A coach once told Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck this about goal-line stands: "It's like a fistfight in a phone booth."
Seattle won the fight yesterday, leveling the Eagles flatter than a phone book after the Birds tried four times to get the football into the end zone from the 1-yard line at the end of the first half yesterday. Brian Westbrook attempted three times to barrel up, over and around the Seahawks, and failed. A.J. Feeley tried, but his pass to L.J. Smith fell incomplete.
But the fact remains that a very good argument can be made to take the points at the end of the first half, and go into intermission trailing 21-20, instead of 21-17. Take a chip shot field goal, and be happy with the one-point deficit.
Had the Eagles settled for a field goal, think how easier the end of the game would've been. Had they taken a field goal, they could've kicked a field goal after Westbrook's phenomenal punt return at the end of the game, rather than have to get the ball into the end zone. That way, instead of losing by four they could've won by two, and that way, we'd be having a totally different discussion.
But coach Andy Reid went for the big score, not the little score, and it cost the Eagles big time.
"We were right there with a chance to score," Reid said afterward, "and, I thought we could get it in."
Think again. On third down, Westbrook tried to go up and over the Seattle defensive line, but he was met mid-air by Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson. After that play was reviewed, on fourth down, defensive tackle Rocky Bernard tripped Westbrook up before he could go airborne; he was well shy of the goal line.
"We had run that play a couple of times before," Westbrook said. "They did a good job of defending it. They had a lot of guys right there in that same area. Guys jumping over top, guys getting penetration up front, so it was tough for me to really get a good start and jump over the top. . . . I thought it was a good call at the time. In hindsight maybe we should have done something different."
Hindsight is advantageous. While a field goal wouldn't have been all that exciting, it would've been better than nothing - which is exactly what the Eagles got by failing to push into the end zone. A field goal also would've prevented the Seahawks from gaining momentum heading into halftime.
"That gave them momentum," L.J. Smith said. "We came out with nothing. If we could have come out with something, it would have been a totally different game. Even if we came out with three [points], we would only be down one. That would have changed their mind frame trying to score at the end. But to come out with nothing at the end is a huge momentum swing."
Said A.J. Feeley: "It's kind of a tough momentum killer going into the half without any points, let alone possibly getting seven. But, that didn't kill us. That didn't keep us out. We were in the game the whole time until the end."
They were, that's true. And they were aggressive. But it's one thing to be aggressive, and one thing to be foolish.
Going for it on fourth-and-one, down by four points, was just that - like staging a fistfight in a phone booth.