- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The Eagles, who played a straight-up, stop-the-run defense on first downs, settled the issue of the Oakland running game very early. And when Plunkett dropped back to pass, he saw tight coverage downfield, especially by his would-be pigeon, rookie Cornerback Roynell Young. Plunkett began taking deeper and deeper drops. Then the rush got to him. The Raiders, who had been averaging 338 yards and 25 points a game, came away from the first half with zero on the scoreboard, an average of 2.8 yards on each of the 40 plays they ran, and a zilch from a 45-yard field-goal attempt by Chris Bahr.
The Eagles had done even worse. Their offense in the scoreless first half suffered from a severe case of the flutters and drops—70 yards total offense (an average of 2.3 yards per play) and four straight series of three-downs-and-out or less to close out the half. They'd been in Oakland territory for exactly five plays, all on their first series.
"With all due respect to the Oakland defense," Vermeil said, "I felt we would have had 10 to 14 points in the first half if we hadn't kept stopping ourselves."
In the third quarter, Philly's Tony Franklin kicked a 51-yard field goal, a monster that was gaining altitude when it split the posts. What a strange item he is. He crushes his field goals, but none of his kickoffs went deeper than the 11-yard line. Ah well, kickers....
As the quarter ended, Plunkett threw four straight incomplete passes and the Eagle defense survived its only major crisis, aside from the 86-yarder. The Raiders, with a third-and-one from the Philly 33, had strangely tried two sweeps, first left, then right, and the Eagles had thrown them back.
But the Raiders are like an old land mine that lies in the sand for years and then, all of a sudden—kaboom! Their one consistent trait during the 18 Al Davis years has been the bomb, anytime, from any place on the field, and with a little over two minutes gone in the fourth quarter, they launched one. First down on their own 14—kaboom!—86 yards, Plunkett to Branch. Now it was 7-3 and the Eagles' bench was a frozen tableau of disbelief.
According to Plunkett, the play was called 28 Special, a particularly nasty bit of trickery the Raiders put in a few weeks ago. Bobby Chandler, the flanker, was lined up wide on the right side. He ran a post pattern, straight down the field, bending in slightly. Branch, slotted inside him, came underneath, running a little hitch to the outside, then took off.
"They ran it perfectly," Plunkett said. "Bobby ran off both defensive backs [free safety Brenard Wilson and Young], and when Cliff came behind him, the coverage couldn't catch up."
Young, a No. 1 draft pick out of Alcorn State, had been the target. He was the target all afternoon. Of the 36 passes Plunkett threw (only two to running backs), 13 were into Young's coverage. Plunkett completed two, a 29-yarder to Chandler and the biggie. Herman Edwards on the right corner had only three passes directed his way.
"I've never been tested like I was today," said Young, who gets better every week. "I've never had a team go deep on me so many times back to back. They showed me everything in the book, every pattern that could be shown. I guess I survived it."