Third & One. To those only vaguely familiar with football terminology, third and one may make a musical sound. The words roll off the tongue like an upbeat waltz, the beat on the last syllable. But to a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, especially after this week’s circus of a game, third and one is a plague. Third and one sounds more like the music played in films when something bad is about to happen as the unsuspecting victim ambles alone down a corridor. Third and one, some might argue, is at least better than fourth and one, especially when your team is down and the coach decides to go for it on fourth down, though the team is already in decent field goal range…
When it’s third down, one yard to go, the play to choose most of the time would be to run the ball. Hand the ball to one of your running backs who you trust to gain a yard, maybe some more. The Eagles coach Andy Reid, however, on third and one, chose today more often that not to pass the ball. Though the Eagles play with a West Coast offense, choosing to pass more often than to run, to pass on third and one continuously is absolutely moronic. The only third and one play that the Eagles converted into a first down happened to be the one when they gave the ball to Brian Westbrook and let him run with it. Surprise! It was only because the Bengals were taken aback that Reid had made an intelligent play call on third and one.
This week at Paul Brown Stadium the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals became the first two teams to end an NFL football game in a tie since 2002. By the end of overtime, fans of either team probably all felt as though the tie was appropriate, that no one deserved to win this game.
The Eagles have had a tough time so far this season making it through the first quarter, and this game proved no different. To end the first quarter this week, Donavan McNabb fumbled the ball deep in the Eagles own territory and Frostee Rucker of the Bengals recovered. The fact that this man shares his name, though not its spelling, with a cartoon snowman did not prevent the Bengals from capitalizing on McNabb’s error. Within the first minutes of the second quarter, Shayne Graham kicked a field goal, putting the Begals up 3-0. The Eagles first quarter hangover spilled over into the second quarter of this game, as they allowed the Bengals a total of ten points. The Eagles website has the game summary, so I won’t bore you with it. Needless to say, the game proceeded in a series of events not unlike the one above. Sometimes, the Bengals stumbled, allowing the Eagles to score, others, the Eagles did, allowing the opposite.
Despite the numerous clearly biased bad calls made by the refs, the Eagles have no excuse for this loss. The Bengals going into this game were 1-8. There is no way that the 5-4 Eagles, who are a much better team than their record shows, should have even given the Bengals a chance.
By the beginning of overtime, all of the Eagles fans at the bar where I was watching the game were restless. I may have annoyed more than one of them incessantly clicking my pen open and closed in random intervals before stopping and realizing each time that I was probably annoying them with my unconscious tic. At that point I felt that we certainly didn’t deserve to win, that the score to the game didn’t look like the score to the game I was watching, and that we had been lucky to even make it to overtime considering the overwhelming amount of mistakes we’d made. (I use the personal plural to refer to my football team of choice by force of habit, but often I feel that we, as fans, even, are just as stressed out about each play of the game as some of the people who are actually getting paid to be there are. I am not sure if that makes us, the fans, crazy, or the franchise personnel lazy. Either way.) And in the end, we didn’t win. We didn’t lose, either. Well. I lost an extra hour of time I should have been doing something else. And McNabb standing hunched in his heavy coat on the sidelines waiting for Graham to kick the final field goal that would have beat the Eagles in the sudden death overtime had he made it, looked about the same as I felt: as though he could have better spent this extra hour of game time as well. We clapped at the bar when Graham missed, and with seven seconds left McNabb threw an incomplete Hail Mary pass to end the game. Looking back, that clapping seems silly. We clapped with they converted on a risky fourth and inches play. We clapped for the one touchdown and two field goals that the Eagles made. And we clapped, in the end, cause we didn’t lose. But we didn’t win either. And it’s certainly disheartening, if nothing else, to be brought to an embarrassing tie with a terrible team, a footnote in the books for our record this year, which now looks like this:
When we watch the game together, every time something of note that isn’t awful happens on the field, my Dad and I say, “Well, we’ll take it.” That’s how I feel about the draw. We’ll take it.
Oh! And, I just want to point out that at one point, in the second quarter, FOX showed a montage of the past few games that the Eagles have lost. Lord knows why, I didn’t hear what they were saying because they keep the sound on rather low at the bar where I watch the games (Reservoir on