Anyone watching Friday night’s penalty-ridden preseason game against the New England Patriots probably wondered if the players were supposed to pull little yellow flags from each other rather than tackling. With 21 accepted penalties (10 for Philadelphia and 11 for New England), the game dragged on well past the 3.5 hour mark on national television. Take your pick of penalties called – illegal block in the back, hands to the face, unsportsmanlike conduct, pass interference. The only surprising penalty that didn’t get a call was a false start, especially given the fact that preseason is usually rife with false starts. This last piece of information suggests that the players aren’t jumpy at the line, but rather need to focus on fundamentals and adjusting to the changing NFL rule landscape. Adding to all this was the addition of an eighth official on the field, another set of eyes to make sure the players adhered to the rules as they are written.
For the actual game, once the offense finally saw the field for its first (and only) play of the first quarter, quarterback Nick Foles make a beautiful pass to wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah, who proceeded to fumble it right back to the hands of the Patriots. Finally, with a little over 3 minutes left in the SECOND quarter, on the Birds’ 4th possession of the game, Foles delivered a pass to tight end Zach Ertz for the first offensive score of the game. Quarterback Mark Sanchez then took over, delivering another clean and efficient performance tossing two more touchdowns. Quarterback Matt Barkley had the reins to end the game, tossing another score, and putting up decent but not flashy numbers. With the stabilizing quarterback play, the Eagles must focus on eliminating the ridiculous number of penalties. Yes, it’s true that the coaches want the referees to be hard and call everything they see. But this game was too sloppy and suggests a deeper problem of discipline for both teams when it comes to proper technique within the lines of the NFL rule book.
Moving ahead to the third preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Eagles need their entire starting offense and defense healthy to start the game. They need to come out with crisp execution, clean technique, and penalty-free football. While this is only the preseason, two games of problems makes fans nervous about the ability of the Eagles to repeat as NFC East Champions this year. The Eagles must play solid tackle football – flag football needs to be gone!