Steve Smith, back on field but poor results for Eagles

Posted: November 14, 2011

STEVE SMITH felt awful, and great.

His spotty play in place of suspended receiver DeSean Jackson helped the Eagles lose to the underdog Cardinals. But Smith played the entire game . . . the first time in more than a year. Smith injured a chest muscle Nov. 7 last year, then was lost for the season with a knee injury when he came back in December.

"I feel real good," Smith said.

Physically, he felt good. Emotionally . . . well, Smith knows he will be remembered less for his team-high five catches and 45 yards than for the 1 yard he failed to get.

Tied at 14 in the fourth quarter, the Eagles, on their own 20, needed 20 yards on third down to jump-start a drive. Michael Vick found Smith over the middle. Smith snagged the catch and scooted downfield . . . and, 19 yards later, he slid to the ground.

One yard short of a first down.

"I thought I had it. I just stopped running," Smith said. "I just should've just kept running until I got tackled."

Instead, the Eagles punted.

The play meant little - the Eagles intercepted John Skelton three plays later at the Cardinals' 30 - but the play looked bad.

"Stuff like that shows I haven't been playing," Smith said.

Really, it is remarkable that Smith was even standing in the fourth quarter.

Not only had he not started in more than a year, he hadn't even played in the last two games for the Eagles. He entered yesterday with five catches in six games and had sunk to fifth, below Riley Cooper, on the receivers' pecking order.

After yesterday's game, consider him back. He likely will start in place of injured Jeremy Maclin against the Giants on Sunday, despite an imperfect afternoon.

A couple of times, Smith failed to make what would have been outstanding catches on the sideline - "A couple of plays you want back," Smith said. He had no chance at outrunning A.J. Jefferson down the sideline on the Eagles' last offensive play, a bomb that Jefferson intercepted.

But he was serviceable for most of the game, and that is a significant step forward for a player who underwent microfracture surgery in December - a step, perhaps, toward regained greatness.

In 2009, he led the Giants with a team-record 107 catches for 1,220 yards, second-most in team history, and went to the Pro Bowl after that season.

The Eagles signed him away from the Giants as a free agent, nursed him through training camp and threw him in the deep end yesterday. He was exhausted in the locker room afterward.

"I wish I was more tired," he said. "I would be if I'd gotten that first down."

Hard on me

Backup defensive tackle Derek Landri recorded a sack, contributed to three total tackles and hit the quarterback another time yesterday - probably his best game as an Eagle. But not as good as it looks, Landri said.

"I don't think I played well at all. Fundamentally, I don't think I played well at all, in my gap," he said afterward.

This was not post-loss malaise. Had the Eagles won by 20, he said, he would be equally critical.

Consider that the Eagles cut Landri out of training camp. No other team wanted him until the Eagles re-signed him Oct. 4 to replace injured Antonio Dixon. Hypercritical?

Well, consider also that Landri, in his fifth season, started all 16 games last season for Carolina and finished with 43 tackles and three sacks. So, while no team seemed eager to employ Landri for the first month of the season, he considers himself a better player than he showed yesterday:

"For me, I didn't play up to my standard," he said.

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