Vick and the offense rallied to knock of the Ravens despite four more turnovers. The Eagles have been inconsistent and downright sloppy at times, so how exactly should the Eagles and their fans feel after two weeks? In a word, great.
That’s right, great. Beating the Browns despite five turnovers was nothing to be excited about. In fact, the Eagles performance was embarrassing. To overcome four turnovers against the Baltimore Ravens, though, is quite a feat, one Eagles fans should celebrate.
Let’s start with the offense. First of all, congratulations to Andy Reid and the Eagles for remembering Brent Celek is a pretty good football player. Not only is Celek an excellent receiver and a monster with the ball in his hands, but he’s also the heart and soul of the offense. The crowd loves him. Defenses dread his 6’4, 255 pound frame barreling down on them with the ball in tow. As I mentioned in this spot a week ago, the Eagles needed to get Celek more involved. In today’s NFL, Celek’s unique size and athleticism is just as valuable to the Eagles offense as DeSean Jackson’s speed.
While Celek deserves a game ball for his inspiring performance, Michael Vick also deserves some love for finding Celek and keeping him involved throughout the afternoon. I know he committed another three turnovers but Vick was a star on Sunday. His accuracy allowed DeSean Jackson to have a huge day, probably his best day since the Miracle at the Meadowlands Part 2 in December of 2010. Vick also was a threat with his legs and his dissection of the defense improved as the game continued. Vick was efficient, completing 72 percent of his passes for 371 yards on just 32 attempts. Yes, you read that correctly; 32 attempts.
Reid got it right on Sunday. Vick’s 32 attempts almost equaled the 31 attempts given to Eagles running backs. Even more amazing was Reid’s commitment to the run. Knowing the Raven defense would love nothing more than to pin its ears back and attack Vick, Reid absolutely, positively, unequivocally had to stick with the running game. And he did. Even though LeSean McCoy was limited to 3.2 yards per rush, Reid never abandoned the run. He kept the offense balanced. As any Eagles fan knows, that’s a big freaking deal.
Speaking of a big freaking deal, do we appreciate how good the Eagles offense is right now? Obviously, the turnovers are a problem, and a big one at that, but let’s not forget the Eagles lit up perhaps the best defense in football to the tune of 486 yards of offense. Could you imagine how potent this offense could/will be if/when it learns to protect the football? The Eagles hung 24 points on the Ravens despite losing three turnovers at or inside Baltimore’s 20. I’m not assuming a turnover problem is an easy fix, but if the Eagles can lubricate that squeaky wheel? Whoa. Look out.
Of course, Vick, Celek, and the offense don’t beat Baltimore without a nice outing from the defense, starting with the new and improved linebacking corps.
Seriously, how many times do you watch guys like Jon Beason or Patrick Willis or Lawrence Timmons and think, “Why can’t the Eagles have a linebacker that makes plays like that?” Well, it appears they finally do. Two of them, in fact.
Rookie Mychal Kendricks is a sideline to sideline ball hawk. There aren’t too many linebackers in the NFL that can physically contend with tight ends and then shadow Ray Rice out of the backfield. Kendricks has the speed and tenacity that all great linebackers posses. When the defense needed a key stop late in the 4th quarter it was Kendricks forcing the incompletion with outstanding coverage. If you could see how excited I get watching Kendricks play you’d think he was a family member or something.
Then there’s DeMeco Ryans, who plugged a hole the Eagles have been trying to fill for years (a run-stopping linebacker). Did you notice the Eagles were able to get stops in critical moments on Sunday? Instead of the Ravens driving for touchdowns to extend their lead they settled for field goals. Last year, and the year before that and the year before that and the year… you get the idea … the Eagles would have been pounded into oblivion until the opponent waltzed into the end zone. Not anymore. Ryans has vastly improved the Eagles run defense to the point where teams can’t simply run out the clock late in games on the ground. Reid has always undervalued the linebacker position. For him to humble himself and bring in a proven veteran and use a top draft pick on a promising rookie prove two important things: 1. Though it takes FOREVER, Reid is willing to adapt and admit his mistakes. 2. Reid knows his tail is on the line this year.
As well as Kendricks and Ryans played, the rest of the defense had a nice day, too. As a unit, the Eagle defense didn’t allow Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense inside of the Eagles 30 yard line on any of their last 10 drives. Over that span the Eagles surrendered only nine points, three of which could be blamed on special teams, but whatever. It’s a joy to see a defense with a backbone again. We’ve missed that since 2008.
Even better, the Eagles have what appears to be a future building block at each level of the defense. Fletcher Cox on the line, the aforementioned Kendricks in the middle of the defense, and the ultra-athletic and supremely entertaining Brandon Boykin in the secondary. Did I mention all three are rookies? It’s 1:45 AM right now and I’m ridiculously excited about this last paragraph. I may not sleep tonight. There’s something so right about Philadelphia and a dominating defense.
Obviously, 2-0 doesn’t make the Eagles a lock for the playoffs, and there are plenty of things not to like about the first two weeks. The turnovers cannot continue at this rate. Rookie punt returners can’t receive punts inside the five yard line, especially in the closing minutes of a half. The Eagles still take too many penalties. But those wrongs can be righted in time. For now, the Eagles are undefeated, alone atop the NFC East, and armed with a potent offense and an aggressive and physical defense that the BALTIMORE RAVENS called dirty. (The ultimate compliment.) Could things be better? Sure. But they could also be so much worse.