Fears about Michael Vick not making it through the season healthy have already been realized for the Eagles. The quarterback went out with a concussion in the second half last night, and the team eventually dropped a 10-point lead and lost to the Falcons, 34-31.
The fact is that the defense came up small in the end. When Vick went down, Mike Kafka came in and the Eagles finished off a scoring drive with a LeSean McCoy touchdown run to go ahead 31-21 with just under 2 minutes left in the third quarter. The defense had to step up and finish off the win at that point, and they simply failed despite looking dominant at times in the game.
As usual, the Eagles offense was a little too cute for me at times. Their second play from scrimmage was a “wildcat” that essentially put another hit on Vick. It didn’t help that DeSean Jackson looked like he gave up on the play almost instantly, but I just don’t understand calling plays that expose Vick even more than he already is on most plays.
The Falcons ended up with good field position, and had the type of drive I thought would be on display all night. They pounded the ball with their running game, sprinkling in short passes in the middle of the field. Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez exposed the Eagles linebackers. Roddy White capped off the drive with a short touchdown over the middle.
The broadcast showed Jaun Castillo talking to Andy Reid, and Al Michaels of NBC joked that he was saying, “It’s gonna be ok, it’s gonna be ok.” In the end, it wasn’t ok.
Eagles started the next drive with a nice pass to Jeremy Maclin only to get tricky with a double reverse that failed on the next play. Again, it’s fair to wonder about the play calling. Ronnie Brown and McCoy bailed them out with a couple of nice runs, and Vick took them down the field on a solid drive. Jackson eventually dropped a touchdown pass, but an offside penalty kept the drive alive. Maclin was open two plays later for a touchdown.
The defense held on the next drive highlighted by a successful replay challenge by Reid that never should have been required. The ball obviously hit the ground on the “catch” that was rightly over turned.
The next drive featured a long pass to Jason Avant to the 12-yard line of the Falcons but the Eagles only came away with a field goal. Some have questioned the play calling here, but I wasn’t bothered by it.
After the “D” forced a three-and-out, the game took what would have been a critical turn before the half on most nights.
Despite starting the drive – it really is mind boggling that this happens so much – with a false start followed immediately by a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty, the Eagles drove to the Falcons 4-yard line. Again, Andy Reid got cute. Instead of just pounding the ball in, Vick faked a pitch one way and tried to come back for a handoff to McCoy on the other side. By then the defense got through the line, forced a fumble, and set-up a touchdown by the offense to Gonzalez. The score went from potentially 17-7 in the Eagles favor to a 14-10 deficit.
The half ended with a Vick fumble followed by a Nnamdi Asomugha interception to keep the game close.
The Eagles defense actually looked great in the third quarter. They forced a three-and-out and the defensive line was getting after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. At one point in the quarter the broadcasters actually wondered how long he would stay in the game.
Vick started the half with another turnover on the Eagles very first offensive play. Replay eventually showed that the ball hit the ground before the catch, but it came too late for a challenge by Reid. Today the coach revealed that he actually received an apology via e-mail from NBC for the lack of replays.
However, Avant instantly motioned that it was not a catch and it was clearly questionable on the live play. Reid likely should have thrown the challenge flag.
Instead, the Falcons quickly capitalized, scoring two plays later after Turner gashed the defense with a long run after a short catch. Gonzalez hauled in a touchdown on the next play.
Yet, the Eagles responded with a nice drive themselves. A long run by McCoy started the drive, and Maclin finished it off with his own run after the catch for a touchdown.
Asante Samuel did what he does on the next play, grabbing an interception while essentially playing off the receiver. Again, the Eagles responded with a drive that featured a good run by Vick. McCoy finished it off with a TD.
The defense continued to dominate, especially Trent Cole. They forced another three-and-out.
In the next drive Dunta Robinson, the same guy that put DeSean Jackson out with a concussion, went head hunting against Maclin. I still don’t understand why he wasn’t ejected. A drop by Avant ended the drive.
Another stop by the defense and a terrible punt put the Eagles on the Falcons’ 20. Vick went out with his own concussion on a fluke play where he went head-to-head with his own lineman as he was tackled. Mike Kafka replaced him and the McCoy touchdown put the Eagles ahead 31-21.
Then the Eagles defense simply didn’t get it done. The Falcons came back with a drive where Ryan dinked and dunked the Falcons down the field along with a great catch by Jones.
After a decent drive the Eagles were forced to punt. A long run by Turner on 3rd-and-17 after a penalty had backed up the Falcons to their own 13 put them over midfield. From there Turner eventually put them ahead with a touchdown, 35-31.
A good return on the ensuing kickoff was nullified by a holding penalty. Yet, Kafka got off a big play to Maclin, and he actually engineered a decent drive to the Falcons’ 22. But Maclin spoiled his big night when he flat out dropped a fourth down pass that would have kept the drive going. It was Kafka’s only incompletion of the night.
The Falcons had to punt with 15 seconds left in the game, but there was no magic punt return from Jackson to save the day.