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Eagles v. Cardinals: Debacle in the Desert

From baffling play-calling to a quarterback who looks like the speed of the game is passing him by, the Eagles were undone from within and without against a suddenly sharp Cardinal team.

The loud crack heard just before halftime on Sunday in Arizona was the sound of the Eagles' collective backbone breaking. After yet another turnover by Michael Vick, after yet another misread by Michael Vick, the game was over.

The Eagles were soundly beaten by the Cardinals in every phase of the game. Every Eagles flaw was accentuated. Bad games happen for every team in the NFL throughout the course of a season, but this one may have ominous indications of problems to come.

Turnovers and accountability

It is becoming more apparent that with Vick at quarterback, the Eagles are not going to significantly reduce their turnovers. This issue prevented them from being a playoff team last year and could do the same this year.

On Sunday, Vick avoided throwing an interception for the first game this season; he compensated by losing two fumbles. Some would say there was nothing he could have done on the second one, which occurred on the Cardinals 1-yard line and was returned for a touchdown. That single play represented a 14-point swing that pushed the Cardinals' lead to 24-0.

Recapping the game, both Ike Reese and Ray Didinger noted that it is the responsibility of the quarterback to identify free rushers prior to the snap and flip the play to the other side. Vick did not, and the game ended right there.

After the game, Vick said that the Eagles ought to have taken better care of the ball. He said he saw the blitzer coming, but was trying to make a play. His words were as feeble as his passing totals on the day. Every week he says the same thing. Nothing changes.

Vick has courage, but is lacking in every other area that makes a quality NFL quarterback. He cannot read a defense, does not make good decisions, does not learn from his mistakes, and is incapable of saving himself from punishment.

At times Sunday, he was under intense pressure, victimized by a porous offensive line (which is worrisome in its own right, going forward). When given a pocket, Vick held onto the ball for an excruciating length of time, unable to make a decision. These are all flaws fans have seen in Vick for too long.

Old excuses, new problems

Now a new problem has presented itself: Vick is no longer a running threat. It has not been discussed nearly enough for how important it is. His ability to slip pursuers is not nearly what it was even as recently as last year. A running Vick softened defenses enough to open spaces on subsequent passing plays. Now, he is not fast enough to turn the corner and keep defenses honest.

Through three games, Vick has 94 rushing yards and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry—paltry numbers for a quarterback, let alone one known as a bona fide rushing threat. Watching the games, his explosiveness is gone; his speed greatly diminished. On his one positive-yardage run Sunday, Vick was caught from behind by a linebacker, which would never have happened previously. Without his running ability, Vick is a below-average quarterback, and that is what we saw Sunday.

Ominous indeed.

Mixed signals

Vick was certainly the biggest problem Sunday, but Andy Reid and his coaching staff were a close second. In the first half, the Eagles ran 30 offensive plays: 25 passes and five runs. They handed the ball to their best player, LeSean McCoy, four times.

That is inexplicable and inexcusable. Last week the Eagles balanced the offense and beat a very good Ravens team. This week they abandoned the run almost entirely and scored 6 points.

Might this be the week this obvious lesson sinks in?

Reid also bears responsibility for Vick’s second and game-sealing fumble at the end of the first half. With six seconds and no timeouts remaining, Reid should have been able to recognize Vick's sluggish decision-making throughout the day and sent in the field goal unit.

A close-range chip shot would have gotten the team on the board and into the locker room with a two-touchdown deficit. Instead, they ended the half down four scores and never sniffed a comeback.

Blame enough to go around

The Eagles were also undone against the Cardinals by other role players on Sunday.

For starters, Damarius Johnson fumbled a punt the Eagles did not recover and displayed a general discomfort in the role. 

Those who thought that Desean Jackson's admitted unprofessionalism ended with his new contract were mistaken. At the end of the first half, when a dive toward the endzone might have spared the Eagles the Vick fumble, he turtled up to protect himself. Jackson also threw his hands up at officials while the ball was still in the air and he was still supposedly mid-route.

Fans have to accept the bad with the good when it comes to Jackson. Sunday was the bad.  

The Eagles defense did not play great football on Sunday, backed into bad field position on four turnovers. The unit was victimized early, but allowed its last touchdown of the game halfway through the second quarter. The Eagles have not allowed a second-half touchdown this season, which is remarkable. They forced no turnovers and missed more tackles than they should have—unwelcome shadows of last year’s defense—but played decently overall.

Galling for Eagles fans was watching Kevin Kolb quarterback the Cardinals against his former team. He looked downright surgical against the backdrop of Vick’s disjointed, error-filled performance. Just added insult to injury on a bad day for Eagles fans.

Plenty of ammunition for a rivalry match-up

The beauty of the NFL, especially early in the season, is that there is always a meaningful game next week. Week Four features a contest more meaningful than most. A primetime home game against the Giants offers plenty of intensity, but the energy of one before which fan favorite Brian Dawkins will be honored will shake the Linc to its core.

A win over the hated Giants would be at once a fitting tribute to lay at the feet of The Greatest Eagle and the balm for a chafing loss. Dispatch the Giants, and all that ugliness will evaporate like the sun dipping below the painted horizon; a ghost vanishing with the desert wind.

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Phil McConkey September 25, 2012 at 11:19 PM
what's the story behind the punter situation today. Wasn't he booming kicks in the Browns game?
Mike Diviney September 26, 2012 at 02:26 AM
He frustrates me as well, but I think he gives them the best chance to win right now. We don't know what Foles is yet. Just for continuity's sake, it's better to have the guy you started with in my opinion. He has been terrible, but he did lead 2 game-winning drives, though they were necessary because of his turnovers. He's going to get hurt anyway, so let's just wait until then. I might play Edwards over Foles.
Mike Diviney September 26, 2012 at 02:27 AM
We appreciate your enthusiastic patronage Alonzo.
Mike Diviney September 26, 2012 at 02:33 AM
He was booming them against the Cardinals too. He averaged over 49 yards on 5 punts and had a 62 yarder. Did I miss something?
Mike Diviney September 26, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Once a guy no longer wears the Green and Silver I hate him (aside from BDawk- my 1st last and only man-crush Phil). It's only 3 games, but I had pangs of remorse seeing Kevin Kolb play the QB position efficiently, effectively and intelligently.
Mike Diviney September 26, 2012 at 02:40 AM
It's not just this week with McCoy, he's only got 42 yards receiving this year. Gotta get him more catches with a chance to get upfield.
Bo September 26, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Phil I imagine your a little unsettled on this path that the Giants are on and looking like the best team in the league so early in the season. I'd assume you and many Giant fans are more comfortable with the similar path that the G-men followed in route to their last two Lombardi trophies. I sense you all rather have your boys peak late instead of early. Good luck this week, and though I've long had a healthy respect for the Mara family and how classy an organization they've run since Tim founded it in 1925, I hope we win big, but my gut is telling me something else which I am trying to ignore as we speak.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) September 26, 2012 at 05:22 AM
According to Macnow and Gargano today, the inside scoop is that he wasn't clutch enough. Now we have an added problem in that apparently McBriar is not that skilled as a holder...
Mike Diviney September 26, 2012 at 10:24 PM
The Eagles cut Chas Henry and replaced him with Mat McBriar. I always through McBriar was pretty good, but I didn't think Henry did anything that deserved to get him cut. He was bad Week 2, but he averaged almost 50 yards a punt on Sunday. They did say in the Daily News, the Eagles were concerned he outkicked his coverage, which means he wasn't getting enough hang time. A little curious, but we'll see.
Mike Diviney September 27, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Phil that hit on Cool Joe was unbelievable. Unfortunately, for the Gints, I don't think Burt's playing Sunday (though our QB has been known to take a few hits.)
Mike Diviney September 27, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Bo, the way things are now in the NFL, all fans should want their team peaking towards the end of the season. It worked for the Giants and oftentimes, the best team all year- GB in 2011- doesn't win it all.
Bo September 27, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Mike I agree, as this idea appears to be similar in MLB since the advent of the wildcard team. I think the way the Phils finished the '08 season had them on that path too, and maybe the converse can be applies to last year's Phils team. I was begging them to lose that last game to the Braves, wherein the Braves would've been the wildcard team and the Cardinals would have been home fishing. I hope the Eagles can tightened up this offensive line and find some cohesion this week and going forward so some of Vick's imperfections are masked a bit, but really his foot speed is still a weapon, and it must be utilized in the game plan if for no other reason than what we see in the play of the O-line. I knew we needed to take a offensive lineman in the early rounds of the draft, and I would have chosen a left tackle, but it is what it is. If Andy wanted Foles he could have traded future picks to get him and that tackle in the 3rd round. I think Jerry Reese, the young GM of the Giants is already one of the best in the NFL, he was Ernie Accorsi's director of Player Personel before that, and that prior Super Bowl win was filled with his draft picks that came of age at the perfect time, playoff time.
Mike Diviney September 28, 2012 at 12:52 AM
You can't draft a player at every position. Wouldn't make sense to sign Bell and draft a LT. Easy to say now, but wasn't then. Isn't that young whipper snapper Jerry Reese like 50 years old?
Mike Diviney September 28, 2012 at 01:17 AM
The Giants D is 18th in the league and 22nd against the pass. Their supposedly ferocious pass rush has notched SIX sacks. The Eagles banged up O-line needs all the help it can get. Hopefully the Eagles find their vaunted screen game to get the ball in McCoy's hands more and to negate any rush the Giants do get.
Bo September 28, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Late forties I think, so considering the age of many of the league's GMs, he's quite young. He is also one of six African-American GMs in the NFL. WR McNutt and OG Washington were taken in the 6th and subsequently cut, and McNutt wasn't picked up so he's now on the practice squad. Vinnie Curry was drafted in the 2nd round, and before Foles, and as much as loved him, we should have taken an LT there simply based on need, instead of a DE who gets on the field how much.
Mike Diviney September 28, 2012 at 01:51 AM
To demonstrate the importance of turnovers again: Eagles are 5th in the league in offense (yards gained) AND LAST in the NFL in points scrored. Only one way to reach those numbers and the Eagles MUST change that pronto if they're going to go anywhere this year.
Mike Diviney September 28, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Bo, I don't really think the need was apparent then since they signed Bell, who was highly regarded. I still can't figure out what's going on with him. I think Curry will be a good player, but they're stacked at DE right now- can never have enough good D lineman (or O lineman). Speaking of the draft- Fletcher and Kendricks early returns are excellent.
Gary B September 28, 2012 at 02:00 AM
The Eagles face mighty opponents weekly and must find various strategies to overcome those obstacles to achieve a win.... some opponents change, like the team from another city and others do not, such as Michael Vick.
Bo September 28, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Lets also just assume what you knew and I knew and most other fans who know, that Dunlap wasn't that good and probably below average to average. Now let's assume that Bell was going to be darn good, and his college roomie Jason Peters was gonna help him acclimate in the off season. Nether of those two things happened and we now know Bell sucks, and the irony is I am praying to hell that Dunlap is back at LT this week or Osi or JPP is gonna knock Vick into early next week.
Mike Diviney September 28, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Bo, I don't think his speed still is a weapon. He looks slow to me- no explosiveness. He's been unable to turn the corner. Maybe we'll see something different Sunday, but so far, he looks much slower- the numbers back it up.
Mike Diviney September 28, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Yeah Bo, it definitely appears that Bell sucks. They said he couldn't pick up terminology, but that doesn't account for him beinga turnstile. Dunlap is average and I can't believe we're all hoping he's back. Maybe Bell will show at some point why he was thought to be the best available LT- hasn't yet.
Mike Diviney September 28, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Gary B- welcome back. Thought you were a missing person (like Porter). Think you were saying you're sick of Vick's play and meaningless vows to take care of the ball going forward- if so, hear you loud and clear.
Gary B September 28, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I'm back! lol And yes, your comment is spot on!
Bo September 28, 2012 at 03:21 AM
"Mama always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them." Forrest Gump
Phil McConkey September 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM
plus Rolle didn't practice and may not play, the one corner that came in last week and played good is not playing with a hamstring. The Giants secondary worries me. The d line needs to step up and over compensate. But the G-MEN will prevail
Mike Diviney September 28, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Phil, the Giants secondary sucks. Their D line is very talented, but hasn't produced this year. I was watching a show on NFL Network of the top 10 highlights of the Eagles-Giants rivalry. Most of the moments belonged to the Eagles- but almost all occcurred at Giants Stadium. Number 1 was Miracle at the Meadowlands, Part 3. I hope this next chapter produces another triumphant Birds moment in front of their fans... and BDAWK!!
Reed Rothchild September 28, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Can't wait for Sunday. Brian Dawkins is a LEGEND: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CO-EekXOZC4#
Larry O'Doyle September 29, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Dawkins embodied the unbridled passion of Eagles fans on the field and was a model of pure class and humility off of it. He is a legend and I feel privileged to have witnessed the truth of his greatness amidst the infectious orbit of Weapon X. Can't wait to give you the EPIC send off you deserve Sunday night! Birds roll.... 27-14
Mike Diviney September 29, 2012 at 06:18 PM
The halftime stampede to the men's room, the itching for the second half to start and the idle halftime chat will all cease this Sunday night. The Linc will transform into a bubbling cauldron as the Greatest Warrior once more takes the field. Hero worship is often missplace in sports, usually because the "heroes" are not so great off the field. Dawk is the exception and he will get his just reward for the player he was and the man he is.
Mike Diviney September 29, 2012 at 06:22 PM
One word of caution. The last time the Eagles had a "Night" for a player was a during a prime-time game for Reggie White. They lost 42-0 to the Seahawks. So Dawk's ceremony will be great, but all need to remember there's a game to play... and win. Dawk himself would remind everyone of that.

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