It may have been the most over-hyped game of the NFL season – especially by local media (did Philly NBC10 really have to send their local sports team down to interview the network football analysts? What was the deal with Howard Eskin’s floor-legnth pastiche of animal pelts?).
At its very core, the Eagles beat themselves. Vegas odds makers put the game at +14.5 – meaning the Eagles were favored by more than 2 TD. Both teams spent Sunday to Tuesday watching movies and eating cheese steaks with nothing to do but provide interviews (often in sweatpants and ugg boots, or hoodies and practice shorts, etc) to the TV crews who were also stuck in Philadelphia. Andy Reid and his coaching staff were watching the scoreboard and SportsCenter preparing for the Dallas Cowboys and figuring out the metrics of their playoff seedings. It seemed like everyone was more focused on meteorology or local cusine than on a football game!
The Eagles and their fans in attendance sleepwalked through this game as though they were bored at 7-on-7 in Training Camp. The Vikings schemed well, played well and executed well with literally nothing on the line but pride. Blame whoever you like – and there is a lot of blame to go around – but my vote goes to one very simple element. The Minnesota Vikings used a classic Jim Johnson blitz package to press the Eagles. It threw Vick off, kept him in the pocket, limited Vick’s throwing lanes and negated Eagles downfield offense because they didn’t have time! Where’s your running game now, Big Red?
Leslie Frazier happens to be the Vikings interim head coach and full-time defensive coordinator and if you look down on his resume, Frazier was Eagles defensive assistant under Jim Johnson for four years. Jim Johnson would have been proud of his former pupil and embarrassed for his former team. Why didn’t Eagles current defensive coordinator Sean McDermott recognize the scheme and work to neutralize it?
Where was the Eagles running game? First possession of the second half the Eagles should have taken Andy Reid’s Red Ryder rifle away from him (telling him that he’s going to shoot his eye out) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jCr8QSGYss and utilized the running game to control the clock, chew up yards and slow down the Vikings pass rush.
Instead, Reid does what Reid does ad nauseum. Drop back 47 times and throw the ball, which fed Minnesota’s blitz. Was Michael Vick trying to throw 7 potential INT (thankfully the Vikings dropped some VERY easy INT possibilities)? The first half ended 7-7? Did everyone forget that Adrian Peterson is one of the most effective, punishing rushers in the league? Where was David Akers head kicking out of bounds? Why couldn’t Philadelphia’s defense stop anything in the second half? Who the hell is Joe Webb and why couldn’t the Eagles defense stop him? Where to begin? Run Andy Run! Well, not Andy himself… that wouldn’t get them very far… preferably you can use McCoy and Harrison… with a little less Vick running for his life in there too…
All year, Michael Vick has made plays to win games for the Eagles. On Tuesday night, he made plays that lost one.
“I had an interception, and I had two critical fumbles,” Vick said. “If those things didn’t happen, we dictate the outcome of the game. I take sole responsibility for not doing that. That’s my job. That’s what I get paid to do, and I didn’t do it. What else you wanna know?”
Vick has been one of the NFL’s most dominating players this year, but the magic disappeared Tuesday in a game the Eagles desperately needed to win against a team that’s long been eliminated from playoff contention. His first fumble was returned for a touchdown and his second came inside the Vikings’ 25-yard-line with the Eagles already in field goal range.
Vick’s worst game as an Eagle cost the team any shot at a first-round playoff bye and cast a pall over a season that just a few days earlier looked so promising. The Eagles were assured of the NFC East title and a playoff berth on Sunday, when the Giants lost to the Packers. Their path to the Super Bowl is much more daunting than it had been before one of the worst losses of the Andy Reid Era.
“It’s a bump in the road,” said Vick, who played with a quad contusion suffered on the first play of the game. “I promise that loss will make me a better player. We’re a much better football team than we displayed tonight.” This shocking 24-14 loss to the lowly Vikings (5-9) Tuesday night means the Eagles find themselves locked into the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoff bracket, no longer able to earn a first-round bye. This also renders the Dallas Cowboys game virtually meaningless aside from blood rivalry. Philadelphia will open the playoffs at the Linc the weekend of Jan. 8-9 against the lower-seeded NFC wild card team -potentially the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It was an absolutely pathetic job on my part of getting my team ready to play,” Reid said. “It was a complete tail-whipping right there.” Well Coach Red Ryder, it’s great that you can admit that. What do you plan to actually DO about it? Will you change your gameplan or just keep apologizing when you shoot your eye out?
“We’re all embarrassed right now,” safety Quintin Mikell said. “We still have a lot to play for. I’m not going to say it’s all over, but guys need to get their (act) together.”
Can the Eagles still contend for a Super Bowl? Ask the players. They know.
“Not that team that was out there today,” Mikell said. Couldn’t agree more.
All the Eagles needed in order to earn a postseason weekend bye was to beat two five-win teams and hope for a Bears loss in Green Bay. Win at home over a 14½-point underdog, win at home over a 12-point underdog and root like heck for the Packers.
“We had it right there,” Mikell said. “The door was open for us and we closed it on ourselves. We had everything laid out for us, and we gave it away. … We’ve got to take a long road now. Obviously, it sets you back a little bit. Losing like this, getting your butt whipped, sets you back. We can say that we’re a better team all day. Until we prove it again on the field, we are the team that played today. You’re only as good as your next game. Fortunately, we have more games to play. Last year, our season ended with two embarassing losses against Dallas. Not going to happen this year.”
The combination of a pathetic effort by the NFL’s top-ranked offense and a surprisingly efficient performance by Vikings rookie QB Joe Webb (making his first NFL start)will now make the Eagles’ potential road to the Super Bowl a much, much more difficult one.
The Eagles, who had won six of their last seven, committed 12 penalties, turned the ball over three times and allowed six sacks. What’s worse, is that the Vikings defense dropped at least three more interceptions or it would have been SIX turnovers and SIX sacks.
“We flat-out played terrible. … Hopefully, it sparks something in us and lights a fire under us to get us going,” Eagles tight end Brent Celek said.
Vick took a physical beating from a constant barrage of Vikings blitzes and never got into any kind of rhythm. After rallying the Eagles to fourth-quarter comeback wins four of the last five weeks, Vick only managed to put up 14 points (averaged 33 in his nine previous full games).
“They blitzed us a lot more than what we were expecting, and we didn’t make the right calls,” right tackle Winston Justice said. “We need to protect better. We can’t win games if the line plays this way.”
The Eagles haven’t led going into the fourth quarter in any of their last five games. They’ve trailed at some point in the fourth quarter in six straight; and they haven’t won a game comfortably since the Monday Night Redskins game, almost two months ago. They escaped the Meadowlands last week, thanks to a 28-point fourth quarter. Their last four wins have all been fourth-quarter comebacks. Reid indicated that his starters won’t get the day off against Dallas Sunday.
Minnesota Vikings Joe Webb (not Brett Favre mind you – Joe WEBB) also played in this game. Webb was snubbed by the scouting combine, drafted as a receiver, completed 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards and – critically – did not commit a turnover. In the second half, he was 8-for-11 for 124 yards. After the Eagles closed to within three points early in the fourth quarter, Webb drove the Vikings 60 yards for the clinching TD. Critical play on the drive was a 19-yard strike to Percy Harvin on a third-and-11 near midfield. Joselio Hanson’s blitz didn’t quite get to Webb, who found Harvin with middle linebacker Jamar Chaney in coverage. Hanson is a cover corner, Chaney is a linebacker… was that the right time for a zone blitz?
“That was the biggest play of the game,” Webb said. “That was the turning point.” Super Bowl caliber teams don’t let guys making their first NFL start complete that pass. Two snaps later, Adrian Peterson scored from one yard out to extend the lead back to 10 points at 24-14. Peterson ran 22 times for 112 yards, the most yards the Eagles have allowed at home in more than two years.
Webb, playing for the injured Brett Favre, became the first quarterback to beat the Eagles in his first NFL start in 42 years - since the Bears beat the Eagles 29-16 at Franklin Field on Oct. 20, 1968 (with Virgil Carter making the first of his 30 NFL starts).
Tuesday’s game, the first NFL game on a Tuesday in 46 years, was postponed 48 hours after league officials felt it was unsafe to play Sunday night during a blizzard that swept through the Philadelphia area. There was much debate regarding public safety involving Governor Rendell, Mayor Nutter and Eagles officials. In the end, public safety was the only real factor involved.
The Vikings improved to 6-9 and 3-2 under interim coach Leslie Frazier, Reid’s secondary coach from 1999 through 2002. The win was the first for the Vikings over the Eagles since 1997 and their first in Philadelphia since 1985. The Eagles had won five straight over the Vikings and six in a row.
The Eagles didn’t have an offensive play longer than 28 yards. When they have a 40-yard play or longer this year, they’re 10-0. When they don’t, they’re 0-5.
DeSean Jackson, so electrifying the last few weeks, caught just two passes for 32 yards. And a rushing attack that averaged 170 yards since Vick returned from his rib injury, managed only 107 Tuesday night.
The Eagles led 7-0 in the final moments of the second quarter and seemed to have things under control, but on a second-and-2 from the Vikings’ 39-yard-line, Vick was sacked by cornerback Antoine Winfield and fumbled. Winfield scooped up the ball and ran 45 yards for a touchdown. The Vikings then opened the third quarter with 10 quick points on a 30-yard Ryan Longwell field goal and Webb’s nine-yard touchdown run. Vick’s 10-yard TD run with 10½ minutes left trimmed the Vikings’ lead to 17-14, but the defense couldn’t stop Webb or Peterson, so the Eagles’ Super Bowl aspirations had taken a huge hit. How many playoff teams have the Eagles beaten this season? Well there’s Atlanta…and…um… er… the Giants…?
“It’s certainly big to have a bye week and only have to win two (playoff) games to get to the Super Bowl,” Asante Samuel said. “That’s not the case now, so I guess we have to grind it out.”
One play into the third quarter, Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had seen enough of Dimitri Patterson. After Joe Webb completed a 46-yard pass to Percy Harvin on the first snap of the third quarter Tuesday night, McDermott replaced rookie Patterson at right cornerback with veteran Joselio Hanson.
The Vikings went on to beat the Eagles, 24-14, ending the Eagles’ hopes for a first-round bye in the NFC playoff bracket.
Patterson has been the starter since Ellis Hobbs got hurt, but he’s had a couple tough weeks. Last week, he allowed three touchdowns in the game the Eagles rallied to win over the Giants. Hanson played the rest of the game in two-corner sets, and Patterson took over Hanson’s role as the third corner.
“Dimitri’s a warrior, he’s been asked to do some tough things this year,” safety Quintin Mikell said. Patterson was called for penalties on two of the first three plays of the second half. First, there was a pass interference on the completion to Harvin – an infraction that was obviously declined. He also committed an unnecessary roughness on a rushing play two snaps later.
“He was a little upset,” Hanson said. “I just told him to shake it off and move on … and we’re going to live to fight another day.” Who starts from here on out? Remains to be seen.
Patterson has four interceptions this year, one of which he returned for a touchdown in the second Redskins game. Hanson has one interception this year and four in his career. He’s started 18 games, including six this year.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org