Bob Ford: Sitting out another Super Bowl, Reid talks just tinkering
Here we are, Thursday of Super Bowl week, and maybe the country is secretly captivated by the game that will take place in Indianapolis on Sunday between the Giants and the Patriots, but if so it is a pretty well-kept secret.
There is more buzz about whether Ron Paul will get his own reality series once the Republican primaries are over, assuming it is possible they will end someday.
We know that on Sunday evening people will gather to watch the game, if only to put a dent in the annual glut of guacamole, which, if not consumed, will turn brown in the fridge and eventually grow fur. That the matchup between the New York Eli Faces and the New England Brady Clefts isn't much more appetizing doesn't really matter. It is the Super Bowl, and as Andy Reid reminded us the other day, getting there is what the National Football League is all about.
Reid had just emerged Punxsutawney Phil Bengtson-like from a long soujourn during which he decided what the Eagles are all about, too. As far as you could tell, Reid determined that the defense just needed a little more time to coalesce and the offense just needed to stop giving the other team the ball.
Both of those might well be true, particularly the part about the defense. It can be dumbed down a little and turned into a bend-don't-break unit that keeps you in the game without doing anything that spectacular.
That is a fair representation of the formula for the Giants and Patriots, whose defenses were ranked 27th and 31st respectively in the league for total yards allowed. They were 26th and 32d for first downs allowed, and 29th and 31st for passing yards allowed, and both were in the bottom third in the NFL for red-zone defense.
So, where did all that mediocrity on defense get them? In the Super Bowl, of course, which, just to reiterate, is what the National Football League is all about.
Despite the folderol surrounding the retention of Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator, and the inability to land Steve Spagnuolo, and the hand-wringing about poor Nnamdi Asomugha being forced to play more zone defense than he likes - as if he were being asked to play in flip-flops or something - despite all that, Reid kept coming back to the offense during his Tuesday news conference.
That's his side of the ball, of course, but he knows the league is tilted heavily to his side. Of the 12 playoff teams this season, six were ranked higher in offense than defense and vice versa. Only one offensively superior team was knocked out by a defensive team (San Francisco over New Orleans) while three defensive teams were knocked out by an offensive team (New England over Denver and Baltimore, and New York over San Francisco).
The challenge of getting the Eagles' offense back to the top of the league, as Reid saw it, begins with lowering its 34 turnovers. (The team actually had 38, but four of those came on special-team fumbles, which is something else Reid might take a look at. There were well over 100 combined kickoff and punt returns by the opposition in 2011 and not only didn't the Eagles' coverage units recover a single fumble, they didn't even force one.)
Michael Vick's 14 interceptions and three fumbles accounted for exactly half of the offense's turnovers, and the 11 combined interceptions thrown by Vince Young and Mike Kafka took care of most of the rest.
"There are no excuses for that many turnovers - zero excuses - for that many turnovers," Reid said. "But there is a little luck involved in certain situations."
You don't want to hear this, and if you are reading a newspaper, feel free to throw it. If you are reading on a computer or tablet, it's better to just click on something else, maybe the 20 Hottest Professional Bowlers. In any case, you don't want to hear it, but the Eagles had horrendously bad luck when it came to turnovers in 2011. Balls bounced off someone's foot and went the wrong way. Passes glanced off helmets and shoulder pads and took the exact path - the only path - into a defender's hands.
It added up. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg rubbed his forehead midway through the season and said, "We've had some strange ones."
Oh, there were stinkers, too, and Vick had a few of those. Young, who had nine interceptions, was just overmatched, and he represents the worst player miscalculation of the year for the organization. For sheer entertainment, though, the turnover of the year was Ronnie Brown's whatever-that-was at the goal line.
But yes, 34 turnovers is too many. In another season, however, with bounces that went one way instead of the other, it might have been far different. The Eagles lost back-to-back games in Weeks 4 and 5 to San Francisco and Buffalo. They gained a total of 1,002 yards in those games, but also committed eight turnovers (while getting two takeaways). Lost the two games by a combined eight points.
Was that the season right there? Could have been. When you put up 500 yards in a game, you have to be pretty unlucky to still lose.
That they were. But it always seems that the good teams get all the luck. Funny how that works, isn't it?