Philadelphia Eagles  


Eagles got some splainin' to do after Minnesota mugging


PHILADELPHIA -- The reason NBC flexed Week 16's Eagles-Vikings game into prime time, even with Minnesota having a shelved quarterback and lost season, was because Philadelphia is plenty exciting to watch.

And you can bet a fair amount of viewers kept with the game as it moved to Tuesday night based on the highlights from the furious comeback the Eagles staged against the Giants.

Eagles QB Michael Vick found himself in plenty of trouble on Tuesday night against the Vikings.
Eagles QB Michael Vick found himself in plenty of trouble on Tuesday night against the Vikings. (Miles Kennedy/Associated Press)

What those folks ignored was the first 52 minutes of that Miracle/Meltdown (depending on your perspective) at the Meadowlands. What they got in the Minnesota game was far more of that, and far less of the final 8 minutes.

Look at it this way: The Eagles' unbelievable rebound in Jersey was a little like putting a shiny wrapper on a stale candy bar. America got a taste of what was inside during Philly's 24-14 loss to the Vikings, and chewed on a talented team that has plenty of work to do before it's ready for primetime again.

The offensive line didn't protect. A defense that needed a penalty to get the one stop it produced during the Giants comeback, and has been hit with injury, showed its warts. And in a more general sense, the Eagles again started slow, and seemed to grow frustrated, which was manifested in a slew of penalties, turnovers and missed assignments.

Now, the good news for the Eagles: The players aren't running from the facts. In fact, it's why most of them were lobbying to play in Sunday's now-meaningless game against the Cowboys.

"I don't think we can end the regular season like that," said right tackle Winston Justice, who was most succinct on the subject. "We need to improve, and the only way to improve is to play. We gotta get as many reps as we can as a team."

The problems for Philadelphia are evident in the numbers.

During that furious 8 minutes or so of the fourth quarter against the Giants, the Eagles were near perfect. No turnovers. No penalties. An onside kick and punt return touchdown on special teams, and a 215-23 edge in yards from scrimmage.

Yet, in the other 111-and-change over the last two weeks, they've been anything but perfect. The Giants actually outgained the Eagles 341-203 in total yards through three-and-a-half quarters, which means Philly's been outgained 678-534 over the aforementioned 111-plus. The Eagles have also committed 17 penalties, yielded nine sacks and turned the ball over on six occasions.

That's a lot of negative plays for a team with plenty of flash.

It speaks to Philadelphia's talent that it overcame all that in one of those games, and had every chance to do it again on Tuesday night. But it also tells you that a tremendously young team is showing its age, and if that side of youth rears its head in the playoffs, it'll be curtains for Michael Vick and Co.

"We've got a great football team, and the way we've played these last two weeks has just been uncalled for," said tight end Brent Celek. "We can't do that. That's not good football, and that's not gonna win us a championship around here."

As for the rest/play debate that will likely rage in Philly this week, particularly with the team on short rest, Celek added, "Ultimately, that's coach's decision. But yeah, the way we've been playing? It's garbage, and like I said, if we want to start winning things around here, we've got to pick it up, and it starts this week."

There are some problems that are going to be hard to fix. The offensive line's been inconsistent all year, a result of injuries (Jamaal Jackson) and some misses in free agency (Stacy Andrews). The defense is, in some spots, duct-taped together, and more equipped to play with a lead where its flaws in the running game aren't as apparent.

But there's also plenty here that should be rectified.

No matter how many years Leslie Frazier coached under proprietors of that Eagles' offense (both Andy Reid and Brad Childress), or how much transition the line has gone through, there's no way anyone should be getting as many free runs at Vick as the Vikings did. There's also very little excuse for Vick to be careless with the ball as he was (to his credit, he stood there and took the blame), or for the Eagles to have the amount of penalty issues they did.

Perhaps the most descriptive image you could take from Tuesday's game was that of Vick struggling to walk across the Eagles' locker room post-game, beaten and battered from a Minnesota mugging. It told you everything you needed to know about what happened, about how he got knocked around, about how he took too much into his own hands, about how Philly simply needs to be smarter all the way around in its approach.

"We can't let him get hit the way he was getting hit," Justice said. "As an offensive line, we need to improve."

And the Eagles have one more chance to do just that against the Cowboys.

Without taking on any unnecessary risks on players (like if Vick is, in fact, injured rather than hurt), they should take advantage of it. Get the starters in. Get them in a rhythm. Get ready for the playoffs, and to hell with the fact that, because of Tuesday's debacle, they know they'll be right back on the field the following weekend.

"We need to play -- definitely," receiver Jason Avant said. "We need to play. You can't take games off, you see what happened tonight. We definitely should play. We need to play."

More than that, they need to play well, and play together against a Dallas team that's hardly mailed in the back end of a lost season under Jason Garrett.

After all, the Eagles haven't done that for more than a few minutes in quite some time.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @albertbreer.



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