They say defense wins championships, but I wonder what the sentiment is about special teams. A day that began with a lot of optimism in Philadelphia ended in utter despair as the Eagles handed the Green Bay Packers a 16 – 13 win in the season opener.
Special teams was the Eagles’ Achilles heel all day long on Sunday, as Greg Lewis and J.R. Reed surrendered two costly fumbles to the Packers, which in turn cost the Eagles 10-points.
Maybe cutting Jeremy Bloom wasn’t such a great idea?
The biggest blow occurred with 59-seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, as Reed made a diving attempt at a punt, muffed it, and the Packers recovered the ball at the 31-yard line.
That misfortune for the Eagles turned into gold for the Packers as rookie Mason Crosby connected on a 43-yard, game winning field goal to propel Green Bay to an opening day victory. Crosby, a 2007 sixth round pick out of Colorado, completed a hat trick by hitting all three of his field goal attempts.
This was truly a day for the Eagles to forget.
The opening series for the Eagles may have been a sign of things to come on this day. The first pass of the 2007 season for Donovan McNabb was an incompletion intended for tight end L.J. Smith. The next play was a flea flicker that saw McNabb trying to escape pressure, but he was unable to, and threw the ball out of bounds. Subsequently, McNabb was called for intentional grounding.
On the Packers opening series, the Eagles defense forced a three and out, and Green Bay was forced to punt. Packers punter Jon Ryan got off a 39-yard punt, and Eagles punt returner Lewis muffed it at the Eagles’ 21-yard line. The muffed punt resulted in the game’s first score, putting the Packers ahead 7 – 0.
A few minutes later in the first quarter, on the Eagles next offensive possession, McNabb threw an interception to Packers linebacker Nick Barnett. McNabb was looking for Brian Westbrook, but McNabb didn’t see Barnett in the passing lane. The interception was costly, as the Packers offense got in position for a Crosby 53-yard field goal, giving Green Bay a commanding 10 – 0 lead.
Later in the first quarter, the Eagles defense stepped up, as Sheldon Brown intercepted a Brett Favre pass that was intended for Bubba Franks over the middle. Brown played the pass well, as he cut in front of Franks to give the Eagles offense an opportunity to get on track.
Just a couple minutes into the second quarter, the Eagles finally got on the board with a David Akers 23-yard field goal, cutting the Packers lead to seven. Later in the second frame, Donovan McNabb threw a strike over the middle to Jason Avant, who dove into the endzone for the tying score; Eagles 10, Packers 10.
The third quarter was a battle of field position. The Eagles took the lead halfway through the third quarter on Akers’ second field goal of the game; a 47-yard attempt that gave Philadelphia a 13 – 10 lead.
Later in the quarter, Crosby tied things up at 13, as he hit nailed a 37-yard attempt.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth battle that didn’t result in any scoring until Reed’s misguided attempt at a punt he should have let go. Reed’s error puts his future in Philadelphia in jeopardy, and starts the Eagles season on a down note.
The Eagles can redeem themselves next Monday night, as they host the Washington Redskins in their home opener.
Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard suffered an MCL sprain in the first half. He will have an MRI on Monday… Inactive for the Eagles were quarterback A.J. Feeley, cornerback Nick Graham, linebacker Pago Togafau, guard Max Jean-Gilles, tackle Pat McCoy, guard Scott Young, defensive tackle La Juan Ramsey and defensive end Victor Abiamiri.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber is the Editor in Chief of WarNest.com and an NFL Analyst for Scout.com. Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.