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Vick's Brings Offense To Life, But Falls Short

Eagles Lose Game, Two Starters For the Season

By Lance Epstein

The boo-birds were flying at halftime as the Eagles found themselves in a 13-3 hole after Packers kicker Mason Crosby booted a 55-yard field goal attempt through the uprights.

However the ten-point deficit to the high-powered Green Bay offense was not the only reason pessimism. Fullback Leonard Weaver left the game in the first quarter with what looked like a season-ending knee injury (Eagles head coach Andy Reid has since said he tore his ACL—MRI should confirm this tomorrow).

If losing an All-Pro fullback was not enough, center Jamaal Jackson, who worked vigorously to return in time for the week one contest left the game with an torn biceps (likely done for the season).

Despite those two injuries, it got worse. As the Eagles came out for the second half, they were forced to play without their two leaders on offense and defense. Both middle linebacker Stewart Bradley and QB Kevin Kolb were sidelined with concussions.

Seemingly the only good news for the Eagles as they took the field for the second half was that they were going to receive the ball.

There was some more positive news as the second half kicked off, the return of a once heralded quarterback made his presence felt. QB Michael Vick transformed into the Vick of old and the Eagles offense began to fly.

Out of the gate, the offense appeared set to put some points on the board. That was u until a costly (RB) Eldra Buckley fumble, which ultimately lead to a 3-yard touchdown run by Packers fullback John Kuhn.

Down 20-3 with 8:36 left in the third quarter, Vick went vintage. He matriculated the ball down the field with his legs and his arm. In fact, he finally got WR DeSean Jackson involved in the offense. Jackson, who did his best disappearing act for the first half, caught his first pass of the season (mid-way through the third quarter) for 12 yards to keep the drive alive on third-down.

Eventually, Vick led the Eagles inside the red zone. Second-year running back LeSean McCoy capped off the 4:12 drive with a 12-yard run (second of the drive—first taken away due to a penalty by Clayton Harbor) and the Eagles found themselves down just ten.

Unfortunately, that’s when the kickoff coverage began to falter. On the ensuing kickoff, Jordy Nelson returned the ball to the Eagles 49 yard-line, which gave the explosive Packers offense a short field to work with. After an 18-yard run and first down pick up by backup RB Brandon Jackson, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers struck for his second touchdown pass of the game. He connected with WR Greg Jennings who badly burned Eagles cornerback Ellis Hobbs for a 32-yard touchdown pass.

Once again the Eagles found themselves in a 17-point hole, but this time they had just two minutes and one full quarter left of football to make the miraculous comeback. Of course, the Eagles didn’t make it easy on themselves as they went three-and-out on their following possession.

As the fourth quarterback began, Green Bay had the ball and what felt like the game as well. Just when everyone at the Linc expected the defense to roll over and die, the Eagles defense got to Rodgers and stuffed the running game. The Eagles forced a punt and were beginning to claw their way back into the game.

With just over 14 minutes left in the game, Vick and the Eagles offense went to work. Vick hit Jeremy Maclin for 10 yards and then McCoy on a dump off pass for eight yards.

Luckily for the Birds a drive, which appeared to have stalled was continued because of a Charles Woodson defensive holding penalty. Without the call, the Eagles would have brought Sav Rocca on the field to punt due to a dreadful third down and two play which saw the ball deflect off Maclin’s hands.

Vick could sense the momentum turning as he found (TE) Brent Celek open down the middle of the field for 27 yards, which gave the Eagles a huge first down to the Packers 29 yard line. On the very next play, Vick again looked Celek’s way for a quick 5 yard pick up.

After an Avant reception got the Eagles inside the 20, the red zone woes began to come to the forefront. Vick missed Celek in the end zone and then was sacked by Frank Zombo for a ten-yard loss.

With the fans sensing that the Eagles were about to settle for a meaningless David Akers field goal, Vick used his Superman/escapability skills that made him a fan favorite around the league. He avoided two would be sacks, kept his eyes down field and threw a pass where only Maclin could pull it for the touchdown.

Just like that the Eagles found themselves back in the game down only 10 with 10:23 left on the clock. To continue the positive energy the offense built, it came down to defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s young, but promising defense.

On third down, the Eagles dialed up a perfect blitz, which rushed Rodgers into an errant throw. Rodgers' throw sailed 10 yards past his intended receiver and into the hands of rookie safety Nate Allen for a interception. Allen’s 11-yard returned set the Eagles offense up in great field position at the 50-yard line.

Like the series before, Vick once again became electric. He found Jackson down the field for a 12-yard reception. Then on 1st-and-10 it did not look good. In the grasp of three Packers defenders, Vick juked one defender, and picked up one yard. While it was only one single yard, it made getting a first down much more manageable for the offense.

After an incomplete pass to set up a third-and-long, Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg went deep into the playbook. Mornhinweg reminded everyone why McCoy has been compared to former Eagle great in Brian Westbrook. The Eagles ran a screen pass to perfection as McCoy made Packers defenders miss him. McCoy rumbled all the way down to the 10-yardline and gave the Eagles a great chance to cut the lead down to three.

Not even the vintage Vick could stop the Eagles red zone woes from reappearing. After a five-yard run by McCoy, the Eagles went fancy. A shovel pass to McCoy went for zero yards to set up a crucial third down.

On third down and goal, Vick nearly made something out of nothing. What looked to be a sure sack nearly became a touchdown. Vick scrambled away from the pressure and a swarming Packers defense. Ultimately he found himself in the open field with his receiver Jackson streaking across the back of the end zone.

Vick could have ran the ball across the pylon for an easily touchdown, but decided to throw it. The ball deflected off linebacker Nick Barnett’s hands and out of the end zone. A 24-yard Akers’ field goal made the game 27-20.

With 5:43 left and only two timeouts, the Eagles’ defense was asked to step up again.

On third down, McDermott dialed up a safety blitz. The blitz forced Rodgers into an inaccurate throw that landed just in front of Jennings out-stretched hands.

The Eagles were at their own 26 yard-line with 4:13 left in the game, but had no timeouts. The Eagles offense had one last chance to tie the game and force overtime. Vick dazzled with back-to-back runs for 24 yards and the Eagles were already at mid-field.

However, that is when things took a turn for the worst. Vick was sack on consecutive plays, which set up a decisive 3rd and 13 for the Eagles. Like elite quarterbacks do under pressure, Vick stepped up in the pocket and threw a dart to the sure-handed Jason Avant for 12 yards.

Like so many times in the past couple of seasons, the Eagles found themselves in a familiar position with the game on-the-line. It was another fourth and inches situation. This is something that has haunted Eagles and cost them multiple games in the past.

This time they believed the legs of Vick would carry them over-the-hump. The play was a QB keeper. Sadly, the Eagles offensive line was pushed and Vick failed to gain any yards on the sneak.

Just like so many times before, the Eagles turned the ball over on downs and lost the game. It was a valiant effort for the Eagles, but still a loss to the Packers nonetheless.

So what does this mean for the Eagles?

Well, the Packers were considered to be a Super Bowl contender, so it was good to see the birds make a game of it. However it is still hard to tell if the Eagles are closer to being a pretender or a contender.

The defense looked great for the first half, but over the course of fourth quarters they began to tire out. A reason was due to the offense hanging them out to dry for the first 30 minutes. As the game wore on and with Bradley on the sideline, Rodgers and the Packers running game dissected the Eagles defense. Nonetheless, the defense did show up in vital moments of the game like championship style defenses are accustom to doing.

Normally, a defensive performance and a game like this would have Eagles fans upset about the loss, but giddy about the future of the squad. However, the Eagles are probably going to be without (Jamaal) Jackson and Weaver for the entire 2010 season. Additionally, Bradley could miss a week or two with a concussion. This is a shame to Jackson and Bradley, who were playing in their first games since their torn ACLs.

While those injuries are hard to digest, the performance of Kolb might be worse. Kolb is supposed to be the heir apparent to former Eagle and current Redskins’ QB Donovan McNabb. In his first attempt to replace him, he failed miserably.

Eagles fans clamored for him to be the starting quarterback after the disaster in Dallas. Now they have gotten their wish, but he did not deliver or even give any signs of developing into a capable NFL quarterback.

Before his concussion (suffered at the hands of Clay Mathews), Kolb nearly threw three picks (all three near inceptions were telegraphed and forced into double coverage) and made horrible decisions with the ball. Kolb finished his one half of football 5-for-10 for 24 yards and a 56.2 QB rating (at one time the Eagles had zero total yards of offense through 25 minutes of football).

Conversely, Vick came into the game, electrified the crowd and possibly even stolen their votes to be the starting quarterback. In just one half and a handful of first half “Wildcat” plays, Vick soared to a 101.9 QB back rating. In addition, Vick had 103 yards on the ground, completed 66 percent of his passes (16-24 for 175 yards) and threw for a touchdown.

Certainly, one horrendous game by Kolb is not enough to say he is an epic failure. Although can one extraordinary game by Vick enough to say he is an upper echelon NFL quarterback once again? That is the question that head coach Andy Reid will have to deal with next week and the rest of the season if the offense continues struggles under Kolb.

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