Les Bowen: Vick has to trust the Eagles' defense

Posted: September 19, 2012

MAYBE THE most important thing Michael Vick said Sunday after his roller-coaster adventure against the Ravens was that starting out 2-0 despite nine turnovers "definitely shows how good our defense can be."

Now all the Eagles need is for Vick to internalize that lesson. The defensive performance in Cleveland was not a fluke, DeMeco Ryans and friends showed us Sunday. This is a much more solid unit than the Eagles had last season, particularly early last season. As Andy Reid noted Monday, Juan Castillo even made key adjustments at halftime, flummoxing the Ravens into three successive three-and-outs to start the second half.

But Vick is still playing as if this were the early months of 2011, when no lead was safe and defensive confusion reigned.

The Eagles woke up Monday with the NFL's fourth-ranked defense, on merit. Vick has tremendous weapons, as the Birds' No. 1 ranking among NFL offenses would suggest. He really needs to relax, take care of the ball, and accept that having to settle for a field goal, or even punting the ball away, will not bring about the apocalypse. Vick said this himself Sunday: "You can't always hit a home run. Sometimes you have to get singles and doubles and that's what I have to learn to understand. I just force too many balls sometimes."

But seeing it and really knowing it are different things. Somehow, the coaching staff needs to get Vick to understand that this team should not be a high-wire act, forced to rally against the odds every week in the final seconds. Both weeks so far, the Eagles have been the better team up front, on both lines, even with the injuries to Jason Kelce and King Dunlap on Sunday. Both weeks, because of turnovers, the Eagles have been in a situation where one tiny slip near the end could have doomed them. On the final drive in Cleveland there was the fumble Vick got back and two passes that could have been picks. This week's final drive was cleaner, but it still featured that awkward throwaway by Vick while being bench-pressed by 340-pound Haloti Ngata, the throw that was initially (and ridiculously) ruled a fumble by the replacement officials.

Some people want to question whether Vick should have been rolling out, trying to throw there, on second-and-goal from the 1. NFL teams throw on second down in goal-line situations all the time. What needed to happen, though, was for Vick to realize Ngata had messed up the timing of the play, and fling the ball out of the end zone two beats before he belatedly tried to do that. My opinion, Vick holds on not because he can't see what the defense is doing, but because he believes so much in himself, stubbornly thinks he can make a play, regardless. The trick this season might be getting Vick to believe in his defense as much as he believes in himself.

DEVELOPING STORY LINES * 

Watching the game again, I really didn't see anything bad from Dallas Reynolds or Demetress Bell, thrust into the fray unexpectedly. I'm mainly talking about pass protection, I didn't slo-mo the run plays. If anything, I thought Bell was a little better than King Dunlap. Andy Reid said Monday that Dunlap is still the starter, if his hamstring allows him to play this week. Reid didn't seem to think Dunlap would be ready.

* Excellent work by Brandon Boykin against Anquan Boldin. I think we've cleared up the mystery of how the Eagles could part with Joselio Hanson.

* Four of the Eagles' five longest gains were on passes to Brent Celek.

* After playing well in a four-snap performance at Cleveland, Brandon Graham said he was hoping to go from four to eight and from eight to 16. Well, Graham nudged the meter up to nine against the Ravens, and put a couple of hits on Joe Flacco.

* Rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox played 51 of the Eagles' 70 defensive snaps, after Cullen Jenkins got shoved around early. Cox looked good, with five tackles. Drew a fourth-quarter holding call on Baltimore center Matt Birk.

* I think Nnamdi Asomugha does a pretty good job in coverage, but he really has no sense of the ball in the air. The offensive pass-interference call that bailed Nnamdi out of being beaten for his second TD of the day, by Jacoby Jones, with 5:29 left in the game, was extremely ticky-tack. Eagles were lucky.

* Chas Henry's problem last season was inconsistency. So, in this season's opener, he was incredible, averaging 55 yards on six punts, with a 42.0 net. Then Sunday, guess what? A 39.2-yard average and a 32.4 net, with a wobbler that helped set up a Baltimore field goal at the end of the first half. Hmm.

OBSCURE STAT

Clay Harbor's only catch Sunday set up the winning touchdown, Michael Vick finding Harbor on second-and-14 from the Ravens' 25. Harbor fought to the 6, then the ball ended up on the 3 after Arthur Jones was called for roughing the QB.

WHO KNEW?

That Eagles fans would be forced to cheer for a center named Dallas?

EXTRA POINT

We're so sick of the conversation that nobody even bothered to have it this week, but all through the stirring comeback victory over the Ravens, Michael Vick took hits that could have ended his season.

Sometimes it was because the Ravens have a really fierce, strong defense, sometimes it was because Vick held onto the ball, sometimes it was because somebody missed a block; the Ravens' two sacks both came on blitzes. Regardless, Vick's body kept bending in hold-your-breath ways, and sooner or later, something will snap.

"I want Michael to be Michael," coach Andy Reid said Monday, when asked to address the question one more time.

"He's 32 years old. He's a pretty good quarterback in this league. So, I want him to play the way he plays, and everyone can write about it and do all that. I just want him to keep competing and playing and take what's there."

Reid noted that Vick did run out of bounds and go down at the end of runs a few times.


Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.

 

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