Bob Ford: No magic ending for Vick and the Eagles

The Eagles' Jeremy Maclin looks to an official for a pass-interference call. And yes, Asher Allen (21) was penalized on the play.
The Eagles' Jeremy Maclin looks to an official for a pass-interference call. And yes, Asher Allen (21) was penalized on the play.
Posted: December 29, 2010

No doubt, Ed Rendell and his Traveling Testosterone Army are somewhere on the airwaves at this very moment, screaming that somehow the two-day delay caused by Sunday's blizzard was to blame for the Eagles' Tuesday night flop against the Minnesota Vikings.

It's true that the Eagles rarely play this poorly on Tuesday, but the odd scheduling had nothing to do with it. Playing against a team that had little motivation and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, the Eagles - just like on Sunday - didn't bother to show up.

"No excuses. They had the same two days and they were away from home. They played. We didn't play," Andy Reid said after the stunning 24-14 loss. "Every phase of the game was terrible."

Other than that, a nice way to play the last meaningful game before the postseason.

Once again this time, the team turned its lonely eyes to Michael Vick to save them in the end, and that's what he tried to do. Vick played through a thigh bruise sustained on the first play of the game, and, whether that had an effect or not, he didn't pocket another miracle, and the Eagles' defense couldn't pick up the slack.

If only Brett Favre had been healthy enough to play, maybe the Eagles would have had a chance. But how could they beat Mighty Joe Webb?

The good news is you can stop worrying about how the Eagles will rebound on four days' rest against the Cowboys. By losing to the Vikings, the Eagles are locked into the third seed in the conference. They will get a home game in the wild-card round, but no longer have a chance at the first-round bye that would have been so important to getting healthy for the playoffs.

This isn't a death blow, but it isn't reason to buy ticker tape, either. It is a particularly depressing moment if you thought the quarterback could overcome anything, including the lack of support from the other side of the ball.

The Michael Vick Show, so fresh and exciting all season, suddenly went into rerun mode against the Vikings. The episode was from somewhere circa 2005, long before the plot got really interesting and the script writers went for the character development and redemption themes.

It wasn't all Vick's fault, of course. As he has been doing much of the year, the quarterback was running for safety from the outset, pursued by linemen who beat their blocks and blitzing defensive backs sprung loose to harass him.

In other instances this season, however, Vick has made something out of that nothing, but that wasn't the way this one was written. Tossing the ball off his back foot and at times when he couldn't really see his receivers, he threw one interception, could have easily thrown a couple more, and fumbled twice as the loaf of bread he carries finally fell from the shopping cart.

"An interception and two critical fumbles. It goes back to being disciplined," Vick said. "I wasn't 100 percent, but I felt I could get the job done. Maybe I was being selfish. If I couldn't walk, I would have come out."

When Vick is ordinary, the Eagles are in big trouble, although that hasn't been the case very often. And regardless of how the offense plays, the defense is almost always ordinary.

Part of the problem is injuries and part of the problem is players not performing well. Some of this comes with every NFL season, but it is coming together at a bad time for the Eagles. They have a couple of weeks to get things back together - a stretch interrupted by a glorified scrimmage against the Cowboys - and then we'll find out if this is a season of destiny or just another learning season for Kevin Kolb.

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is still scrambling to find answers. One week after (unsuccessfully) unveiling his seven-defensive back scheme against the Giants, he was tinkering against the Vikings as well. Akeem Jordan is apparently back in the linebacker rotation on passing downs, and Colt Anderson is augmenting the depleted backfield at times. Dmitri Patterson was benched in favor of Joselio Hanson in the second half.

None of it worked, or worked well enough to tighten the defense for what would be the defining drive of the game. After the Eagles cut the margin to three points with 10 minutes to play, David Akers shanked the kickoff to put the Vikings at their own 40, and they needed just eight plays to stomp down the field and go back ahead by 10 points.

The end of the drive included a 12-men-on-the-field penalty which always speaks of a lack of focus and intensity. Combine that with ill-advised coverages, bad tackling, and blown assignments, and you have a defense that couldn't stop a Vikings team that should have been playing out the string.

"Absolutely terrible," Reid said.

The defense is a big problem and not one that will be fully solved this season, however long it lasts. The equation that remains is one requiring Michael Vick to be nearly perfect for the team to survive.

He was a long way from that on Tuesday night. And now the Eagles are a much longer way from where they would like to go.


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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