Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger shakes hands with the
Eagles’ Carson Wentz after the Birds’ big win on Sunday.
Since fans and esteemed members of the media don’t have to step on football fields and be pummeled by collections of large, angry men, it’s easy for us to wish the Eagles didn’t have a bye week coming up. The 3-0 Birds—who dismantled what was supposed to be a frightening bunch of Blitzburgh Stillers Sunday, keeping alive a 51-year string of Philadelphia futility for the Steel City crowd—are on a remarkable roll that might just lose momentum after a two-week interregnum.
After the Eagles crunched Cleveland and Chicago, it was easy to question the team’s qualifications as a contender, thanks to the fetid collection of “talent” provided by those two outfits. The 34-3 ass kicking of the Steelers was a much different story. Pittsburgh was 2-0, featured a real, live, NFL quarterback and has been among the AFC’s best dating back to the days of Mean Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw.
Wunderkind Carson Wentz and his crew throttled the visitors, signaling the start of what is going to be one of the giddiest fortnights in recent memory around here. Giving this city two weeks to celebrate the win, dream of what may come and generally turn the hysteria up to levels that made last year’s visit from Pope Francis look like a random Tuesday morning Mass at Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration. Eagles fans will be more than happy to devote next Sunday to family time, various chores around the house and anything else that takes center stage during the bye week. They’ll paint the shed happily. Accompany the kids to their dance/piano/karate classes with broad smiles on their faces.
That’s what happens when your team is 3-0.
But the Birds themselves should be a little upset that no opponent is on the schedule Sunday. It’s never a good idea to interrupt a winning streak, and even though there are no doubt players on the team happy to get a respite from three-plus hours of collisions, pileups and athletic mayhem, it would be great to see the Eagles get a chance to eviscerate another poor victim next week, rather than spending 14 days risking a cooling of the team’s red-hot engines. After this bye, the Eagles will play 13 games in as many weeks, something that will stress the roster and make players spend countless hours soaking in ice baths and begging for relief.
The star of the show—on a day with plenty of front-line performers—is of course Wentz, the rookie QB who has shown more savvy and toughness in his first three games than Chicago’s Jay Cutler has demonstrated throughout his entire career. Wentz completed 74.2 percent of his passes against Pittsburgh and continued to look like someone who’s played in the NFL for 10 years, rather than three weeks. He’s in complete control of the offense at all times, isn’t spooked by pressure and is capable of making just about any throw. By the fourth quarter Sunday, it might’ve been fun to see how he would’ve done tossing it around lefthanded. The way he looks, Wentz could have probably completed half his attempts.
Meanwhile, coordinator Jim Schwartz has a defense that began the year with more question marks than the Riddler’s costume playing at remarkably high levels. Schwartz may not have been too successful as the Boss Man in Detroit—as if anyone can make that pile of nuclear waste into a successful unit—but he’s a top-flight defensive coach, as the Birds’ stifling efforts to date have proven.
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It’s a damn shame the bye has come so early in the season, because this is no time to interrupt the Birds’ wild ride. So, it’s on to the list of chores and all that coveted family time. Eagles fans will approach it all with wide grins and anticipation of great things next month.
The bye comes at an inconvenient time, but if things continue the way they have, the Eagles might get another one, in January. During the first week of the playoffs.
EL HOMBRE SEZ: Anybody looking for some fascinating high school football action this week had better get to Malvern Prep Friday night—early. Defending Class AAA state champ Imhotep visits to take on the 3-1 Friars, who held Gilman School to a mere two first downs in a 21-0 whitewashing. The Panthers boast a 4-0 record and have outscored opponents 212-6 so far. This could be a classic.