Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles were on the wrong side of another 2-point game, this time against the Pittsburgh Steelers, losing 16-14 on a last second field goal.
For the 4th time in 5 games, the Eagles were involved in a game that came down to the wire and decided by 2 points or less. The previous 3 times the Eagles prevailed, but also had some luck on their side.
No such luck this time.
Last week, I wrote a piece about how the Eagles are a team that has become difficult to figure out. How confident are you in this team? Some of the things I listed for reasons of optimism and pessimism were evident against the Steelers.
Therefore, this team is still a mystery.
They played well in parts yesterday, but some issues of the past and present ultimately cost them the game. What were they? Well, you’ll see that in the awards section…
First up, as usual, are the positives…or, the WTG! awards:
The defense. Nobody in particular really stood out in the game and made a play, but the unit as a whole played well for most of the game.
The key thing is they held Ben Roethlisberger, who was averaging 284 yards passing per game, to just 207 yards on 37 attempts. There were no long plays down the field and they kept Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown in check.
They also limited an offense that was averaging 25.6 points per game to just 16 points on the day. As a defense, when you limit the opposing offense to 16 points, that is good enough to win most of the time.
The 4th quarter drive on offense. This was the offense’s best overall drive of the season so far.
It started towards the beginning of the 4th quarter and chewed up over 8 minutes of the game clock, covered 79 yards and totaled 17 plays. It included two gutsy 4th-down conversions and resulted in a touchdown to take the lead.
Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy executed well as the drive consisted of a well-balanced mix of the run and pass. You can’t ask for a better drive from an offense. It’s just too bad they couldn’t do more of that earlier in the game.
The game plan. Part of my 5 keys for a Philly victory yesterday, was that the Eagles should lean slightly more on the passing game because Pittsburgh’s run defense was not as bad as the stats suggest.
I wanted them to strategically mix in the run throughout the game but ultimately they’d have to beat the Steelers defense by passing the ball. It seemed as if Reid and Mornhinweg concurred as they did just that and called pass-plays that were not high-risk for Vick.
Vick responded by completing just over 66% of his passes and no interceptions. It was a decent game plan and they may have won the game if not for…
The WTF! awards:
Michael Vick. Yes, I just gave him a little praise in that he completed 66% of his passes and no interceptions. However, his fumbling problem reared its ugly head again and that cost the team…again.
Stats show that he fumbled the ball 3 times and lost 2 of them. However, he actually coughed it up 4 times. On one occasion, when he was diving head-first to the ground, he was lucky that his leg was touched by the foot of Larry Foote as he was going down, or that would have been ruled a fumble (it initially was until a replay overturned the call).
His fumble at the goal line was just terrible. The Eagles had 1st and goal at the 3 yard line and Vick tries to run it up the middle but gets nailed by Ryan Clark and the ball popped out and into the end zone.
The score was 0-0 at the time and the Eagles were driving and primed to take a 7-0 lead. Had they converted there, that puts a different complexion on the game.
That was his second lost fumble of the game and 11th turnover this year. At that point, I was so angry I wanted Reid to sit Vick down for a while. Vick’s turnovers are almost single-handedly killing the Eagles this year.
Furthermore, check out this quote from Vick after the game regarding his fumbles (courtesy of Sheil Kapadia over at Birds 24/7):
“I’ve never really had a problem fumbling the football,” Vick said. “It was just one of them days. Everything happens for a reason. If it was meant to be, I wouldn’t have fumbled the ball at the goal line. I have no explanation for it. There’s really none.”
Say what? Was Vick feeling some kind of effects from a concussion we don’t know about? He’s never really had a problem fumbling the ball?
He’s currently 24th on the NFL’s all-time list of players with the most career fumbles…and he’s still playing so I’m sure he’ll rise further up that list before he’s done.
According to Pro Football Reference, Vick has fumbled the ball 84 times in his career. He’s lost at least 48 of them, including 5 this year, according to ESPN.
Never really had a fumbling problem? Yeah, okay there big guy. Denial is not just a river in Egypt my friend.
Big Ben fumbles, but nobody is around. Since we’re talking about fumbling, Roethlisberger put the ball on the ground deep in their own territory during the first quarter but nary and Eagle defender was around to jump on the loose ball.
It was the type of fumble where you’d think someone on the defense would be around to recover. Hell, if Vick had done that, there would have been 11 defenders pouncing on it.
The defense let a big opportunity slip right there.
The mystery personal foul call in Darryl Tapp. It ended up not meaning anything, but I had to point this out. Tapp was called for unnecessary roughness and after watching the replay, there was absolutely no evidence of what he did.
The penalty came in oddly late as well. Maybe replays didn’t catch what he did after the play, but that whole situation appeared odd.
The defense. Yes, I have the defense on the WTG! list above, but they also deserve to be on this list, because…well…they made me say WTF! at the end.
The defense did its job for the most part, except for when it mattered most. After that great drive by the offense to take a 14-13 lead, the Steelers got the ball back with about 6 and a half minutes left in the game.
At best, I wanted to see the defense stop them on a 3-and-out, or at most allow just one first down. At worst, I wanted to see the Steelers kick a field goal (or God forbid, score a TD) but still leave enough time on the clock for a final Eagles drive.
Well, the Steelers did get that field goal but unfortunately the offense would never get the ball back.
The Steelers started at their own 20 and were quickly forced into a 3rd and 12 situation after a holding call put the Steelers back at their 10 yard line and had a 1st and 20.
This is where Antonio Brown finally had a bite of that Snickers bar he spoke about last week.
He beat Brandon Boykin for a 20-yard catch on 3rd and 12 and was perhaps the most critical play of the game. That play sprung the Steelers on a clock-consuming 14-play, 64-yard drive that ended the game with a field goal as time expired.
Therefore, the defense couldn’t stop the Steeler offense when it counted most, which is something they’ve generally done this season so far.
Rashard Mendenhall also had a nice return to action in averaging 5.8 yards per carry and scoring Pittsburgh’s only touchdown. The Steelers were averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per carry in the run game entering Sunday’s game.
The Eagles defense just didn’t seem prepared for Mendenhall and gave up a total of 122 rushing yards by Steeler running backs on the day.
They also couldn’t get enough pressure on Roethlisberger. Big Ben was able to either sit comfortably in the pocket or slide around just enough to remain comfortable for most of the day.
Where was the vaunted Eagles defensive line?
All in all, it was another mixed performance for this Eagles team. They did some things well and other things not-so-well.
They are now 3-2 and next face a desperate Detroit Lions team that are coming off their bye week. If Vick can’t fix his fumbling issues and the offense can’t start to score more points, we could be looking at 3-3 entering the bye week.