John Smallwood: Eagles weren't ready for 'Tuesday Night Lights'

Posted: December 29, 2010

IT DIDN'T FEEL like anything special.

Once the game started, "Tuesday Night Football" felt the same as "Sunday Night," "Monday Night" or "Thursday Night Football."

The extraordinary circumstances that brought us to Lincoln Financial Field last night for the first NFL game played on a Tuesday since 1946 remained, but in the end it was football.

And, frankly, considering the lackluster fight the Eagles put up against a Minnesota Vikings team that's been waiting for weeks for the season to end, this game certainly isn't going to find its way into Eagles lore.

In fact, after a 24-14 loss that officially locked the Eagles into the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs, most fans are probably wondering why they had to wait an extra 48 hours to witness it.

Because of the unique circumstances, the Eagles had a chance to do something special in a game that will be memorable if only because it was played on a Tuesday night in front of a national-television audience. For a team that has been fairly consistent in its motivation, it was shocking to see the Eagles play so listlessly.

The only way to accurately describe the Eagles' performance was disinterested.

"It was an absolutely pathetic job on my part of getting my team ready to play," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "We didn't coach well and we didn't play well.

"It was a complete tail-whipping."

From the obvious lack of preparation to the lack of execution to the lack of passion, it was hard to believe that this was a team that went into the game with the intent of staying in contention for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and the accompanying first-round bye.

Instead, the Eagles played like a team with nothing to gain, and now they are locked into the third seed and will host a wild-card game in 2 weeks.

The only possible benefit is that it makes Sunday's season finale against Dallas moot.

For all intents and purposes, Reid, if he chooses to, could actually use the Dallas game as a bye and sit some key players - specifically quarterback Michael Vick - to make sure they are fresh for the playoffs.

Immediately after the game, Reid said his squad was not "good enough" to afford to rest players, but in all reality, with the way his team is beat up, it's an opportunity he can't afford to pass up.

This was not a good Tuesday for anyone in midnight green. Out-of-sync would be a kind way of phrasing how the Birds looked.

Hours after Vick was announced as the starter for the NFC at the Pro Bowl, he played what was probably his worst game since his surprising resurrection began.

Vick completed 25 of 43 passes for 263 yards with a touchdown, but he had three turnovers. His fumble in the closing minute of the first half was returned 45-yards for a touchdown by Antoine Winfield, so the teams went to the half 7-7.

The Eagles' defense wasn't bad statistically, but it didn't make any big plays. That was especially alarming since rookie quarterback Joe Webb, who the Vikings drafted with the intention of converting to wide receiver, was making his first NFL start.

Webb wasn't great, completing 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards, but the Eagles didn't force him into any mistakes. They recorded just two sacks and didn't really put the kind of consistent pressure on Webb that might cause him to make a few bad decisions.

In fact, it was the Vikings' defense that had Vick in all-out scramble mode the entire game: They sacked him six times.

The Eagles did pay one heavy price for having the game moved.

If it had been played on Sunday night, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson would not have. Given an extra 48 hours to rest his bruised quadricep, Peterson rushed 22 times for 118 yards.

His touchdown run with just under 7 minutes left in the game put the Vikings up 24-14 and essentially ended the Eagles' hopes of another comeback victory.

It was really a remarkable exercise in motivation by Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier. Given a more difficult task of getting his players excited about a meaningless game at the end of a bitterly disappointing season, Frazier had his team performing with the enthusiasm of the one bidding for a higher seed in the playoffs.

It's been a bizarre 3 weeks for the Vikings.

First, they had a Sunday game at home moved to a Monday night in Detroit when snow burst the roof of the Metrodome; they lost to the New York Giants.

Then last week, their home game had to be moved outdoors to the University of Minnesota because the Metrodome was still damaged; they lost to the Chicago Bears.

Finally, they had an extended stay in Philadelphia when a game outside of Minnesota was, ironically, postponed because of a blizzard.

This time, in the first NFL game played on a Tuesday in 64 years, the Vikings came away with a victory.

It's a Tuesday nobody around these parts will care to remember.

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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