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Bird Feed: Dropping the Ball, Literally

Michael Vick struggled to protect the football in Pittsburgh and may have cost the Eagles a win with a devastating fumble on the goal line. Will Vick’s mistakes ever stop? (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Let’s not beat around the bush; this was Michael Vick’s loss. Way back when in the Jim Johnson days, Hugh Douglas, Jeremiah Trotter and Co. used to guarantee victory if the offense could score more than 17 points. Given the Eagles talent on offense, that number could easily be 20 or 24. Unfortunately, the Philadelphia offense has stumbled out of the gates and continues to be plagued by turnovers, more specifically, Vick’s turnovers. For the second time in three weeks, Vick lost two fumbles. More importantly, it was the second time in three weeks Vick lost a fumble inside the one yard line.

At some point, Andy Reid will need to send Vick a very loud and very clear message. How that message gets delivered, I’m not sure. I wanted Reid to insert the rookie Nick Foles on Sunday much like he did with Kevin Kolb when Donovan McNabb was awful in Baltimore four years ago. McNabb responded and led the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game. On Sunday, Reid chose to stay with Vick, a decision that proved correct as Vick led the Eagles on two 2nd half touchdown drives of 80 and 79 yards.

But still, the protection of the football must improve. If Vick only commits six turnovers through the first five games instead of 11, the Eagles are likely 4-1, if not undefeated. The defense has played well enough to win every game, the offense has been successful in moving the football, and even Andy Reid has done a decent job managing games (minus the Arizona fiasco).

Unfortunately, this is the NFL, where quarterbacks singlehandedly sink ships faster than 40-foot rogue waves. The Eagles can’t compete at their highest level until Vick eliminates the mindless turnovers and realizes his mistakes are a bigger deal than he’d like to admit. Following Sunday’s loss, Vick – clearly annoyed by the constant questions about turnovers – had no explanation for his goal line fumble other than, “it was meant to be.” I don’t know about you, but that’s not the response I want to hear from my $100 million quarterback. “That’s on me.” “I can’t let that happen.” “I’m killing my team.” – Would all be preferred, thank you.

Obviously, Vick either doesn’t care or is simply not getting the message from Reid that job security is contingent on ball security. One way or another, that message must be delivered, and more importantly, it must be received. If not, the Eagles will continue to fight tooth and nail to contend in close games right up until the point when Vick literally gives the game away.

(Half glass full? Despite the costly fumbles, Vick has actually improved as of late. He hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 2 against Baltimore. His completion percentage was above 65% against the Giants and Steelers, two very formidable pass rushes, and he’s led the Eagles on scoring drives in six of their last seven 2nd half drives. So, despite what we all might think, Vick isn’t horrible. Though, until he stops killing the Eagles with turnovers, it’s safe to say he isn’t great, or even good, either.)

Other thoughts

The NFL didn’t do the Eagles any favors with the schedule this year. Starting this past weekend in Pittsburgh, the Eagles will play three consecutive teams coming off their bye week (PITT, DET, ATL). Before it’s all said and done, the Eagles will have played a total of four teams coming off their bye. I don’t have time to sift through 31 other schedules, but playing four teams right off their bye week seems lopsided to me.

Though the Eagles defense has been extremely good of late, they haven’t registered a sack in two weeks. If you eliminate Eli Manning’s charity interception last Sunday, the Eagles haven’t really forced a turnover since Week 2. Furthermore, the defense has essentially surrendered game winning 4th quarter drives in consecutive weeks. Only a Giants missed field goal saved them. Finally, watching the defense get run over on Pittsburgh’s final drive brought back painful memories from 2011 when the Eagles struggled to get off the field late in games. While I’m not necessarily down on the Eagles defense (How could I be? They’re the sole reason the Eagles aren’t 0-5.), it’d be nice to see them generate some big plays and create some much-needed opportunities for the offense.

Vick’s fumbles aside, the play that stood out most on Sunday was Jason Babin’s failure to bring down Ben Roethlisberger for a sack on a 3rd and 12 with under six minutes to play. Instead, Roethlisberger completed a pass for 20 yards and a 1st down and the Steelers went on to run out the clock before nailing the winning field goal.

Is Nnamdi Asomugha even good anymore? Is it just my TV or is he most often the defensive back getting burned on big plays on yours, too?

I think it’s unfair to blame Andy Reid for not running the football more Sunday. It’s not easy to run against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and the Eagles were only having limited success at best. (Run/pass ratio was 17/19 in the 1st half and the Eagles trailed 10-0.) Besides, Vick moved the offense efficiently in the 2nd half and even converted both red zone trips into touchdowns. I thought Reid’s 2nd half was near perfect…

…Except for the fact he still can’t manage timeouts to save his life. Not that it would have mattered based on the defense’s 4th quarter effort, but still.

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