Rob's Rants: Eagles, Sixers go away from true identity in losses

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Rob's Rants: Eagles, Sixers go away from true identity in losses

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which NBC Sports Philadelphia's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

Seventy-seven days passed between losses for the Eagles. So it’s been a while since the Birds have made an appearance in Rob’s Rants. And while I am a firm believer it’s not panic time, they weren’t going to run the table and that it was a tough spot in the ebb and flow of an NFL season, that doesn’t mean the Eagles are immune to a rant or two. The Sixers will be providing the Birds some company this week after a horrific home loss to a terrible Suns team. And since it 'tis the season, I’ll throw in my top-10 Christmas songs of all-time. 

Sleepwalking in Seattle
Winning in Seattle is never easy. The Seahawks were the more desperate team and played like it. The Eagles took a big step up in class from the competition they faced in the previous weeks and they were not up to the task.

However, what was truly frustrating was not so much the play on the field but the approach by both coach and players.

The Eagles have been a swagger team all season. Doug Pederson set the tone Week 1 against the Redskins with his aggressive play-calling and it had carried over through their nine-game winning streak. Look no further than the numerous end zone celebrations, going for it on fourth down, throwing in a run situation, taking a deep shot or whatever the case may be.

Pederson coached at best tentative and at worst scared against Seattle, and it was completely out of character. But was it the chicken or the egg?

Did Pederson just come up small thinking a conservative, run-heavy approach in the first half would work against a Seattle team that was good against the rush? Not to mention, the Seahawks were without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the secondary. Surely attacking them through the air was the way to go, right?

Pederson twice passed on opportunities to go for it on fourth-and-short in the first half. Very much out of character. But is it possible the head coach decided he needed to play things safe because he felt his team wasn’t prepared? Both the players and Pederson himself admitted the team had not practiced well in the weeks leading up to its game against the Seahawks.

This wasn’t the Bears or 49ers it was facing. Either way, it was inexcusable. Pederson needs to stay true to this team’s personality and the players need to stop sniffing themselves. The hope is this loss will serve as a wake-up call and clean up either scenario. 

We may be only 23 games into the season, but the 2017-18 Sixers are a far cry from the tank-ridden doormats they were the previous four years. They should be a playoff team. They now play to win the games as Herm Edwards once said. In fact, they were 13-9 leading into Monday’s game against the Suns.

So when a loss to any team was no surprise when Tony Wroten was your best player on the floor, those days are gone. Losing at home Monday to a garbage Suns team that entered the game 8-16 and ranked last in points per game allowed is inexcusable. The Sixers are beyond this kind of thing now. And much like the Eagles, the team admitted after the game that it took Phoenix too lightly.

First, who is this group to look past anyone? There is a foundation for a sustained run and the Sixers have two superstars on the roster in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Still, this cast has no right looking past anyone.

The Sixers commit the second-to-most turnovers per game with 17.4 a night. Monday followed that troubling trend, as the Suns scored 22 points on the Sixers' 14 giveaways.

They are not good enough to cut corners and lack preparation, regardless of the opponent. Monday better have served as an alarm clock for this young group.

Top-10 Christmas songs
This is just to pivot off of the Eagles' and Sixers' losses and provide a little holiday cheer as we are less than three weeks away from the big day. Here are my top-10 Christmas songs. I can feel the comments and mentions coming already.

1. Do They Know It’s Christmas Time — Band Aid 
2. Happy X-Mas — John Lennon and Yoko Ono
3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town — Bruce Springsteen    
4. Christmas Song — Nat King Cole
5. Someday At Christmas — Stevie Wonder
6. Father Christmas — The Kinks
7. Christmas In Hollis — Run-DMC 
8. All I Want For Christmas — Mariah Carey
9. Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy — Bing Crosby and David Bowie
10. White Christmas — Bing Crosby

Michael Bennett knows why Eagles can repeat as Super Bowl champions

Michael Bennett knows why Eagles can repeat as Super Bowl champions

Michael Bennett was with the Seahawks when they won the Super Bowl in 2013, and he was with the Seahawks the next three years when they were supposed to but never did again.

He knows how hard it is to win it twice. If the Seahawks, with Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Marshawn Lynch and company, couldn’t do it, who can?

Bennett thinks his new team is on the right track.

“They’re not complacent,” he said. “You look at most organizations. They win, they think that’s it, that year. But this team is pushing and moving pieces and finding our weaknesses and making them better, and I think that’s how you prepare to win [again]. 

“I think they’ve done a great job of it and me being an addition is something that I think is a great move.”

The Eagles, who won Super Bowl LII six weeks ago, acquired the 32-year-old Bennett, a Pro Bowl defensive end in each of the last three years, and a seventh-round pick from the Seahawks last week in exchange for receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round pick.

Bennett was there in 2013, when the Seahawks went 12-4 and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket before losing, 28-24, to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.

The Seahawks were one yard from winning. But that final sequence shows just how hard it is to repeat. The last NFL team to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the Patriots in 2003 and 2004. The last NFC team was the Cowboys in 1992 and 1993.

“When you come to the NFL, you want to hold that Lombardi,” Bennett said. “A lot of people can get Pro Bowls, a lot of people can get a lot of different things in the NFL when it comes to contracts, but not a lot of people can hold that Lombardi, and when you hold it, it’s something that’s very dear. 

“It’s like you’re holding your child and being able to caress it and hold it and it’s yours and it’s something that you really value, and I think for me, that’s what it’s really about. 

“To come into an organization and you look around and everybody wants that. First thing I talked to Howie (Roseman) about was, the first thing he said is, 'I want to go back,' and when you hear somebody say something like that, you feel it, and I felt it through the phone and I felt the vibe, so for me, that’s what it’s really about.”

Bennett was asked what he learned from Seattle’s failure to repeat its 2013 success and how that might help the Eagles find their way to a second consecutive championship.

“I kind of go with the Nelson Mandela approach: ‘You never really lose, you either win or you grow from situations,’" Bennett said.

“And I think we were just growing as a team. We were a young team, we were having so much success, I was on a team full of superstars every single day. There were never enough cameras, every commercial was somebody on my team. So it was just us growing and I think we all just wanted to continue to grow. 

“As you know, in this league, it’s hard to get back to those moments and be able to win those games. Things happen, people get traded, new players come in, things change. I don’t think it took a toll on us, we just move on season to season and try to be the best players we could possibly be.”

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'greatest' ever

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'greatest' ever

As Michael Bennett watched the Eagles face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, he couldn’t help but think about how he would fit with the Birds’ defensive line.

And how he could make an already impressive unit even better.

“Then a month later, it happens,” Bennett said at his introductory press conference in Philly on Monday afternoon. “Things always happen for a reason. This is just another great opportunity.”

Bennett is 32 now, but is coming off his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. He clearly thinks he has plenty left in the tank and the Eagles obviously agree. They traded with the Seahawks to get him and then released a more expensive Vinny Curry.

The Birds then brought in Haloti Ngata and let Beau Allen walk in free agency. So the Eagles’ defensive line now includes Bennett, Ngata, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett. The group includes five former first-round picks and has a combined 11 Pro Bowls between them.

On Monday afternoon, Bennett put the quarterbacks of the NFC East on notice (see story) and then didn’t mince words about how great this defensive line can be in 2018.

“I think it can be one of the greatest,” he said. “I think we can have one of the greatest defensive lines to ever play the game if we approach the game every single way. Just go out there and just keep doing what they’re doing and just finding a way to add and just keep showing how many great players.

“I think a great defensive line is about the rotation. It’s kind of like Golden State. You want to be able to have those guys who can come in and shoot and shoot and score every time.”

This isn’t the first time an Eagles defensive lineman has compared the unit to the Golden State Warriors. In fact, it was Curry who said it last October after the Eagles tortured San Francisco's C.J. Beathard for an afternoon at the Linc (see story). Curry’s out and Bennett is in, but the rotation is still going strong.

Bennett played 934 defensive snaps for the Seahawks in 2017. That was the third most of any defensive lineman in the NFL. For comparison’s sake, Graham led the Eagles’ defensive linemen in snaps with 666 in the regular season; that ranked 43rd in the NFL among defensive linemen.

So maybe that means that the disruptive numbers Bennett put up in Seattle were because he played so much. Or, on the flip side, staying fresh might actually help increase his productivity and lead to more longevity. The Eagles are hoping for the latter.

“I’m comfortable with taking less plays, man,” Bennett said. “But, like I said, I came here to be an All-Star, just like I’ve been, to continuously play at a Pro Bowl level and I don’t think that’s no different. Just taking snaps off, being able to have a [longer] career, it’s something that every player wishes and dreams about. And this organization, when you think about play snaps and counts and keeping guys fresh for the moments that count.

“Because at the end of the day, it’s not about September or October or November; it’s about January and February. To be able to keep guys fresh and to have those opportunities where you have guys to be able to keep rushing the quarterback as savage as we can. You gotta go out there and play savage every single play and I think less snaps can give me the opportunity to do that.”