By David Murphy
Philadelphia Daily News
THERE WERE moments when it seemed like the proper course of action would have been to disqualify everybody involved from postseason consideration.
The Eagles, the Giants, the referees — everybody except the 60,000-plus who paid to watch. They should get a medal, or a free fast- food sandwich.
There were moments when it seemed like maybe this is one of those years where there isn’t a team in the NFC East that is capable of doing anything except losing to whatever wild-card team finishes with the best record.
For four quarters, the Eagles and Giants treated a national television audience to all of the parts of football that national television audiences hate.
They combined for seven turnovers, 21 penalties, and enough WTF moments to render moot any discussion about big- picture ramifications.
The big picture, it seemed, showed two teams with too many flaws to contend for a title.
The Eagles came away with the victory, but only because somebody had to, and the Giants politely declined.
Except… The funny thing about what we saw Monday night is that it looked a
lot like what we’ve been seeing across the National Football League all season.
These are strange times on the gridiron, and while the Eagles have yet to look like a team that deserves Super Bowl consideration, the same is true of virtually every other team in the NFC.
The Packers and Seahawks both look as mortal as they have in years: Green Bay clearly misses Jordy Nelson and Seattle’s offensive line is a disaster.
The Falcons are 5-1, but did anybody come away from the season opener thinking that Atlanta was, definitively, the better team?
Then there are the Panthers, whom the Eagles will face in Charlotte on Sunday night. Sure, they went into Seattle and won a game, which is an impressive feat.
But their first four victories came against teams that entered Week 6 looking like contenders for the No. 1 overall pick (Bucs, Texans, Saints, Jaguars).
It is a strange place, this year’s NFC.
Not only do the bad teams seem particularly bad — is it possible to envision a scenario in which the 49ers, Saints, Bucs, Lions, Bears, or Redskins wind up in the postseason? — but the few teams whose records have separated themselves from the pack are all significantly flawed.
And that makes them just like the two teams we saw at Lincoln Financial Field Monday night.
There were times in the first half when it seemed inevitable that the Giants would
settle down and seize control of the game the way they did on their opening drive, an eight-play, 80-yard march down the field on which the Eagles seemed incapable of guarding Odell Beckham Jr.
And give the Eagles credit, particularly veterans like Malcolm Jenkins, DeMeco Ryans, Nolan Carroll, and a defensive line that has dominated in the trenches the last two weeks. They created opportunities for themselves, and they took advantage of the ones the Giants gave them. That means something, particularly in a season like this.
Fact is, somebody has to go to the NFC playoffs. Six somebodies, actually. And somebody besides Green Bay has to win a couple of games.
At this point, the strongest case for the Eagles is that, for as flawed as they look, they look just like everybody else.
Just like a Cardinals team that lost to the Steelers’ combo of Michael Vick and Landry Jones.
Just like a Seahawks team that allowed a flawed Panthers team to spring their only viable receiver for a wide open game- winning touchdown.
Just like a Packers’ offense that has often looked lost without Nelson this season.
Sure, we can focus on all of the ways in which the Eagles have not looked like a prototypical playoff team, and that starts with the quarterback.
Sam Bradford and his receivers still do not seem to be on the same page. The quarterback certainly bears the ultimate responsibility for protecting the football, but at some point, it would be nice if one of his receivers stepped up and made a play on a ball that was not perfectly thrown.
Maybe it isn’t fair to expect Zach Ertz to come down with the ball that Landon Collins ultimately intercepted in the end zone in the third quarter, but it is not unreasonable to think that a tight end should be able to put up enough of a fight on a 50/50 ball that, at worst, it falls incomplete.
The injuries, the penalties, the runs for zero or negative yards — it’s hard to know what to make of this Eagles’ offense sometimes.
That being said, when you look around the NFC, all you see is opportunity, perhaps more of it than has existed since Chip Kelly took over for Andy Reid.
There are two ways to win a Super Bowl: be a great team, or be the right team at the right time.
On a weekend where Colin Kaepernick again squared off with Joe Flacco, it’s worth considering that second route.
There was opportunity Monday night, and there is opportunity this season, and for all of the Eagles’ flaws, you can’t help but notice that the rest of the field is wide open.