All right… So, productive trips to Baltimore and Philadelphia are in the bank, and they culminated with the Eagles 24-23 win over the Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field. And you saw what I had learned all week in a bunch of segments on First on the Field and GameDay Morning.
What else happened on my trips to Baltimore and Philly? Well…
— As I mentioned in my Rap Sheet Rundown, the Eagles D is nasty. You can read all about the fierce pass-rush and the ability to cover man-to-man that makes them stout. But two guys I was really impressed with are rookies: LB Mychal Kendricks and slot corner Brandon Boykin. Kendricks roamed the middle of the field hunting down tight ends, and Boykin was all over WR Anquan Boldin when he was in the slot. Both forced QB Joe Flacco to hold it, and it seemed like Kendricks had more than five tackles and two breakups. Nice picks.
— I loved all the football stuff this week, but no lie, I was just as excited about the cheesesteaks. Easily in my pantheon of Top 5 foods ever. So, I had three of them. Went with Tony Luke’s one day, then John’s Roast Pork (pictured) when my parents drove up from NY on Saturday, and Geno’s on Sunday for post-game. If I had to rank them, I’d go with 1. John’s Roast Pork; 2. Tony Luke’s. 3. Geno’s. But that still means they were all so much better than most foods. I know Geno’s is touristy, but I still love the ordering process and the area. Tony Luke’s had the best quality meat, but the taste at John’s Roast Pork was nutso. Like a carnival. Also, I’m a sucker for cheese whiz, except it makes me feel like I’m 5-years-old.
— The game Sunday featured all sorts of things I didn’t expect, and one thing was the play of DeSean Jackson. He was injured all week with a hamstring pull, and you didn’t know what you were going to get out of him. What you got was seven catches for 114 yards, several of which finished with him getting popped. There was one deep ball on the sidelines where he was absolutely drilled in the head by Ravens S Ed Reed, and he hung on. When i saw him last year vs. the Patriots, he had alligator arms. I thought it was nonsense when Jackson said earlier in the year that a lack of a new contract contributed to his nerves about getting hit. But maybe there was something to it. Good toughness.
— It’s easy to understand why the Ravens are going no-huddle. Yes, it’s better for QB Joe Flacco and he feels it’s easier. “I think the best thing is, we’re high-tempo and we’re throwing the ball a lot, allowing the offense to get into a rhythm,” he told me, “keep the chains moving and as the games move on, wear our defense out.” But it’s also necessary. The Ravens need to score points. They need to hurry up and attack the scoreboard, because their D will give up points. Man, the Eagles moved on them with ease, going after the middle of the field, the edges, up the middle running, every way. Baltimore has gotten older and slowed down. They will still make plays, but it’s not the same. This does need to turn into a balanced team.
— Best pre-game exchange happened between Ravens coach John Harbaugh and I. It went like this… Me: “Hey John, What’s up? Anything going on?” Him: “Hey Ian. Sure, but nothing we want reported.” We both laughed… and that was it. I don’t know why, but I thought that was hilarious. Maybe it was the way he said it. Really seems like a good dude. Serious, yet relaxed. Like his team, actually.
–I’m definitely over one player on one team calling another player on another team “dirty.” That’s what the Ravens did after their loss. I’m sure the Eagles were dirty. Shoot, I saw some punches thrown. I also saw Ravens players do things that their mothers would not be proud of. It’s the NFL, it’s not ping-pong. If a team is dirty, deal with it. They grab your facemask, grab their jersey. Not sure what else to say. And if you cry after a loss, it only makes you seem petty. And if it’s really that bad, we all see it, anyway.
— I try my best to keep my insanely aggravating travel mishap off Twitter (a good buddy has already called dibs on such situations), but I thought you guys might enjoy it here. So, it’s Wednesday night, and I just finished my hit on Total Access from Baltimore. I race to the airport with my U.S. Airways flight bound for Philly scheduled to go off at 9 p.m. Why fly from Baltimore to Philly? That’s another question. Anyway, I was. So, I drop off the rental car and arrive at the terminal at 8:09 p.m.. What do I see at the U.S. Air counters? No one. Computers shut down, no one at the desk. They have all gone home. How can I check into my flight? I can’t. I search around, try to call (no avail) and finally get downstairs to the U.S. Air office in baggage claim. They call a manager, who decides it’s too late to let me on the plane now. Hey, at least they didn’t apologize. So, I had to go back, re-rent a car, and drive to Philly. Sigh.
— I hated that the timing didn’t work out in Baltimore for me to have a good meal. One quick day, then off to Philly. But I did like my time in the locker room there talking to players, especially rookie pass-rusher Courtney Upshaw. It was cool to hear that injured pass-rusher Terrell Suggs is still hanging out, still attending meetings, still in Upshaw’s ear. When Upshaw had a sack in the opener, Suggs chimed in. “He just said good game, he congratulated me on the sack, that was good,” Upshaw told me. “But of course he’s in every meeting, watching film with us, coaching us along with the the coaches. It’s good to have him in there.”
— When talking about some of the intangibles in the Eagles, pulling out wins that would have been losses last year, GM Howie Roseman told me an interesting anecdote. Listen to this one on QB Michael Vick. “I remember it was the beginning of June, and it was just a regular offseason workout day, no minicamps and Michael Vick had a family issue,” Roseman told me. “I looked out my window, it was a nice day, and it was 4 o’clock and Michael’s throwing by himself. And that’s the attitude the team takes. I mean, he could’ve taken the day off, it was easy, he had something to do. But he’s coming in here throwing by himself. I think that’s just the way they’ve approached this and that doesn’t guarantee anything. From my perspective, the attitude’s right.”
— The response from the Eagles after their win was a good one. There wasn’t satisfaction. In fact, there was a good level of frustration, thanks to the turnovers. Sure, they were happy, but not too happy. Coaches gotta like hearing this from G Evan Mathis. “It’s good that we can finish like that, but when we look back on it, we didn’t have to put ourselves in that situation,” Mathis said post-game. “We shot ourselves in the foot a lot, had to overcome. We just need to clean those things up. We have good potential, but we need to clean up those mistakes.”