Gonzo: The Eagles' two faces

The Eagles' Asante Samuel celebrates his two interceptions of Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. The last of the two picks came in the final seconds and sealed the Birds' 26-24 win.
The Eagles' Asante Samuel celebrates his two interceptions of Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. The last of the two picks came in the final seconds and sealed the Birds' 26-24 win.
Posted: November 08, 2010

Last week, the NFL Network unveiled its top 100 players of all time. No. 8 on the list came to Philadelphia on Sunday.

When he's at the line of scrimmage, Peyton Manning does a lot of gesturing and motioning and pointing and posturing. No one is ever quite sure what it means, but it looks good - as though he's doing something extra special to earn his keep and help the Colts win. His bosses have to love that. Most of the time.

Manning threw some exceptional passes against the Eagles. He also threw some exceptional passes to the Eagles. Asante Samuel picked off Mr. Football twice. The second interception ended the game and gave the Birds a closer-than-necessary, 26-24 victory.

When it was over, the Eagles, not Manning, did all the pointing and posturing. The question is what it all means as the Birds move into the second half of the season with a healthier-than-expected 5-3 record.

Are the Birds the frustrating team that disappointed the fans with the loss suffered against Tennessee? Or are the Eagles the frustrating team that had trouble scoring in the red zone but still managed to secure an important win against one of the best quarterbacks of all-time?

The uncertainty and confusion shouldn't be all that surprising. Under Andy Reid, the Birds have long been football's version of Two Face from the Batman comics - good at times, bad at others. You might as well flip a coin when trying to figure them out.

On Sunday, the Eagles flew to a comfortable 13-0 lead. They got DeSean Jackson involved and watched him amass 109 yards and a touchdown. They also worked LeSean McCoy into the mix (95 yards on 16 carries). That was the good.

The not-so good: The Birds allowed the Colts to reclaim the lead before the half due to several missed red-zone opportunities. They were flagged 14 times for 125 yards. (Not all of the penalties were deserved, but even if you delete the unfair flags the Eagles still played sloppily at times.) They almost let Manning steal the game in the second half when the defense relaxed with a nine-point lead. And then there were the obligatory wasted timeouts and curious challenges courtesy of the head coach.

It should be noted that Reid's perfect record following a bye is still intact. His teams are 12-0 after a week off (with the notable exception of that time they had a weeklong breather prior to the Super Bowl). Reid should petition the NFL to let the Eagles play all their games after a bye. It would make the season a lot longer, but it would be a good trade-off.

"We know the magnitude of [the game]," Michael Vick said before the Birds clashed with the Colts. "We know what it can do for us, as far as our confidence moving forward."

Vick might be right. The Eagles could very well use the win to establish themselves as a legitimate playoff contender. It's been a strange year in the NFL - the Pats lost on Sunday to the Browns - and even the best teams in the league have looked fallible and ordinary at times.

Then again, the Birds have teased this town for years. Do you dare believe in them after all the times they rewarded your faith by falling short?

Go ahead. Take a guess about who they actually are and what they're capable of achieving. There's no right answer. There never is with the Eagles.

NFL officials should be able to use instant replay to determine helmet-to-helmet hits. . . . No helmet will ever fully defend against concussions, but some are still better at protecting players' heads than others. And yet many athletes still opt for the old-school models instead because the new ones are oversized and look odd. Who cares if you look like the Great Gazoo just so long as you can speak your name without drooling when the game is over? . . . As mascots go, Swoop is only slightly less lame than Hip-Hop. Still, credit where it's due: Swoop started the game by shooting sparks from an American flag while Hulk Hogan's anthem, "Real American," blared through the speakers. Good shtick. . . . A handler for Vince Vaughn and Kevin James sent out an e-mail asking The Inquirer and Daily News to take pictures of the actors before the game. Photo op only. Ink-stained reporters were kept at a distance and prevented from asking questions. Reid would no doubt kill for a similar arrangement. . . . Incidentally: When Jeffrey Lurie finally gets his Hollywood flunkies to make Close but Not Close Enough: The Andy Reid Story, James should be cast as the lead. . . . Ask Gonzo on Philly.com at 2 p.m. on Monday. Like the Eagles, the chat is difficult to define.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gonzophilly.

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