstat

***

There continues to be speculation that three Washington Redskins players will be fined for marijuana use.

Which goes to figure, because if there is any one team whose players might want to escape reality, it would be the ones being coached by Mike Shanahan.

The Miami Dolphins intercepted Rex Grossman twice and Reggie Bush scored two touchdowns to hand Washington its fifth consecutive loss, 20-9.

For Shanahan, its the longest losing streak of his career. For Grossman, a surprise starter after being benched a few weeks back for John Beck, the afternoon included three sacks and a passer rating of 58.7, lower than his NFC-worst season figure.

The Redskins haven’t held a lead since

Oct. 2, when they beat St. Louis.

Meantime, the Dolphins ended a franchise-record streak of seven consecutive losses in Miami since last Nov. 14.

One drive pretty much summed up the Redskins’ penchant for spitting into the wind. Early in the fourth quarter, trailing 13-9, they had a chance to turn the tide. Grossman took the team 49 yards and was 10 yards from paydirt. but on first down, he threw a pass that Carlos Dansby intercepted. Miami took the ball 81 yards with Bush celebrating in the end zone with the game-clinching TD.

He fired the ball into the stands, giving Miami fans a rarely seen souvenir of victory.

— Bill Lankhof

 

 


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