Every long-term Eagles flaw was exposed in the national-TV spotlight, from their coach's inability to manage the clock at crucial moments to their inept special-teams coverage to their stumbling offensive line to a defense that seems to need a halftime pep talk nearly every week to grasp the concept of getting off blocks.
But as galling as it might have been to have Fox show Donovan McNabb holding the game ball aloft in the visitor's locker room, intoning that, "Everybody makes mistakes in their lives, and they made one last year," after a 2-for-11, 10-yard second half, the big picture here for the Eagles is Vick collapsing in pain as he tried to leave the field.
Kevin Kolb, once again, is the Birds' quarterback, probably for Sunday night's game in San Francisco, and maybe longer. This abrupt change in circumstance will resonate long after the particulars of McNabb's return to Philadelphia lose significance.
Vick grimaced as he walked gingerly through the locker room afterward, having been declared off-limits to reporters by a team spokesman. When he got to his locker stall, Vick very slowly pulled a blue-gray dress shirt over his white tee, struggling to lift his arms.
Eagles coach Andy Reid said Vick "hurt his chest," and will have an MRI today. There were reports of broken ribs. Vick apparently was X-rayed yesterday, but Reid did not allude to any result, which probably tells you something.
Kolb said Vick "explained the injury a little bit" to him, which was more than anyone did for reporters.
Kolb was asked afterward whether he would think it was fair, should Vick lose his job because of injury. There was a hint of a smile, but the man whose Eagles era was supposed to start this season didn't play along.
"I don't even know the situation," said Kolb, McNabb's designated successor, who lost his starting role after suffering a concussion in the second quarter of the season-opening loss to Green Bay. "We'll see what happens when we get in there."
Reid said Kolb, 22-for-35 for 201 yards, a touchdown and that Hail Mary pick, "did some good things. There were some throws that he would probably like to have back, but he put us in a position where we had a chance to win the game. We just didn't get it done."
The moment Eagles fans feared the past few weeks, as Vick executed his unbelievable escapes, came with the clock ticking down from 36 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the home team already having spotted the Redskins those two fatal early touchdowns, the first set up by a 53-yard punt return.
Vick couldn't find a receiver and took off on a darting, dipping run through the Washington defense, from the Redskins' 24, on third-and-6. But as he leaned for the end zone, Vick was sandwiched between defensive backs Kareem Moore and DeAngelo Hall. He crashed down inside the 1 and didn't get up.
When Vick finally arose, he made it only halfway to the sideline before kneeling, his hand pressed to his upper chest.
"We've all seen Mike takes some hits, and you've got to be ready at all times," said Kolb, whose coach keeps handing him difficult situations this season. "Mike is a very tough guy, not a guy who lays around if he's not injured. I could tell that the contact on that hit was going to be pretty bruising, and it was, so I just said, 'Here we go. Gotta go.' "
The thing that made the play symbolic of the whole afternoon for the Eagles was that Vick's run didn't count. Max Jean-Gilles, starting for sore-kneed Nick Cole, was caught holding, one of eight Eagles penalties.
So Kolb entered the game to third-and-16 from the Washington 34. He dumped a 3-yard pass to Avant as the quarter ended. Then David Akers kicked a 49-yard field goal to make it 14-3.
"Early is what got us," Kolb said.
"Day late, dollar short," defensive end Trent Cole said.
Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, whose unit gave up points on all three first-half Redskins drives, said the team needs "to come out with the right mentality and the right attitude. It goes back to playing hungry football. Playing physical, hungry football and controlling the line of scrimmage."
Despite the early hole and the shocking departure of Vick, the game was still very much up for grabs as the Eagles lined up on fourth-and-goal from inside the Redskins' 1 just before haltime, down 17-3, after video replay upheld a ruling that LeSean McCoy was down short of the goal line. Reid called timeout with 23 seconds left. But when the Birds lined up to run the play, they were called for delay of game, and penalized 5 yards. Reid argued furiously with the officials, to no avail. Akers ended up kicking a 23-yard field goal for a 17-6 halftime deficit.
Reid and Eagles players explained afterward that they thought where the ball was spotted changed after the review. Reid had called a quarterback sneak, believing he faced third-and-inches, then tried to change the call when the ball was marked nearly a full yard from the goal line, he said. While all this was going on, the Eagles believed they got a too-quick restart on the game clock. The end result was Kolb running into the huddle with the game clock ticking down from 11 seconds.
The frantic scene probably looked pretty familiar to McNabb, who was seen on camera grinning and making the delay-of-game sign after the flag flew.
That was the best chance for a turn of momentum, though McCoy's fumble, awarded on a challenge, late in the third quarter with the Eagles driving, from their 19 to the Redskins' 21, might have blunted another.
"That is my responsibility, and there are no excuses for it at all," Reid said. "Obviously, we have to start off faster than we did offensively, defensively, and on special teams."
After a strong start, McNabb (8-for-19, 125 yards, a touchdown and a pick) wasn't anything close to perfect. In fact, the last time he won a start with as few as eight completions was his first Eagles victory, in 1999.
A long overthrow on the first series of the third quarter should have been picked off by Quintin Mikell. Then, after the Eagles twice stopped Washington on third down only to have the drive extended by penalties both times, McNabb threw a horrible pick to Nate Allen. Allen, of course, is the guy the Birds drafted with the 37th overall pick last April, obtained in the McNabb trade.
Kolb was limited to throwing underneath the Redskins' Cover 2, dinking and dunking down the field. He missed DeSean Jackson on what might have been a long touchdown strike.
"To be honest with you, when I let it go, I thought it was on the money," Kolb said. "DeSean said the wind carried it quite a bit there, and it just kept pushing. But when you've got somebody [open] like that, you've got to dot him with it."
Kolb eventually led a touchdown drive, hitting Brent Celek from 5 yards with 4:10 left. The two-point conversion pass failed, and the defense didn't get the ball back for Kolb until just 1:07 remained, Kolb having no timeouts from his 26. He got the Eagles to midfield, and got the ball into the end zone on the final snap.
"I'm going to be dreaming about [not catching the Hail Mary] for a while," Avant said. "I don't know how it jumped out of my hands."
Avant said he told McNabb, "I almost stole your glory."
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