Bob Ford: This is not the way to win games

Quintin Mikell knocks the ball away from Texans receiver Andre Johnson in the third quarter. The Eagles needed a rally to win.
Quintin Mikell knocks the ball away from Texans receiver Andre Johnson in the third quarter. The Eagles needed a rally to win.
Posted: December 03, 2010

From the very moment the final whistle sounded in Chicago on Sunday, Andy Reid made sure the Eagles knew the quick turnaround game against Houston had better be circled on their calendars in blood-red urgency.

He screamed at them in the locker room - oh, maybe some more than others - but he spread it around enough that the message was clear: Play better against Houston or you won't like what comes next.

Well, the pep talk, and a quick three days of supercharged preparation, lasted only a little more than a quarter against the Texans on Thursday night. The Eagles romped to a ridiculously easy two-touchdown lead and then went to sleep against a team they should have easily dismissed.

It still turned out to be a win, but a win that required a fourth-quarter comeback before the Eagles got past Houston, 34-24. Once again, as they did in games against Detroit and San Francisco, the Eagles let a lesser opponent hang around far too long.

"We had to recapture the momentum and we weren't able to do it last week, but we were able to get it done here," Reid said afterward, choosing to see the bright spots this time.

Once again, however, the Eagles looked like a team that expects quarterback Michael Vick to bail them out when things really get tough. That has happened more than a few times this season, but it isn't the way to try to finish the rest of the regular season, and no way to go into the playoffs. If they get that far.

The real problem with that mind-set is that if Reid and his offensive geniuses don't find a way to better protect Vick, he isn't going to get that far.

In the first half of Thursday's game - a game the Eagles led from the outset and still led, 20-10, at halftime - Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called 33 passes and 10 runs. Vick was hit a half-dozen times getting rid of the ball and another half-dozen times when he had to scramble away from pressure. By the end of the half, Vick was limping and sore, needing to loosen the bruises on a stationary bike between series.

"He was knocked around a little bit, but he got back up and kept going," Reid said.

If the Eagles' defense had done its job properly, if the offensive line hadn't been so porous, and if the team could get out of a game without committing double-digit penalties, then it wouldn't have required Vick to get up and manufacture a comeback. They're 8-4 for the season, though, so maybe that's OK.

The game was the fourth in 17 days for the Eagles, and they did look like a team that lost its breath in the middle two quarters. Fortunately, the Eagles had Vick to help bring them back.

"He was very vocal, and when a guy who is usually quiet speaks up, people listen," Reid said. "He was rallying everybody, telling them to pick up their game."

"I just wanted the guys to believe in themselves," Vick said. "I love games like this. You get knocked around a couple of times and put in position where you have to come back and score. You learn a lot about yourself."

One thing Vick learned, if he didn't know already, is that getting hit behind this offensive line is going to be part of the game. Midway through the third quarter, after getting hit repeatedly, Vick threw his second interception in two games, a deep pass intended for Jeremy Maclin that was picked off by Jason Allen at the Houston 14-yard line.

This would have been a nice moment for the defense to step forward and show the urgency that Sean McDermott had been trying to instill since Chicago. In that game, Vick threw his first interception of the season and the Bears were allowed to march down the field and take control.

The situation wasn't as dire this time, but Houston did the same march, going 86 yards to take a 24-20 lead as the fourth quarter was about to begin. With that, all eyes turned back to Vick as he jogged heavily onto the field.

At some point, this won't be the way the story ends, but Vick found a way again. The big play was a 33-yard pass to DeSean Jackson, just when it seemed Jackson had been forgotten. Vick finished the drive with a neat flip to McCoy and then a sneak into the end zone to put the Eagles back ahead.

On the Eagles' next drive, Vick took the team in again, making the final margin of 10 points seem not as scary in retrospect. But it was only in retrospect.

"It was very satisfying," Vick said. "The guys did a great job of battling back."

This was a game that shouldn't have required a comeback of any sort. It did, however, even after Reid read the team the riot act as part of his motivational exercise.

It will be interesting to see what he tries next time. And if they keep walking these tightropes, there will be a next time.


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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