The Eagles are off to a 2-0 start in the preseason after they defeated the Patriots 27-17 on Monday Night Football. However, in preseason, the scores and records don't matter and don't really tell you the story. So let's get in depth what happened tonight starting first with the offense and then the defense.
The story tonight, just like it was against Pittsburgh, was Michael Vick getting injured. Only this time it wasn't him banging his hand on a helmet and standing there with his thumb in a cup of ice. He got crushed, helmet-first directly in the ribs. He got up slow and looked as if he was going to continue, but ended up going down to one knee and could not continue. He left the field in obvious pain, but luckily x-rays on his ribs camp back negative. He didn't return to the sideline or the game. Afterward, Reid said that Vick will undergo an MRI tomorrow to be sure there is no cartilage damage.
Everyone immediately got on Vick after the play and blamed the fact that he got hit all on him. Never mind that Evan Mathis let his man through free on Vick, who spun around to avoid that hit only to get crushed by a defender that Todd Herremans allowed through free. ESPN's Dan Graziano immediately wrote a piece claiming that Vick "doesn't get it," but from what I saw, Dan's got to be kidding himself if he thinks Vick had even a half second to "throw the ball away" or "run out of bounds." Those just weren't possible. Now, if you want to say he should have just turtled rather than try to make a throw? He probably could have done that. I don't see any way he could have avoided a hit, but if he immediately tried to turtle he could have avoided the shot in the ribs.
Either way... The reason the play happened was the awful blocking. It's not 100% Vick's fault every time he gets hit. Yes, he has to protect himself, but his line has to protect him as well. That said, I certainly understand the frustration that comes from seeing him leave the field injured for the second straight game.
Moving on... ESPN got a lot of traction today with DeSean Jackson's quote about worrying about his health last season, but "giving it all" this time around. If tonight is any indication, he sure seems all in.
DeSean caught 4 passes for 82 yards in a little over a half of work. Plus, his tackle after a pick made for one of our favorite gifs of the night. Its good to see #10 with some swagger out there having fun. He should be in for a big year.
But the man of the night has to be Nick Foles, who turned in yet another impressive night going 18 of 28 for 217 yards and a pair of TDs in about 2.5 quarters of work. He also threw a pick while driving the team down the field at the end of the second half.
What really was impressive about Foles is how he bounced back from that pick. That's what NFL guys will tell you about QBs. Anyone can get off to a nice start, but you don't know what you have until a guy faces adversity. On Foles' first possession in the third quarter, he marched the Eagles straight down the field for a TD going 5-6 for 87 yards and a TD on the drive. The highlights were a 40 yard deep ball to DeSean Jackson and a perfectly placed throw on a cross route to Clay Harbor for a TD. That was Harbor's 2nd on the night. His first was an even prettier throw from Foles that came on the run and ended up with Harbor dotting the i in the corner to ensure the TD. Incredibly impressed by both of those guys.
Harbor finished the night with 6 catches for 30 yards and the two TDs. He's had a great camp and has been very good in preseason so far.
In the end, what can we say about the offense? Overall, the starters did play pretty well putting up 24 points over the first 2.5 quarters. But they did so against a lot of Patriots backups and they did it with Nick Foles at QB. Once again, we barely got a chance to see Vick lead the offense. He threw 3 passes... and the likelihood is that we won't see him again until week 1 at Cleveland.
The easiest way to put it is that the defense simply did not look like a bunch of starters playing a team of backups... Problem was, they were. There were a few problems, but chief among them were penalties. They were called for 3 personal fouls! That's 45 yards! At least one came on a third down and extended a drive. Andy Reid got so angry at the penalties, he lost his temper on the sidelines and screamed right in Cullen Jenkins' face. It's as mad as I've ever seen Reid get on the sidelines.
That leads us to problem #2, getting off the field on third downs. Time and time again, more in the first half than the second, the Pats would make a play on 3rd down to extend a drive or the Eagles would take a penalty.
The main way the Pats would make those plays were screen passes. Over the first two quarters, it seemed like every other play the Pats ran was a screen and yet consistently the Eagles would fail to diagnose it. I get being fooled by a screen from time to time, but when it's seemingly the only play the opposition has? How are you not expecting it?
On the good side though, they were fantastic against the run. The Pats ran 29 times for just 60 yards, for average of 2.1 yards per carry.
The defense did hold New England to just one first down in the entire second half.
Mychal Kendricks put in another really good effort leading the team with 6 tackles. He was shedding blocks, flying from sideline to sideline, even had one good blitz that led to a sack... You don't want to get too hyped up, but he's been absolutely everything he was advertised to be. He did allow a TD in pass coverage, but to be fair, he had to cover the TE for an inordinately long amount of time. The Eagles line got no pressure on the play, mostly thanks to the fact that LT Nate Solder tackled Trent Cole with nothing called.. Overall, it was a really good night from Kendricks.
Also, Phillip Hunt had another great night. He made some nice plays against the run, but the highlight was his second strip sack in 2 preseason games. That led to the Eagles first TD and really turned the momentum of the game around.
We went into this game looking for some answers and I'm really not sure we got any. The secondary played better, but the defensive line piled up the penalties. The third down issues were unchanged. Yes they played well in the second half, but against what level of competition? There's still a lot to learn about this defense and probably very little preseason time left to get answers.