Monday, September 22, 2008

Eagles Bludgeon Steelers

In a defensive performance reminiscent of the Buddy Ryan defenses of the late 80's, the Eagles beat the cross-state rival Steelers by a score of 15 - 6.

The Eagles sacked Steeler quarterbacks 9 times and forced 3 turnovers, all 3 of which came from Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger. Even the sacks and turnovers don't tell the real story; Roethlisberger was harrassed and harried the entire time he was in the game and the Eagles simply beat him up. Eventually, Roethlisberger injured his throwing hand, and came out of the game to be replaced by Byron Leftwich.

Offensively, the Eagles moved the ball easily during the 1st half, only to be undone by mistakes such as a Tony Hunt fumble or the McNabb interception towards the end of the first half. The Eagles did manage to punch the ball into the end zone during the 2nd quarter on a pass from Donovan McNabb to Correll Buckhalter.

Ultimately, however, injuries also played a part in the Eagles' offensive woes as they lost all-World RB Brian Westbrook towards the end of the 1st quarter to what appeared to be an ankle sprain (post-game X-rays ruled out a break).

The injury bug bit the Eagles coming out of halftime as well, as Donovan McNabb did not come out with the team to start the 2nd half for what was reported as a chest injury. Kevin Kolb came on and, after having a ball tipped for an interception on his first attempt, settled down and looked Ok, going 2 of 3 for 18 yards.

When McNabb did come back, it was to loud cheers and he replaced Kolb at around the 10:00 minute mark in the 3rd quarter.

The special teams also played a significant role in the second half, in the form of the punting of Sav Rocca. Rocca punted the Eagles out of a hole from deep in their own territory at the start of the 4th quarter, effectively, reversing the field position on a 64 yard effort from his own 11 yard line.

Rocca also nailed two punts that pinned the Steelers to within their own 10 yard line. The fruits of Rocca's labor was realized when the Eagles induced Ben Roethlisberger into an intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety. While the intentional grounding call itself may have been questionable (Roethlisberger appeared to be outside the tackle box), replay did show that Roethlisberger was actually tackled down in the endzone before he threw the ball anyway.

Next week, the Eagles face another tough defense, when they travel to Chicago to face the Bears. In the meantime, the entire city will be focused on Brian Westbrook's MRI to determine how long he will be out.

Photo: (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

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