|Eagles and Lions heading in opposite directions, just not as predicted|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 September 2007 12:35|
One more victory could validate Detroit's status as a legitimate contender in the NFC. Another loss would put the Eagles in dire straits.
The upstart Lions visit Philadelphia on Sunday, looking to go 3-0 for the first time in 27 years. The Eagles haven't lost their first three games since Andy Reid's first season as coach in 1999.
``This is the proof of what I've been telling you since the last third of last season,'' said Lions quarterback Jon Kitna, who boldly predicted 10 wins for his team. ``Obviously, the only things that matter are wins and losses. But when you were with this team on a daily basis last year, you started to see the culture changing and guys starting to make plays.
``Last year, we were a little outmanned. This year, we feel pretty good and things are happening. You guys are starting to see the change. We have already seen it.''
The Lions haven't had a winning record since 2000, and they've won just one playoff game since capturing the 1957 NFL title. In contrast, the Eagles have had at least one playoff victory in six of the last seven years.
Detroit blew a 17-point lead, but rallied for a 36-21 win at Oakland in the opener. An ugly 20-17 overtime win over Minnesota put the Lions at 2-0 for the first time since 2004. They finished 6-10 that year.
Now the schedule gets tougher for Detroit. Trips to Philly and Washington are sandwiched around a home game against defending NFC champion Chicago.
``The competition is internal, just to see how we react to success,'' right tackle George Foster said. ``If you go through the roster with anybody we're going to play this year, man to man, is there any reason why we shouldn't win? I don't think so.''
The Eagles entered this season with Super Bowl aspirations. But they lost 16-13 at Green Bay in Week 1 and 20-12 to Washington at home on Monday night.
They were in the same spot in 2003, rebounded to win 12 of their final 14 games and hosted the conference championship game, losing to Carolina.
``I think the seriousness of the situation is quite evident,'' All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins said. ``Guys understand what it is we need to do from this point on and the hole we've dug ourselves.''
The problem for Philadelphia is on the offensive side. Five-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb has struggled in his first two games since major knee surgery, and a once-potent group is out of sync. The Eagles have run 23 plays inside the red zone and managed just one touchdown.
McNabb spent a lot of time this week answering questions about his statement on HBO that black quarterbacks face greater scrutiny than their white counterparts. He's lost six of his last seven starts and is 9-12 since the Eagles lost to New England in the Super Bowl in January 2005. Fans booed McNabb against the Redskins and some are calling for rookie Kevin Kolb or backup A.J. Feeley to replace the nine-year veteran.
``I don't make excuses. If I'm out on the field, I'm out there to make plays,'' McNabb said. ``If we just eliminate half of those negative plays, and also obviously get in the end zone and score, we wouldn't even be talking about what we've been talking about with my play. As a person for myself, I'm very critical. I know I'm capable of playing a lot better.''
While McNabb isn't sharp, Kitna is thriving in Detroit's pass-happy offense. He's completed 71 percent of his passes for 534 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Kitna got knocked out with a concussion in the first half against the Vikings, only to return to lead the Lions to a win.
Kitna has better options than McNabb. Talented wide receivers Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald have combined for 32 catches for 535 yards and five TDs. No Eagles wideout has more than eight receptions.
``Defenses are at a disadvantage,'' Williams said. ``When we go four wide receivers, these four wides can beat two starters out there on the field. The problem that the defense has is they have to bring in their third or fourth corner at the one-two corner spot. It creates a disadvantage for the defense, and as long as we do what we can do, we'll be fine.''
Adding to Philadelphia's problems is a lengthy injury list. Dawkins (neck stinger), running back Brian Westbrook (knee), Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard (knee), free safety Sean Considine (knee) and tight end L.J. Smith (groin) each missed at least one practice.
The Lions are quite a bit healthier. There's even a chance running back Kevin Jones could play his first game since a foot injury sidelined him last December.
Jones grew up in nearby Chester, and his father, Thomas, was part of the construction crew that helped build Lincoln Financial Field.