Tag Archives: Nick Foles

Why I love this game

Few memories in a father and son’s relationship are as lasting and meaningful as a Superbowl victory. Especially when the road to achieving it was long and difficult. Such was the case for myself growing up a New York Giants fan in the 1970’s. I shared this bond with my father in 1986 when Bill Parcells’ New York Giants defeated the Denver Broncos in Superbowl XXI.

What the photo doesn’t tell you is how many Sunday’s, Thursdays and Saturday’s you gave up watching your team play and fail to advance to the Big Game. Don’t get me wrong, I am the furthest thing from being an Eagles fan.  But this photo brings back this very special memory for me.

Growing up in the shadows of the Meadowlands, I was a captive participant in my dad’s weekly pilgrimage to Giants Stadium from the age of 6 onward. A more humble approach to appreciating a team I could not imagine. The team had early wins in their team history that had earned them credibility with their fans. The Giants played in a number of classic games that took place before the Superbowl ever existed and won two NFL Championships. This success undoubtedly earned his trust and admiration for the GMEN.  My early experience was quite different, to say the least.

The Giants of my childhood had a tight end name Gary Shirk who would regularly catch passes on third down almost always one-yard short of the first down marker.  The Giant had a runner named Leon Perry who was often one-yard short of the first down on his third down running attempts.  God forbid the coach consider a trick play or ask the QB to get the first down using his feet.  These ideas were unheard of at the time.  First downs were a hard thing to come by until then GM George Young made a trade with the Houston Oilers to acquire journeyman running back Rob Carpenter.  The good news was that Carpenter still had something left in the tank when he came to the Giants.

The Defensive story was a little different.  From John Mendenhall to George Martin, the often berated Gary Jeter and of course Harry Carson, the defense had star players. Stars that will seldom be remembered because the Giants had losing records during those years. Good defensive performances didn’t matter that much if you could not put some points on the board.

The Eagles have experienced a long and difficult road to the Superbowl.  I have heard rumours that former Eagles QB Ron Jaworkski still has nightmares of being sacked Giants linebacker and all-time great Lawrence Taylor.  Yes, the Eagles history has been more frustrating than the Giants. The Giants have four Superbowl wins while the Eagles had none. Although I have tried diligently to pay as little attention to their franchise as is possible, I do know that Philadelphia had lost both of their previous visits to the Superbowl. Until Sunday.

The Eagles, with backup quarterback Nick Foles, played a game for the ages. They needed to be near perfect to beat this Patriots team.  And near-perfect they were.  Backup Nick Foles outdueled Brady. And the Eagles defense played until the final snap.  The Eagles played sixty minutes of football; the only way you are going to beat the New England Patriots.  The rest is history.

This NFL season could be characterized as one with questionable officiating.  It has become unclear what constitutes a catch. And penalty calling remains as inconsistent as ever.  But the outcome of this Superbowl feels fair and just.

As unbelievable as this may sound, the Philadelphia Eagles Superbowl victory should serve as inspiration to those fathers and sons who have suffered through losing season after losing season following their team.  The reality of today’s NFL is that a team can go from bad to good almost overnight as a result of good drafting and effective use of free agency. As the saying goes, in the NFL, on any given Sunday, anything can happen.  The Philadelphia Eagles Superbowl win is proof.

Larry Fitzgerald v. Rams

Arizona Cardinals: Sheet Cakes and Sparkling Wine

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It’s not all sheet cakes and sparkling wine in Cardinals camp. Granted, Arizona sports a 9-2 record, has a three game division lead and has won five straight, but coach Bruce Arians has never acquired a taste for complacency. Last week the Cardinals were largely outplayed by the struggling 49ers, recent games have been uncomfortably close, and it hasn’t escaped institutional memory that last year’s team also started 9-2 before dropping four of its last six.

There will be plenty of time for celebration later if it’s warranted. There is a lot of work to do.

The Cardinals have flown to St. Louis to butt heads with the Rams today, the team that took Arizona down 24-22 at University of Phoenix Stadium Oct. 4, leaving a “nasty taste” in QB Carson Palmer’s mouth and no doubt the mouths of others. Arians said he would have dinner with the Rams, “…but I ain’t liking them. I ain’t drinking with them.” Division foes don’t tend to receive holiday cards from the Arians.

Palmer claims he doesn’t hold a grudge against St. Louis for the play that tore his ACL in 2014, ending his season. Palmer doesn’t, but the fans well might. There was a whiff of revenge in the desert air this week. Safety Tyrann Mathieu simply says, “I just think every time we play them it’s a 60-minute fist fight.”

The once-promising Rams have suffered through a four-game losing streak to fall to 4-7, and Arizona will need to stay alert for blows from a team that may well thrash about in its season-ending death throes. St. Louis doesn’t look or smell like a playoff contender, and a loss today will effectively bury the Rams.

St. Louis RB Todd Gurley ran roughshod over Arizona in the Rams Oct. 4 win, sprinting for 146 yards on 19 carries, the only 100+ yard effort this year against the Cards’ fourth-ranked rushing defense. That game started a four-game 100+ yard streak for Gurley, but he’s tucked away his cape recently while averaging a pedestrian 54.8 yards since the outburst. It didn’t take deep film study for teams to begin to realize that if you stop Gurley, you stop the Rams.

Gurley’s counterpart RB Chris Johnson suffered a tibial plateau fracture last week that will put him out for the season–or perhaps, as Cardinals doctors optimistically put it, until the Super Bowl. That was a sharp blow to the spirit as well as the leg of Johnson, and there is little solace in the notion that perhaps now he can complete a definitive guide to the blooming patterns of saguaro cacti in Lost Dutchman State Park. He’ll be missed.

Time for last year’s starting running back Andre Ellington to step in, right? No. He’s week-to-week with turf toe, and has been ruled out. Rookie David Johnson will be the lead dog this week. Johnson has four touchdowns in limited touches and has impressed in flashes. He has fumbled three times but Arians says he’s getting better with ball security, as most rookies must learn to do.

Healthy runners are in short supply, but the 2015 Cardinals feature one of the league’s finest passing attacks. Carson Palmer’s 27 TD passes are second only to Tom Brady’s 28. Palmer is third in NFL passing yards and QB rating. His favorite target is Larry Fitzgerald, who has risen from several sub-par (by his standards) seasons to grab 83 balls, good for third best in the league.

There is a beautiful symmetry in play today for Fitzgerald: He needs eight yards to reach 1,000 for the season and eight catches to notch 1,000 for his career. Fitzgerald is sure to see plenty of balls spinning his way off the right hand of QB Carson Palmer.

St. Louis will counter at QB with fleeting golden boy Nick Foles. After coming over from Philadelphia in the off-season, Foles uncorked a 297-yard passing effort in his first game with the club, leading the Rams to a 34-31 overtime win over Seattle. Results have been mixed since, and he has thrown for one touchdown and four interceptions in his last five starts. Now Foles has been supplanted on the depth chart by the uninspiring Case Keenum; but since Keenum is concussed today, Foles gets the start. I imagine there is a shipping container in Hong Kong stuffed with Foles bobble-heads that will never see the light of day.

A win today would give the Cardinals 10 wins after 12 games for only the second time in franchise history. The only team to do better? The 1948 Chicago Cardinals out of Comiskey Park, who raced to an 11-1 record under coach Jimmy Conzelman and led the league with 32.9 points per game. Despite a fine season, the Cardinals fell to Philadelphia 7-0 in the league championship game and did not return to the playoffs for 26 years.

Memo from Bruce Arians: keep the bubbly on ice until February 7.

– Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians, Man of the Moment

To some observers, the Arizona Cardinals have been lurking near the NFL elite like paparazzi hunkered down in Fiat 500s outside Miley Cyrus’ house. The Cardinals went 7-2 to finish off the 2013 season then raced to an 8-1 mark last year before injuries took hold and they coasted to an 11-5 finish and an early playoff exit. Arizona dismantled division rival San Francisco last week 47-7 and now enjoys a two-game early season lead in the division. The long-suffering Cardinals are now fashionable in NFL pundit circles.

But don’t look for coach Bruce Arians and his rakish beret on the runways of Milan anytime soon. Part cerebral tactician, part square-jawed hell-for-leather pugilist, Arians simply isn’t dazzled by transient success. After Arizona built a 31-7 halftime lead against the 49ers last week, his locker room message was simple: “If you relax, I’ll be looking for new players. Keep your foot on their throat.” Arians wants more, wants it all, which is the mark of the great coaches. His fiery optimism has swept through the team.

Next up? Division foe St. Louis, led by quarterback Nick Foles. The sandy-haired Foles was once in vogue in Philadelphia, but he was sent packing after inconsistent results and he turned up at St. Louis’ doorstep, helmet in hand. He led the Rams to a big win over Seattle in week one but the team has since sputtered in losses to Washington and Pittsburgh. St. Louis sits dead last in total offensive yards but is buoyed by a top 10 defense.

The Rams would be best served ignoring some of the statistics:

Arizona has won 14 of the last 16 games QB Carson Palmer has started and has outscored its opponents by 160 points in that span. The Cardinals are 15-3 at University of Phoenix stadium since 2013. Larry Fitzgerald has scored five touchdowns this season; the St. Louis Rams have scored four. The Cardinals’ secondary–dubbed the “No Fly Zone“–returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the first quarter against San Francisco last week.

Daunting stuff.

This week marks a return to health of prized free agent and former Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati. RB Andre Ellington is still listed as inactive, and his replacement Chris Johnson will get the bulk of the carries, coming off two scores and 110 yards last week. Arizona’s running game has been an admirable complement to Palmer’s aerial assault, which is striking targets all over the field.

Arizona is running on all cylinders and coach Arians is unlikely to take his foot off the pedal Sunday. In fewer than three years, infused with success at prior NFL stops in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, Arians has fostered a cultural shift from a franchise playing not to lose to one confident of victory.

Arians has arrived. He is a man of his time, and indeed, the man of the moment.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.