Winless Dolphins seek first win in hostile Philly
PHILADELPHIA — Almost every player on the Philadelphia Eagles had the perfect response this week when asked about facing the winless Miami Dolphins.
The popular answer: “We’re not good enough to overlook anybody.”
These Eagles (4-5) may not win a Super Bowl, but at least they’re honest. A team that hasn’t won consecutive games this season can’t take any opponent too lightly.
“Our players understand that we’re in no position to evaluate another team in that manner,” coach Andy Reid said. “We’ve got plenty of things to work on right here.”
Then again, the Dolphins (0-9) are really awful. It’s been six years since a team lost its first nine games. The 2001 Detroit Lions were 0-12 before they won. No NFL team has ever finished 0-16.
It doesn’t help that rookie quarterback John Beck will make his debut in hostile Philly on Sunday.
“You’re going into someone else’s place trying to get a win,” Beck said. “There’s not a single person in that stadium that’s a Philly fan that’s going to want you to have a chance, and that’s just the way the game is. You just go into the stadium, focus on what you can do, not worry about the fans, not worry about the environment and not worry about anything but what you can do.”
Beck almost had a chance to throw his first pass with the Eagles instead of against them. Philadelphia considered drafting the former BYU star, but chose Kevin Kolb in the second round with its first overall selection in April. The Dolphins took Beck four picks later at No. 40.
The 26-year-old Beck served a church mission in Portugal before beginning his college career, so his age was one factor the Eagles went with Kolb.
“I like both guys. I thought both of them are quality players,” said Reid, who went to BYU and is partial toward players from his alma mater. “I think that situation that Beck is in is better than the situation that he would have come in here.”
Beck can expect to see plenty of blitzes from the Eagles. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is known for devising complex schemes, especially when facing inexperienced quarterbacks.
“I just want to be smart with everything I do,” Beck said. “Obviously, the first game you don’t want to try to do too much, but also you can’t hold back.”
For the Eagles, it’s an opportunity to finally even their record after alternating wins and losses following an 0-2 start. A stagnant offense scored 20 points in the fourth quarter of a 33-25 comeback victory at Washington last Sunday to put Philadelphia back in the playoff mix in a jumbled NFC.
Donovan McNabb threw four touchdown passes and dynamic halfback Brian Westbrook scored three times against the Redskins. Now the Eagles hope to start their first winning streak and earn just their second win at home in five tries. With a trip to undefeated New England looming next week, they can’t afford to let another winnable game slip away.
“When you win one and you lose one, there’s uncertainty,” safety Brian Dawkins said. “Or, there’s a thought in there that maybe or hopefully we’ll win this game. We can’t have that. We need to go into every game knowing that we can win. By us winning back-to-back, if that happens, you kind of feel like whatever the situation comes up, we’re going to win. It’s a momentum thing and that snowball effect kind of happens.”
To a man, the Eagles preached all week that Miami is better than its record. The Dolphins have had several close calls, losing five games by three points, including a 13-10 defeat to Buffalo on a last-minute field goal last Sunday.
“We’re close, so we’ve got to make some improvement and make some adjustments and win a football game,” rookie coach Cam Cameron said.
If a poor record wasn’t bad enough, there were plenty of distractions in Miami this week. On the day Beck was elevated to starter, suspended running back Ricky Williams was reinstated by the league after a 1 1/2 -year absence.
Williams, by the way, is the guy fans wanted the Eagles to draft instead of McNabb with the second pick in the 1999 draft. Nine years later, plenty of fans are trying to run McNabb out of Philly and get the Kolb Era underway.
A loss to the lowly Dolphins could speed up the transition.