Bob Ford: Defense nearly fed Birds to the Lions

Juqua Parker celebrates impending victory after the Eagles stopped the Lions on a fourth down late in the fourth quarter. The defensive stand came just in time.
Juqua Parker celebrates impending victory after the Eagles stopped the Lions on a fourth down late in the fourth quarter. The defensive stand came just in time.
Posted: September 20, 2010

DETROIT - Andy Reid stood before the microphones after the game and reminded everyone that any win in the National Football League is a good win.

He had just watched more than three hours of football in which his team tried to disprove that theory, but, in the end, he got what he wanted and the Detroit Lions got what they always get.

There are several things that can be taken away from the Eagles' 35-32 win over Detroit on Sunday. For one, Reid is going to have a quarterback issue to manage all season. Michael Vick was that good against the Lions, despite operating behind an offensive line that is going to get someone killed eventually. So, we have that to look forward to.

More problematic - because Reid also likes to say that having two quality quarterbacks is a nice problem to have - is that the defense played only half a game and gave up a bunch of points again. One week after allowing 27 points to the Packers, which didn't seem that bad at the time, the Eagles went out and gave up 32 to Lions and were gashed by some big plays in the process.

The Lions have two great skill players in running back Jahvid Best and receiver Calvin Johnson, but they also have career backup Shaun Hill at quarterback and really couldn't sustain long drives. Not that they had to.

Detroit's four touchdown drives consumed a total of just 22 plays. That's not efficiency by the offense. That's bad defense. Only two of the Lions' 14 drives lasted longer than seven plays, so it isn't as if Detroit was dominating. It was just that the Eagles kept finding ways to mess up.

"It got ugly. There were some problems," defensive end Trent Cole said. "That wasn't Eagles defense. We finished the game, but that's about it. We've got to make sure a team doesn't come back like that. I expect better things from our defense."

The Lions led the game, 17-7, and if they were a good team, that might have meant trouble for the Eagles. Vick kept slithering away, however, and the Eagles' own offensive weapons took over. It was 35-17 with just over six minutes to play and that should have been that. But instead, the game ended with Detroit just two first downs from a game-tying field goal.

Just to put this in perspective, Sunday's game was just the second time in 42 games the Lions have scored 30 or more points, a streak that goes back to November 2007. In his previous 17 NFL starts over his nine-season career, Hill directed his team to 30 or more points just twice, both against the St. Louis Rams in seasons in which the Rams went 2-14 and 1-15.

In other words, you can say what you like about a win being a win, but the Eagles' defense has to get better fast or it doesn't matter whether Vick, Kevin Kolb or Madman Muntz is at quarterback.

"They had some good stuff they were doing," safety Quintin Mikell said. "A lot of misdirections and stuff to try to take advantage of our speed. Once we settled down, we shut them down. Then, towards the end of the game, they were throwing the ball up and making plays. I know what everybody's going to say about the Lions, but Jahvid Best is unreal and Calvin Johnson is unreal. Not everybody has athletes like them."

It shouldn't be that surprising there are some talented football players in the NFL. That doesn't mean the defense isn't supposed to stop them. If the Eagles aren't going to be able to deal with good offenses any better than they dealt with Detroit's, then this is going to be a disappointing season. At any rate, there are going to be a lot of fourth quarters like Sunday's.

"Yeah, it was a little nerve-racking, but we came through at the end," cornerback Joselio Hanson said. "We'll try to improve, cut down on the penalties, and look forward to next week."

Every week brings something. Next Sunday in Jacksonville, assuming Kolb doesn't walk into a door between now and then, you will get the quarterback of the future trying to work with Vick tapping him on the shoulder every four or five plays. That will be the big drama, naturally, but the defense - which should have its middle linebacker again - needs to do a lot better than it did against the Lions.

"We can't let a team rally on us. We've got to finish strong," Cole said. "That should never, never happen. So we'll take that back with us, and even though we won, even though it's a dub, we don't want to ever let that happen again."

Nevertheless, it was a win, and every win is a good win. They don't come with asterisks, even against the Lions. They won't keep coming, however, playing that kind of defense.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.

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