I'm tempted to avoid writing a single word about the performance of our offense today against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was so bad that there was literally not a single positive thing to mention. Alas, however, I have had a few thoughts about (surprise, surprise) Bruce Arians' play-calling that are worth mentioning. For another day though.
For now let's instead talk about all the exquisite things our defense did, both collectively and individually. Let's start with...
* LaMarr Woodley. He's got some learning to do, no doubt, but he sure did make some nice plays. His burst off the edge on his sack was very impressive, and to boot, he actually found another gear to finish off McNabb after not getting a firm grasp on him the first time around. He's going to be a special player, particularly when he acclimates himself to the rapid-fire pace of the game when he's out in space covering receivers and TEs. That said, he did do a nice job in several instances finding the right spot in the zone to flood to.
* Very respectable play by William Gay. We had some issues defending the pass in the first half, but Gay more than held his own, particularly in the second half. He's going to be just fine, I think.
* Troy Polamalu is back, in a huge way. It's somewhat comical that he was named a Pro Bowler last year, when it's crystal clear that he was nowhere full strength last year. He seems more fit and limber than ever in 2008. That interception was absolutely incredible. Even getting a hand on that deflected pass was impressive. Finding a way to cradle it with one arm after being nearly parallel to the ground when he dove? WOW. From the look of things, we're going to be relying on our defense more and more throughout the year. Forcing turnovers will be vital, and through three games, Polamalu has snagged three picks.
* Paging James Harrison. Harrison? Hellloooooo? Maybe next week against a Ravens squad he typically shows up for.
* Solid outing for Larry Foote. He may be our weakest link amongst the starting LB corps, but that's no knock. He's still earned the right to start over Lawrence Timmons. That doesn't mean we don't need Timmons on the field...LOTS...but Foote has also been deserving of ample playing time. There's enough PT for both, so it's not really an issue who's out there on the first play of the game.
* We need to lock-up Bryant McFadden sooner rather than later. He's arrived as a bona-fide cover man in this league. Here's the deal. If we don't resign him, we're stuck having to draft a CB, perhaps even in the first round. Sure, we could try to get by with William Gay and DeShea Townsend to play opposite from Ike Taylor. But it's not the wisest of moves. We all know where we need to invest our draft picks the next several years, so why not retain what we already have at CB? This is a no-brainer to me. We've tried to get by on the cheap in the trenches (both sides of the ball) and we know how far that has gotten us. Please, please, don't let us try to cut corners for financial reasons in this situation too.
* If this defense hadn't played as extraoridnarily well as it did today, particularly in the second half, this one could have been a loss for the ages. Maybe not margin of defeat wise. But let's all face it, the score was not indicative of the lopsided nature of this football game.
* Allow me to conclude by saying that at least we are moving forward confident that we have a superb defense to keep us in games when our offense sputters, like today. With no defense, you rarely have a shot to make a run in the playoffs, let alone even make the playoffs. And unless you're one of the elite Colts offenses of year's past, our the 2007 Patriots, you're going to encounter dry spells on offense. It happens, even to very good teams. But without that consistent defense, the odds of stringing together winning streaks and competing against the better teams in the league, go way down.
We've got problems, don't get me wrong. But our defense may just be special enough to overcome them, in a year when there doesn't appear to be any clear-cut favorite atop the pack of the AFC.