When discussing yesterday's 16-14 loss to the Steelers, you really have to decide if you want to view the glass as half-empty or half-full.
If you want to go half-empty, you could point to the turnovers that won't stop and close wins that finally became a loss yesterday.
If you want to view it as half-full, your argument would be that this was a loss before the game even started. The Steelers were at home, coming off of a bye, and desperately needed a win to avoid falling to 1-3. The fact that the Eagles made a game of it and forced the late game heroics is a win in itself.
Consider me a glass half-full guy right now. In fact, technically the glass is more than half full- because at 3-2 heading into next week's game, it's about 60% full.
Here is What I Liked and What I Didn't Like from yesterday's game:
What I Liked
Early Domination: With Terrible Towels swinging and the crowd going wild with the return of Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, the Eagles got the ball on the 16 yard line to start the game. Considering the poor field position and the offenses early game struggles this season, the Eagles had perhaps their best opening drive this year by running 12 plays, getting over 5 minutes off the clock, and quieting the crowd. While the drive did not result in any points, it did feature a nice run/pass balance. When the Steelers got the ball, the Eagles defense forced a 3-and-out to quite the crowd even further. Give the Eagles credit for coming into a hostile environment and not letting it get out of hand early- like they did in Arizona.
Ben Roethlisberger: There is a reason why he is a 2 time Super Bowl winner. Big Ben was absolutely surgical in the way he moved around the pocket and avoided the pass rush, but still allowing his receivers to get open. On the games final drive, Roethlisberger orchestrated a 14 play drive that killed the final 6:33 in the game. He got out of a 1st & 20 at his own 10 yard line, converted 2 3rd downs, and (unlike Eli Manning last week) was smart with the ball in the clutch. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to a great player doing what he does best.
Vick Running At The Goal Line: After surviving the opening view minutes, the Eagles put together a nice drive and had the ball on the 3 yard line. While it can be argued that running LeSean McCoy there was the right play, I can't kill Reid for deciding to give Vick a try. Vick has done a good job this season running the ball in the red zone, and nearly got it in before it was knocked out by Ryan Clark. Vick tried to protect the ball, but Clark made a nice play and hit it out. It was a big blow to the Eagles momentum, but I still liked the call to give Vick a chance.
Clutch: Although they didn't get the win, that drive by Vick at the end of the game was a big boy, clutch drive. In just over 8 minutes, Vick ran 13 plays and nearly put the Steelers season to rest with his 2 yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek. Although they lost, it was good to see this offense step up yet again when they needed to and score. 8 times this season the Eagles offense has either HAD to score to win the game, or the Eagles defense has HAD to get a stop to secure it. With the Eagles defense letting up the game winning field goal yesterday, the team is now 7/8 in those situations. Considering the problems they had last year, that is something any fan will likely take.
Going for it on 4th Down: Andy Reid showed a lot of confidence in his team in the 4th quarter by going for it not once, but twice on 4th down on the Eagles touchdown drive to take the lead. The first time when Reid decided to go for it from his own 30 yard line was probably the toughest, but sitting in the press box and feeling the momentum of the game at that point, it was definitely the right call. The Steelers had been doing a good job moving the ball against the Eagles at the point in the game, and the fact that they held the ball for the final 6:33 after the Eagles possession backs it up as the right call. The Eagles will be faced with big 4th down scenarios later in the season that will mean much more than the game in Pittsburgh yesterday, and Reid showing his team they can do it will mean something when that time comes.
Competing: I already established above that I view this game as a glass half-full. Listening to Pittsburgh sports talk radio after the game, I can tell you before the game that the fans and hosts in Pittsburgh were extremely confident the Steelers would win the game pretty easily. Listening to them afterwards, they felt like they dodged a bullet. The Eagles came into a situation where everyone expected them to get blown out and they not only made a game of it, they nearly stole one. Talking to the players after the game, you could see they expected to win the game and were upset- but knew that they did a lot of good things. In the NFL, there are different kinds of wins and losses. There are the kind of wins that the Eagles had in Cleveland, where there is more to worry about than to like. There are the losses in Arizona, where the team looks unprepared and gets dominated. And than there is the loss to Pittsburgh yesterday. Take away the Vick turnover at the goal line and the Eagles played a good game. The defense was strong, the offense did just enough to potentially pull out the win, and a team that is supposed to be a "finesse" team went into the Steel City and matched the intensity and toughness. In my book, the Steelers won this game more than the Eagles lost it. There are no longer "moral victories" for Andy Reid, but for the group of young players on his team, there are. And yesterday was one of them.
What I Didn’t
Turnovers: Hearing Michael Vick talk after the game, it was his attitude about the fumble at the goal line that troubled me more than the actual play. Hearing Vick say that he doesn't have a fumbling problem and that it was just "one of those days"- a point that was echoed by Andy Reid- is at the heart of why he does have a fumbling problem. Vick is careless with the ball when he runs with it. He runs with the ball down at his side, he dives onto the ground with it, and worries more about getting the yards than keeping the ball. If yesterday was really just "one of those days", I couldn't kill Vick who played an otherwise good game. But it's the attitude about the fumbling, and the defiance in saying he doesn't have a problem, is what scares me going forward. Can the Eagles win long term this way? So far they have been able to, but teams that turn the ball over don't win Super Bowls. In order to make any noise this season, they will have to fix it.
The Offense: With all of the weapons this offense has, they should be scoring at least 20 points a game in their sleep. For the Eagles to be 31st in the league in scoring, in front of only the Jacksonville Jaguars, is just inexcusable. Do the turnovers play a major role in it? Absolutely. But even on drives the Eagles have not turned the ball over, the offense just has not looked right this season. They have not had success getting the ball down the field- something they should be able to do with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson- and have not been able to set up good screen plays. Even if the Eagles can get the turnover problem under control, they will have another problem on their hands- an offense that is out of sync.
Vick Diving Head First: Give Vick credit for knowing he has to go down and not fight for extra yards- but his fumble in the 1st quarter was a prime example of where there is a major difference between him sliding and him just going down. If Vick were to slide as he came up to the Steelers 40 yard line, he would have gone down no problem. By diving, the caused the ball to pop out. Good intention, but poor execution.
Kendricks On Mendenhall TD Run: Kendricks has been so good this season that sometimes it's easy to forget he is a rookie, but Rashard Mendenhall certainly made him look like one on his 14 yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter. Kendricks took an awful angle on the tackle and Mendenhall just ran right by him. Maybe expectations are high on him so every mistake is magnified, but in that situation it is still a tackle he has to make.
Nnamdi Asomugha: Throw stats, safeties, and the All-22 tape out the window- when another offense throws at you repeatedly and is successful, that tells you all you need to know about how a cornerback is playing. The Steelers went after Asomugha time and time again late in the game on Sunday, and he was unable to make them pay. He looked slow, he took bad angles on tackles, got flat out beat, and got lucky it wasn’t worse.Twice this season Asomugha has been burned for a touchdown late that could have sealed the game, but has been bailed out by either a drop or a questionable offensive pass interference call. Say what you want about Asomugha and his decent production, but at the end of the day, does he look like the big time money corner back he is supposed to be when you watch him play? That answer is no.
Trent Cole and Jason Babin: A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about how the defensive line has not been producing sacks, and while they were getting pressure, it was going to come back to bite them. Yesterday it finally did. Against elite quarterbacks, it's not good enough to just hurry them- you have to hit them and bring them down. The Eagles defensive line- a unit that was supposed to be the strength of this team- has not been doing the job. Jason Babin and Trent Cole like to talk about how offensive lines are scheming to stop them, but if they are going to act like the great players they are paid to be, they need to find a way to get around it. Jim Washburn's unit has only 7 sacks this season in 5 games. The Eagles have no sacks the last 2 games, and that is because good quarterbacks are just stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of it. If you want to blame any player, coach, or unit for the Eagles loss yesterday, the defensive line is it.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks