Andy Reid doesn't throw around words like "ridiculous" every day. So when the coach, asked about being fourth in the league in penalty yardage assessed, reached deep into his bag of press conference responses, right past "I have to do a better job putting the players in position to make plays," and "everyone has a little piece of the pie," to "It's ridiculous" - well, you could tell Big Red was a mite peeved.
"That's something that you can control," Reid said. "I've told you before, there's one side of it where you've coached teams where you have to really motivate them to play hard, but this group here, there are times when you just have to back them off and tell them there's a time and a place for everything, and pull back on this situation here. They're offsides, guys trying to get to the quarterback, buzzing the line of scrimmage, or coming off of the football, special teams trying to knock somebody's head off, and you can't do that kind of stuff, and you have to be smarter there."
The IgglesBlog site posted an interesting analysis of the situation yesterday. The gist seems to be that the problem mostly comes down to special teams. The blog's data peg the Birds at 8.4 overall penalties per game, the 28th-best figure in the NFL, in which this year's average is 7.2 penalties per game. But the offense is averaging just 3.0, vs. a league average of 3.5, placing the Eagles ninth in the NFL. The defense is more culpable, 3.1 per game against an average of 2.6, ranking 24th overall. But the special teams figure is 2.3, nearly double the league average of 1.2, and a glittering 32nd in the 32-team NFL.
Why hasn't this gotten fixed? It certainly has been talked about. But the Eagles seem pretty happy with the way they're covering kicks and punts, and with so many young players, until it reached critical mass, there might have been a reluctance to temper aggressiveness, lest plays stop getting made.
"The hardest thing to do is to keep your aggressiveness and play smart in this game. We never want to take away the mind-set that we have . . . but we have to be disciplined," wideout and special teams veteran Jason Avant said. "It starts in practice. Hopefully, we can do that. I think we'll work it out, because we have guys who are smart enough to, and have enough restraint to do that.
"It's part of the game. You're going to make penalties, but not as many as we make."
It's also true that the Eagles don't always agree with the rulings; this past week, linebacker Tracy White's blocking in the back penalty killed a DeSean Jackson punt return, but after next-day film review, the Eagles strongly felt no block in the back had occurred. The same was true of a defensive offside penalty, on which the Eagles felt a Chargers offensive lineman clearly false-started. Hard to say this happens to the Birds more than any other team, though.
"Sometimes it's the luck of the draw. Sometimes you've got to be a little more disciplined," defensive end and tackle Darren Howard said. "We've got it figured out."
Fiction, just barely
This fake "game" story from The Onion veers a little too close to the truth:
SAN DIEGO - The Eagles were forced to settle for a field goal against the Chargers Sunday after sustaining a 260-yard, 64-play drive that featured six separate red-zone appearances and took 52 minutes off the game clock.
"It's disappointing not to score a touchdown when you keep a drive alive for more than three-and-a-half quarters," said quarterback Donovan McNabb, who completed 32 of his 66 passes, converted 26 first downs, and was carted off the field for X-rays twice during the drive. "At least we came away with three points. Those 120 yards in penalties really hurt our field position, but those conversions on third and 21, third and 64, and the fake punt on fourth and 72 showed that this team never quits."
Backup QB Michael Vick took one snap from center during the nearly hourlong drive, failing to complete a screen pass.
Marty gets the message
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was asked about Donovan McNabb appearing to mouth the words "run the ball!" after a third-and-1 pass fell short, from the San Diego 7 Sunday.
"I didn't see it," Mornhinweg said. "I remember the play, probably could have run the football. If he did [say that], he was probably right. We didn't execute the play well enough. We were in a decent play there. We'll see. When you're running the football well, it's a little bit easier to get to a run. When you're behind a little bit, the numbers get skewed as far as pass-to-run."
Brian Westbrook was back at the Nova-Care Complex yesterday but did not speak with reporters. There is no indication Westbrook plans to seek further opinions on his concussion situation, after Pittsburgh specialists on Wednesday predicted a "full recovery" . . . Special teams coordinator Ted Daisher said Quintin Demps will return kicks this week, if his ankle heals (Demps hasn't practiced). If not, it will be Macho Harris, Daisher said. Harris returned to practice yesterday after sitting out Wednesday with an eye infection . . . Sheldon Brown again was a limited practice participant. "He says he's going to play; we'll just have to see," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. Left tackle Jason Peters (ankle) practiced fully for the second day in a row.