Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia eagles
Date: Sunday, Oct. 28
Time: 1:15 p.m. Pacific
Site: Veterans Stadium
Series: Tied 4-4 Streak: Raiders, one game
Last time: Raiders 48, Eagles 17, Sept. 24, 1995 at Oakland Coliseum. Mike White's first season at the Raiders' helm began quite successfully, with eight wins in the first ten games, including this blowout of Philadelphia. A Jeff Hostetler interception and a Raghib Ismail fumble led to a field goal and two touchdowns for the Eagles, one of them on a 7-yard run by current Raider Charlie Garner. But after putting themselves in a 17-0 first-quarter hole, Oakland ripped off 48 straight points, including two touchdowns by the defense. Nine Raiders caught passes, gaining 331 yards through the air. Jeff Gossett had a slow day; he was never called on to punt. eagles.
After last season's surprise playoff appearance, the Eagles are one of the teams to beat in the NFC. They've got a star quarterback, an experienced defense and a lot of depth. They're also facing reality: It's hard to be a team with a target on its back. The Eagles are 2-2, having lost to the Rams in overtime in Week 1 and having suffered a shocking 21-20 loss at the hands of the lowly Arizona Cardinals. This is a young team with a bright future and a head coach in Andy Reid who believes the team can be a factor right now.
However, the Eagles have to learn to win big games. They opened the season with a tough loss to St. Louis, enjoyed blowout victories against Seattle and Dallas and then tripped against Arizona. Are the Eagles ready for the prime time? This is the point of the season that will determine just how good Philadelphia is. eagles on offense Last year, the Donovan McNabb who took the field was virtually a one-man show. He accounted for more than 75 percent of the Philadelphia offense with his arm and his legs.
The Eagles needed to supply some weapons to take the load off of McNabb. They did that, signing wide receiver James Thrash as an unrestricted free agent and promoting second-year receiver Todd Pinkston to starter. The Eagles welcomed back Duce Staley at running back and added Correll Buckhalter in the draft. And guess what? The additions have paid off so far. Thrash and Pinkston have given the Eagles an element they didn't have a year ago — a downfield passing game. While Thrash relies on strength and route running to make his plays — he scored a pair of touchdowns against Seattle — Pinkston is the exciting, leaping, athletic receiver who, despite weighing just 175 pounds dripping wet, is strong enough to get off the line of scrimmage and scare defensive backfields.
Let's not forget tight end Chad Lewis, McNabb's go-to guy in the short passing game. Lewis was a Pro Bowl player last year with 69 catches and he's been consistent this season. Staley has not been a productive force this year. He's been bothered by a shoulder injury and in the past that would have meant the offense was dead. Not now. Buckhalter, a fourth-round pick from Nebraska, gained 99 yards as a starter against Dallas and followed up with 134 yards in the loss to the Cardinals. Clearly, the Eagles will find a way to keep him in the offense even though Staley has returned to the lineup.
Then there's McNabb, who's actually been criticized in Philadelphia for not running enough. McNabb's completion percentage is more than 62 percent, he tossed nine touchdowns and just two interceptions in his first four games and is becoming the kind of superstar player the Eagles haven't had in a long, long time. Up front, the Eagles are without starting center Bubba Miller (broken ankle in preseason), but the line has size and depth and has played together two seasons. Overall, it's a pretty strong offense that figures to get better with experience. The key, of course, is McNabb. He's got more weapons, making him more difficult to defend.
Key Matchup: Eagles WR Todd Pinkston vs. Raiders CB Charles Woodson.
Pinkston is thin as a rail, but he's putting up big numbers this year. Woodson comes with the glory and the glamour and is going to get in Pinkston's face with press coverage. Can Pinkston get off the line against such a physical player? If he does, the stretched Oakland defense will surrender some points. How to beat the Eagles on offense: The theory seems simple enough: contain McNabb's scrambling and make the Eagles pass the ball to win the game.
The Eagles think they've improved enough at wide receiver to win one-on-one battles down the field. They'll find out for sure now. McNabb can't scramble all day and win games. The Eagles need to find a balance on offense, and that means they have to give McNabb a pocket and let him throw the ball.
Offensive Player to watch Quarterback Donovan McNabb Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 226
In his second full season as a starting NFL quarterback, Donovan McNabb displays all the skills the greats have: he's a hard worker, a terrific leader, has poise and confidence and possesses every imaginable physical ability. He is the present and the future of this franchise. His challenge each week is to understand what a defense is trying to do to him and take advantage. McNabb has some big games to win here.
Eagles on Defense
Pressure, pressure, pressure.
Coordinator Jim Johnson doesn't back off. He brings the house just about every time he can — and usually with good results. Prior to a last-minute drive in the loss to Arizona in Week 4, the Eagles were the second-ranked defense in the league. There's no reason to think they'll slip far this year. Hugh Douglas and Corey Simon are the quick, pass-rushing linemen complemented by end Brandon Whiting and tackle Hollis Thomas, but Johnson uses everyone in multiple ways on this defense. Middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter is the primary run stopper in the middle, but there are times he'll come on the blitz. Same with weakside linebacker Mike Caldwell and Carlos Emmons on the strong side.
The secondary is fabulous, led by free safety Brian Dawkins and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Troy Vincent. The Eagles rely on the blitz to generate their turnover-forcing pressure. What's effective about Johnson's defense is that generally he doesn't give up many big plays. The defense has largely been together for four seasons and there are rarely blown coverages.
Philadelphia will use its reserves to keep fresh legs on the field, and the tempo is a mandatory fast. And while the Eagles offense is all about young players who the team hopes will develop into stars, the Eagles defense has standouts in place up front with Douglas and Simon, at linebacker with Trotter, and in the secondary with Vincent and Dawkins. It's a terrific unit, one that absolutely thrives on pressure and hurried passes. If the Eagles aren't getting pressure, there are problems.
Arizona's big offensive line controlled the blitz enough for quarterback Jake Plummer to drive the length of the field for a game-winning touchdown in Week 4, a cause for concern. The Eagles aren't very big up front, but there are few offensive lines that can keep Douglas, Simon and a variety of blitzers out of the backfield for long. A key move this year was inserting Caldwell into the starting lineup. He helped hold St. Louis superstar Marshall Faulk to just one touchdown and a shade over 100 total yards of offense in the opening-game defeat. Caldwell is one of those guys who's always around the football.
Key Matchup: Eagles CBs Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor vs. Raiders WRs Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. Philadelphia believes Vincent and Taylor can match up with any wide receivers, and they'll definitely get a taste of the Rice