2008 NFL Playoffs – Conference Championships Round Review

(Philadelphia, Pa) – The 2008 NFL season themed, “Believe In Now”, continued to roll on toward an oh-too-fast ending. But one thing is for certain when the epilogue for this season is written, it will be titled, “One Crazy Season”.  I don’t think anyone’s crystal ball registered the Cardinals against the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII way back in September — remember I picked the Colts over the Saints, so what do I know ;) — however we are now set to enjoy a rivalry game on February 1st in Tampa, Florida between too coaching staffs that know each other very well. 

To me both Conference Championships games were enjoyable and the interesting part from the games’ results is that the sanity of home field advantage was restored with the Steelers 23-14 win over the Ravens and the Cardinals 32-25 win over the Eagles.   With both home teams winning, the playoff history-defying streak of 5 out of 8 road teams winning thus far in the playoffs was ended.  The NFL’s Final Four round produced two games that definitely had two different NFL flavors.  The Philadelphia Eagles – Arizona Cardinals game featured a pinball machine type offensive explosion in a perfectly conditioned indoor dome environment, while conversely the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game was an old-fashioned black-and-blue rivalry game that featured several players limping to the sidelines of cold, snowy, and muddy Heinz Field.

In both Conference Championships our keys to success in the playoffs — Strong Quarterback Play (i.e. Taking Care of the Football), Good Attacking Defense, a Balanced Offensive Attack based first in the Run, Sound Special Teams Play, and Limiting Penalties – were all very prevalent for the winning teams (Cardinals and Steelers).  

  • Super Bowl XLIII will pit two quarterbacks, in the Cardinals Kurt Warner and the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger, that have already won a Super Bowl against each other.  The Conference Championships brought out the best in the two signal callers as Warner was efficient in getting the ball down the field to superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald (see Game Balls) and in picking up the blitz while Big Ben made a key deep throw to receiver Santonio Holmes and did not turn the ball over.
  • The Steelers (+3) and the Cardinals (+2) both won the turnover battle in their games and it was a huge difference.  The Cardinals produced 3 turnovers by the Eagles while only giving the ball up once (defensive player) and the Steelers were a little better producing four turnovers by the Ravens, including Troy Polamalu’s 40-yard interception return for a touchdown, to only one giveaway.  The Cardinals and the Steelers also got pressure on the quarterback producing three and two sacks respectively.
  • The Steelers and Cardinals both had more rushing attempts than the Ravens and Eagles respectively (PITT 28 to 25) and (ARIZ 29 to 18).  The key was the final four winners never abandoned the run even when they lost their lead or the other team was within a couple of points.
  • An often overlooked factor in games is penalties, but the Steelers and especially the Cardinals made sure they were not hurt too bad by penalties in their wins.  The Cardinals only had three penalties to seven for the Eagles while the Steelers and Ravens were knotted at six apiece.

Game Notes

Arizona Cardinals 32, Philadelphia Eagles 25

This year’s NFC Championship Game, titled the “Why Not Us” Bowl was played out in the cozy confines of University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  If nothing else, this game between two improbable NFC lower seeded playoff teams was enjoyable.  The Cardinals came out of their locker-room full of emotion as they put their 48-20 Week 13 loss to the Eagles behind them by going on a 80-yard nine play touchdown drive culminated by Fitzgerald bullying his way into the endzone.  From there it was all Cardinals in the first half as they built a 24-6 halftime lead mostly on Warner finding Fitzgerald over and over (finished with 6 receptions for an NFL record 113 first-half yards and 3 TDs) as the Eagles either had to punt or settled for field goal attempts (the Eagles were inside the Cardinals’ 30-yard line three times in the first half and came away with only six points).  The Cardinals even brought out a beautifully crafted flea-flicker 62-yard touchdown pass from Warner to RB J.J Arrington back to Warner then down the field to Fitzgerald.  However the 3rd quarter it was all Eagles as the Cardinals got a good look at why Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is one of the NFL’s best.  McNabb led the offense in scoring 19 unanswered points to erase an 18-point Cardinals lead.  McNabb threw touchdown passes to TE Brent Celek of 31 yards and 6 yards.  But his finest throw was a 62-yard bomb that rookie DeSean Jackson juggled then took to the house giving the Eagles an improbable 25-24 lead.    While the Eagles were scoring in bunches in the 3rd quarter the Cardinals were limited to two three-and-out possessions.  However veteran quarterback Warner and the Cardinals had one more drive left in them.  The former two-time NFL MVP led the Cardinals on a chain-moving 72-yard, 14 play drive that took 7:52 minutes off the clock and culminated with a perfectly executed Warner 8-yard screen pass to rookie RB Tim Hightower.  The rookie from the University of Richmond also had a key play earlier in the drive converting a 4th and 1 play with a tough 2-yard outside run.  For good measure Warner also completed a two-point conversion to backup TE Ben Patrick to make the score 32-25.  Given one more chance, the McNabb and the Eagles moved the ball to the Cardinals 47-yard line.  But on the game’s defining four downs for the Eagles, McNabb could not connect on last four throws (Basket (receiver slipped), Jackson (overthrow), Basket (threw behind receiver), and Curtis (slipped/tripped and dropped pass).  The Eagles defense stopped the Cardinals leading to a poorly executed hook-and-lateral that was intercepted by the Cardinals to end the game.  The Eagles duo of McNabb and head coach Andy Reid are now a disappointing 1-4 in NFC Championship Games leaving many to wonder if this veteran Birds team will get another precious shot in the near future or has their window of opportunity closed. The Cardinals now become the final NFC team to make the Super Bowl in the history of the Big Game and they are the second 9-win regular season team to make the Super Bowl (other team was the 1979 Rams).

Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Baltimore Ravens 14

If you liked a hard-hitting defensive football in bad weather conditions then this was your type of game.  The Steelers, in their NFL leading 14th AFC Championship Game, early on were content to play solid defense and allow their offense to secure three points (two Josh Reed 2 FG’s).  But a 65-yard Roethlisberger to receiver Santonio Holmes touchdown pass broke the game open putting the Steelers ahead 13-0 and sending their home Terrible Towel waving fans into a frenzy.  However the Ravens kept hanging around at the end of the first half as running back Willis McGahee pounded his way to his first touchdown making the score 13-7 at the half.  Even though the Steelers were nursing a 16-7 lead going into the fourth quarter, you never sensed that the veteran team would panic.  The Steelers were never afraid that Ravens rookie quarterback  Joe Flacco (Lloyd’s Lackey) could beat them even when another McGahee touchdown cut the Steelers lead to 16-14.  All of everyone’s apprehensions about Flacco’s ability to lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl were confirmed with less than five minutes left in the game.  The Steelers pass rush caused Flacco into an overthrow that safety Troy Polamalu picked off and zigzagged his way 40 yards into the endzone for the game-sealing score for the Steelers.  The game was not without injuries as this was probably the hardest hitting game, I have seen in some time as Steelers WR Hines Ward tweaked his knee missing the 2nd half, Ravens CB Frank Walker left in the 2nd quarter causing him to not return, and in the game’s scariest moment Pittsburgh S Ryan Clark drilled McGahee causing the former Miami Hurricane to be taken off on a stretcher (later had movement in his extremities). The Steelers are the 12th team since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to defeat an opponent three times in the same season. And the Black-and-Gold will make their seventh Super Bowl appearance, second most all-time behind the Cowboys’ eight. Kudos should go out to Steelers 36-year old head coach Mike Tomlin, who validated Steelers owner Dan Rooney’s belief in him when the savvy owner handpicked the relatively unknown defensive coordinator as his headman.  Now Tomlin will be able to face the two men, Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who thought they had a leg-up on the competition to replace Bill Cowher back in 2007.

 Game Balls

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald – The NFL’s best receiver was on display again as Fitzgerald was spectacular against the Eagles.  First he set an NFL record with 113 first-half yards on six catches including 3 TDs.  Then he helped close the game out with two big receptions on the Cardinals game-winning drive.  The former University of Pittsburgh All-American finished with nine receptions for 152 yards and 3 TDs. The Pro Bowl bound receiver also set a single playoff record with 419 receiving yards, surpassing the great Jerry Rice and did I mention that Fitzgerald has one more game left in Super Bowl XLIII.

Honorable Mention

Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb –– I don’t care what the McNabb bashers will say (missed some early throws, an interception, fumbled by getting sacked by Adrian Wilson and could not lead the Birds back in the 4th quarter), this man had a great game in the NFC Championship.  McNabb led his team back from an 18-point deficit to take the lead when it mattered and lets face it the defense let him down.  He set a career-high with 375 passing yards and was an incredible in the second-half completing 17 of 28 passes for 266-yards and 3 TDs. His final numbers were 28-47, 375 yards, 3 TDs, and 31 rushing, but I guess that will not be enough for the “Haters” who want the Kevin Kolb era to begin.  To everyone yearning for another quarterback than McNabb, you better take a good look around the NFL because there are not many quarterbacks better than Big 5.  Just image what McNabb could do with some real weapons — Did you see Greg Lewis drop that potential bomb??

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu — Finished with four tackles and led a Pittsburgh defense that held Baltimore rookie QB Joe Flacco to 141 passing yards.  Put the Steelers win on ice sending them to their 7th Super Bowl with his 40-yard interception touchdown return.

Other Honorees: Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed (Drilled 3 FG’s in tough conditions and finished with 11 points); Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner (In going to his 3rd Super Bowl he was spectacular throwing for numbers 21-28, 279 yds, and 4 TDs); Philadelphia Eagles TE Brent Celek (In a game where franchise TE LJ Smith struggled, Celek had a career-high 10 catches, gaining 83 yards and two touchdowns); Pittsburgh Steelers LB Lamar Woodley (The Steelers “D” was stifling against the Ravens and Woodley was everywhere producing 7 TKLs, and 2 sacks);  Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson (The perennial Pro Bowl safety was spectacular finishing with 7 TKLs, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble); Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley (Kept the Eagles Defense off-balance the whole game mixing the run and pass well and how about the 14-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that was a game closer)

Lloyd’s Lackey

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco – In the biggest game of his career, “The rookie quarterback, played like a rookie quarterback”.  Flacco entered the game with no interceptions or sacks in 45 postseason pass attempts, but he threw three interceptions and was sacked three times by the Steelers.  Finished with terrible numbers 13-30, 141 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs

Other DishonoreesEagles safety Quintin Demps (The rookie safety, was beaten for a 62-yard touchdown by Larry Fitzgerald and he also cost the Eagles 15 yards on a dumb late hit on Kurt Warner); Eagles kicker David Akers (“Just a Kicker Being a Kicker”… lost his consecutive field goal streak on a missed 47-yarder, missed a point-after and sent a kickoff out of bounds right before halftime); Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson and the Eagles Defense (Too many blitzes with little results and overall the defense got pushed around…so much for this unit being better than Reggie White’s group.  Gave up 24 first-half points and couldn’t prevent a game-winning 14-play scoring drive at the end.  BTW: Why was two-time Pro Bowl player Lito Sheppard barely on the field); Eagles TE LJ Smith (The franchise-tagged tight end produced 1 catch for 5 yards as backup Brent Celek had a great game);  Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin (Played with a hamstring injury producing four catches for 34 yards, but his sulking and arguments with Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley on the sidelines were bush-league.  Yo Q… your team is going to the Super Bowl, so put a smile on your face and grab a NFC Championship t-shirt and hat).

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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The NFL’s Matt Leinhart Says “Pictures, What Pictures ???” by Lloyd Vance

Leinart Hanging with the Honeys Causes a Stir

(Philadelphia, Pa) — This past week a real stink was made around the NFL about notorious “party boy” Matt Leinhart being photographed hanging out with some honeys and actor Nick Lachey.  The photos caused Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt to talk with his quarterback about responsibility.

I am not one to jump all over a 24-year old for having a good time and I will not start now.  We do know that Leinhart is coming off another injury-riddled season where “soul man” Kurt Warner filled in admirably in his absence.  But to me the whole thing is a non-story, because who could blame a 24-year old millionaire for partying with hotties during the off-season.

I say if his partying sinks his play on the field to the level of former UCLA quarterback and Chicago Bears draft bust Cade McNown — rumored to have partied his way out of the NFL, by spending more time with playmates rather than his playbook — then Leinhart will have a serious problem. 

For now let Leinhart enjoy himself and hopefully he has learned to keep his partying away from  cameras, especially when  beer bongs are around.  Maybe now he will spend more time with his young son (Cole), embrace his playbook, and try to hangout more with stoic veteran Warner.

With all the hub-bub over these pictures, imagine the fun that the paparazi would have had following around notorious New York Jets playboy quarterback Joe Namath in the late ’60s and ’70s.

 

Lloyd Vance is an NFL Writer for Taking It to the House.  You contact Lloyd on Twitter @lloydvance_nfl

The Top Moments/Performances to Remember from the 2007 NFL Regular Season (Part 1)

Every season there are moments that like the commercial says are “priceless”.  I have listed some of the moments/performances that I thought left an impression on the NFL in 2007. 

Week 1: New England Patriots WR Randy Moss against the Jets – In this “I am Back” performance, Moss showed that he didn’t need training camp.  After sitting out most of training camp and the pre-season with a lingering hamstring injury, Moss exploded on the New York Jets secondary for nine catches for 183 yards (20.3 ypc) with a touchdown in a shellacking 38-14 over the Jets.  The 10-year veteran receiver looked nothing like the malcontent that shuffled through the 2006 for the Oakland Raiders (42 catches, 553 yards, 13.2 ypc, and 3 TDs).  What impressed me the most about Moss’ performance was his deep 51-yard touchdown bomb that showed he still had game-breaking speed. He ended the season with a NFL Record 23 receiving touchdowns and he will be laughing all the way to the bank this off-season (Free Agent) with the Raiders only having a 4th round pick to show for it.

Week 1:  The Mike Tomlin era begins with a huge win over the hated Cleveland Browns – The Steelers kicked off the Mike Tomlin era with a thrashing of the Cleveland Browns 34 to 7 in Cleveland.  The game marked the first time in 15 years that Bill Cowher wasn’t on the sideline.  The star of the game was Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger who threw a career-high four touchdown passes as Pittsburgh built an early 17-0 lead and didn’t look back. The Browns had an embarrassing day of turnovers, sacks and poor play from starting quarterback Charlie Fry whose pitiful line was 4-for-10 for 34 yards, INT (benched and later traded opening the door for surprise quarterback Derek Anderson).  Steelers RB Willie Parker rushed for 109 yards as Pittsburgh continued their bruising style.

Week 2 Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre against the Giants – The tales of the future Hall of Famer’s demise were greatly exaggerated as he showed the world that the 2007 season was going to be something special for the 38-year old quarterback.  With his line protecting him, Favre led the Packers to their six straight regular season victory. The Packers got off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2001 and Favre won his record setting 149th career victory over the Giants 35-13.  In the game, the “old gray beard” threw for 29-of-38 for 286 yards with 3 TD’s and one interception. 

Week 2: The Patriots put “spygate” in their rearview mirror against the Chargers– In what was billed as the weekend’s grudge match, it never materialized as the Patriots took a 24-0 halftime lead and coasted to a dominating 38-14 victory over the Chargers in Foxboro.  The Patriots were led by QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick and I believe they wanted to show last year’s regular season champ and the entire NFL that they didn’t need to cheat in winning their 3 Super Bowls.  The players wanted to backup their coach after the NFL fined Belichick $500,000, the team another $250,000, and made them forfeit a first-round draft pick in ’08 for “spygate”.  Brady (25-31, 279 yards w/ 3 TDs) said, “After everything that went on this week, we wanted to do our best for him”.  Patriots WR Randy Moss had his second straight 100-yard receiving game including two touchdowns and big time free agent signee LB Adalius Thomas returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown.  2006 NFL MVP Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson could not back up his boasts that he wanted the Pats by running for only 43 yards on 18 carries.

Week 3: Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb against the Lions – After enduring a tough home loss to the Redskins on MNF and receiving arrows from everywhere regarding his interview with HBO’s Real Sports, Big 5 took off his knee brace and dismantled the Lions.  He was at first greeted by more than a smattering of boos from fans, but they quickly turned to cheers as McNabb led the way in a 56-21 rout.  He was pinpoint and had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3, finishing 21-26 passing for 381 yards and four touchdowns.  I don’t know if it was the throwback uniforms, the chip on his shoulder or his repoirre with wide receiver Kevin Curtis, but it was evident McNabb came to play and to silence his critics. After the game he said about his comments, “What’s been said has been said” and “Sometimes reality hurts. Some people don’t want to accept it. Some people feel they aren’t a part of it. But I don’t take it back. I don’t regret it.”

Week 3: One of the few shining moments for the Ravens as they beat the Cardinals at the gun – In a game that came down to the final play, the Ravens showed that good defense and special teams are keys to winning the NFL taking down the Cardinals 26-23 in Baltimore. After Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner rallied the Arizona Cardinals from a 17-point deficit, Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller moved the Ravens into position for a 46-yard game-winning field goal by veteran kicker Matt Stover as time expired. The Ravens only had one offensive touchdown, as KR Yamon Figur’s 75-yard touchdown punt return and Stover (4 FGs and 2 XPs) accounted for the other 20 points.  The game-winner by Stover was the 13th of his career.  The win would be one of few good moments for the Ravens in a season where head coach Brian Billick would be fired at the end and they limped home with a 5-11 record.

Week 4: Revenge Weekend – There must have been something in the air this weekend as several coaches and players had happy/unhappy reunions (depending which side you were on).

  • Raiders starting QB Daunte Culpepper – After being acrimoniously released by the Dolphins this summer due to supposed knee woes, Culpepper had this one circled on his calendar.  In an in-your face my knee is fine win, Culpepper got his roll on for 5 touchdowns (2 passing and 3 rushing).
  • Cardinals coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm were both passed over for the vacant Steelers head coaching job, but they got the last laugh on their old team.  The Cardinals behind a two-headed monster at quarterback and big kick return by Steve Breaston gave the Steelers their first loss of the season 21-14 in Phoenix.
  • Browns RB Jamal Lewis overpowered the vaunted Ravens defense in a big home win.  In the game, he showed that his old team gave up on him too early rushing for 64 yards including a big 23 yarder and a touchdown.
  • Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, a former Eagles coach, showed that he knew the entire Eagles game plan and weaknesses as his unit held the Birds to three little points in a home win.  By the way did I mention the franchise and NFL record 12 sacks the Giants registered.

Week 4: New York Giants DE Osi Umenyiora against the Eagles – Poor, Poor Eagles offensive tackle Winston Justice as the stout Giants sack man had a game for the ages collecting six sacks setting a franchise record and came within an eyelash of tying Derrick Brooks NFL record (7).  He also forced two fumbles and I am sure that Justice (very bad first start), who was victimized for most of the sacks will not be sending him flowers anytime soon.  The Eagles offense was befuddled for the entire game and the Giants D-line was the main cause.  The unit totaled a NFL record 12 sacks and limited the Eagles to 190 net yards in a 16 – 3 win. To give you perspective on the number of sacks NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci said “12 sacks in one game?  Peyton Manning was sacked 14 times all of last year.”

Week 5: The Bills almost pull of the impossible in a near upset of the undefeated Cowboys on Monday Night Football – I will say it, “The Cowboys did not deserve to win this game”. The game marked the first time since 2000 that MNF was in Buffalo.  Ralph Wilson Stadium was rocking — and there wasn’t even a hockey game in the venerable stadium – as the “hated” Cowboys came back to beat the Bills 25-24 in front of a packed house.  This was the most improbable victory I have ever seen.  The Cowboys were lucky enough to overcome quarterback Tony Romo throwing 5 INTs with two returned for TDs and 1 fumble lost.  They also had to weather key drops by receiver Terrell Owens and miraculously recover an on-side kick to setup the last second game-winning field goal.  It was the first time in NFL History that a team won a game when it was a minus-5 on turnover differential.

Week 5: Indianapolis RB Kenton Keith against the Buccaneers –The Colts once again showed the quality of depth on their roster — good job GM Bill Polian and Coach Tony Dungy — as their injury replacement for star runner Joseph Addai proved to be so much more.  The former New Mexico State and Saskatchewan Roughrider (CFL) back carried the ball 28 times gaining 121 yards with two touchdowns in the Colts’ 33 – 14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Week 6: New England Patriots QB Tom Brady against the Cowboys– This may have been a Super Bowl preview as Tom “Terrific” shined in a Pats win.  In his 100th career start, the Patriots signal caller showed why he is the hands down favorite for the MVP.  He threw a career high five touchdown passes, going 30 of 45 for 377 yards. He also went in the record books passing Steve Young to become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least three TD pass in the first six games of the season. The victory also raised Brady’s record to 24-4 as a starter vs. the NFC, including his three Super Bowl wins.

Week 6: Carolina Panthers QB Vinny Testaverde against the Cardinals – In one of this season’s most incredible stories, the 43-year old Testaverde joined the team on Wednesday and then led them to a 25-10 win over the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday.  In the game, he became the third-oldest starting QB since 1970, but he was efficient completing 20-of-33 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown.  The former Heisman Trophy winner (1986) also leapt into the record books becoming the first quarterback to have twenty-one straight seasons with a TD pass and becoming the oldest starting quarterback to win a game.

Week 7: Tennessee Titans Kicker Rob Bironas – That’s right a kicker made to my memorable moments despite my “love-hate” relationship for the smallest players on NFL rosters.  In week 7, no kicker has had a great performance ever than Bironas.  He sent an NFL-record eight field goals through the uprights in a crazy 38-36 victory over the Texans on the road.  Bironas’ kicks included a game winning 29-yarder as time expired and others of 52, 25, 21, 30, 28, 43, and 29.

Week 7:  Kansas City Chiefs Defensive End Jared Allen against the Bengals – The high-motor sometimes wacky Chiefs defensive end after serving a two game suspension for alcohol related events, showed why he is a bonafide defensive MVP candidate.  Allen dominated the Bengals contributing 8 TKLs, 2 sacks (ninth career multi-sack game), and 2 FF while chasing quarterback Carson Palmer all day.  Allen produced an NFL leading 15.5 sacks and was the main highlight for the low-light Chiefs going 4-1 with him after a 0-2 start. 

Week 8: New England Patriots OLB Mike Vrabel against the Redskins In a game that would cement the Patriots image as the “evil empire”, the veteran linebacker was everywhere (Offense, Defense, and Special Teams) in the Pats humiliating 52-7 win over the Redskins. In his primary role as the Patriots jack-of-trades linebacker (asked to cover, play the run, and rush the passer), Vrabel gave  ‘Skins quarterback Jason Campbell’s nightmares as he produced 13 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles with one being recovered for a touchdown.  If that was not enough on offense, he played as a tight end in the redzone and he caught his tenth career touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Tom Brady to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.  As if he didn’t do enough, the former Ohio State defensive end even fielded a Redskins onside kick in the fourth quarter.

Week 8: Philadelphia Eagles DE Trent Cole against the Vikings – The Eagles pass-rushing end told me when I visited with him in training camp “You have to get after it and you need to have the dog in you to make plays” and that is exactly what he did in the Eagles 23-16 win over the Vikings.  Cole all year was the Eagles main force on defense.  In this game he showed why he deserved high Pro Bowl consideration as he contributed eight tackles, two sacks and applying constant pressured on Vikings quarterbacks.  He finished the year with 12.5 sacks.