Rams, Eagles Mirror Images
Friday, December 16, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
When the NFL schedule was released before the season, Sunday’s game between the Rams and Eagles was probably circled on most calendars as a potential playoff-altering contest.
In fact, even the Fox network had the game pegged as an important late season matchup with playoff implications. If anyone had told St. Louis before the year that it would have the same record as defending NFC champion Philadelphia at this point in the season, it probably would have been more than happy with where it stood.
“Anything can happen in this league,” receiver Torry Holt said. “I wouldn’t say I would take it, but I would have thought the Eagles’ record would have been a lot better than what it is with everything they had coming back. In the NFL, nothing is guaranteed.”
While nobody expected either team to be 5-8 and mathematically eliminated from the playoffs at this point in the year, the similarities between the teams are almost eerie.
When Sunday’s game kicks off at noon, both teams will be in the odd position of playing for something less tangible than a playoff spot. Instead, this matchup will award a sense of pride for the winner and a better draft position for the loser.
Not exactly what either team had in mind.
“It’s a different feeling around here,” center Andy McCollum said. “Even in the past when we didn’t make the playoffs at this point in time we were still fighting and we still had a chance to get in. It’s a different feel, but I have been there before way back. It’s not where we want to be, but you have to be able to make the best of it. You keep trying to get better, you keep trying to win and our goal is to finish 8-8 because that’s the highest we can do.”
Likewise, the Eagles would also like to run off three straight wins to finish at .500 and grab some momentum to carry into the next season. The surprising fall from grace for a pair of teams that were among the final eight left in the playoffs a year ago can be attributed to a number of factors.
Both teams have been victims of injury upon injury. The Eagles have lost starting quarterback Donovan McNabb, running back Brian Westbrook, cornerback Lito Sheppard and left tackle Tra Thomas, among others.
The Rams have taken their hits, too, losing starting cornerbacks Jerametrius Butler and Travis Fisher, quarterback Marc Bulger and linebacker Dexter Coakley, among others.
“Because of that we are kind of a mirror of each other,” defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. “Neither one of us has our quarterback in, neither one of us have our starting back field in completely, they are missing their Pro Bowl cornerback, their starting tailback is not there, their center and left tackle aren’t there so they are playing a bunch of guys who will get ….just like we are. That’s why our records are the same.”
Jackson doesn’t mean that as an excuse for the performance of either team, but it’s pretty clear that losing so many players, particularly Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks will make it tough on any team to win like it wants.
“There are no excuses around here,” Jackson said. “It’s facts, you look at the facts and you take away your quarterback and say I am going to start you off without your No. 1 corner then I’m going to take your other corner away from you as well, then I am going to take one of your linebackers away and we are going to have an offensive line that gets injured every other week and has problems and battling through it and getting shuffled around. There is no continuity there because of the injury situation. Those aren’t excuses, those are facts. If you do that to any team in the league, you do that to anybody you want and you take away their quarterback, you take away all the guys they depend on week after week and their receivers don’t play together all 16 weeks…you take away all those guys from any team and you see what their record ends up.”
While injuries are one reason why the records are the same, it isn’t the only reason. Obviously, both teams have lost key components because of injury, but they have each lost important pieces for other mitigating factors as well.
By now, everyone knows about the Terrell Owens saga, which has been written and talked about ad nauseum for most of the season. In case you have been living under a rock, Owens was suspended for the remainder of the season because of conduct detrimental to the team after criticizing McNabb and allegedly challenging his teammates to a fight.
Without Owens, the Eagles offense went from a dynamic aerial attack to a meager, unbalanced unit featuring the likes of Greg Lewis and Reggie Brown at receiver. Needless to say, there has been plenty of turmoil in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ this year.
“They’ve got their own soap opera going on there just like we have here,” defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. “They’ve been through a lot this year, too. We’re kind of like in the same boat, you know, with injuries and everything that has happened.
“I wouldn’t believe it, but this is the NFL. Teams come from the bottom to the top real fast. It happens. Great teams and good teams lose. The Eagles are a good team that has just been losing.’’
Whether that part of the equation applies to the Rams or not, they have also had their fare share of off the field situations that have made winning difficult. Coach Mike Martz was diagnosed with endocarditis and told that he would be forced to miss the rest of the season while he recovers from the illness.
Although the situation didn’t get as much attention as Owens’, it forced assistant Joe Vitt to take over and altered the way the Rams go about business. Martz has been cleared to return to coaching Jan. 1, which is the day of the team’s final game.
“It’s been a crazy season for both sides,” free safety Mike Furrey said. “They’ve got one guy doing stuff there; here we have got a bunch of people doing stuff.”
When the teams met a year ago even, there was plenty on the line for the Rams. St. Louis beat the Eagles’ Junior Varsity to start a two-game winning streak that landed the Rams in the playoffs while Philadelphia rested its starters after wrapping up home field advantage.
Sunday’s game will have no such implications, but neither team has shown signs of quitting on the year. The Rams put up a good fight against the Vikings a week ago, but couldn’t overcome their turnovers. The Eagles had the Giants on the ropes before losing in overtime.
Vitt has been in the league for 27 years and seen and done it all. But as always, he isn’t worried about any of the peripherals, he only has one goal.
“We need to get a win and I don’t care if we are playing the Little Sisters of the Poor, we need to win,” Vitt said.
No, the Rams don’t have those religious women on the schedule, but they don’t have to do much to see the team they are playing. All they need to do is take a long look in the mirror.
Re: Rams, Eagles Mirror Images
I wouldn't call them mirror images. The Eagles have been decimated by injuries and TO disease. The Rams on the other hand....
Re: Rams, Eagles Mirror Images
And the Rams have been decimated by injuries and "FO" Front Office disease.
Originally Posted by BoomGoesTheDynamite!