You see, this wasn't a grand struggle between two powerhouses that ended with a heroic drive. It was an awful, sloppy affair where the loser was just the last team to screw up. The Eagles turned the ball over 5 times and got flagged 12 times for 110 yards worth of penalties. Michael Vick himself threw a career high four picks and had at least 2 others dropped.
Luckily, the Browns' offense was even worse. Rookie Brandon Weeden completed just 34% of his passes and threw 4 picks of his own. RB Trent Richardson, who the Cleveland took with the #3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, was limited to just 39 yards on 19 carries for a pitiful 2.1 yards per carry. While Richardson didn't look sharp and seemed to look for contact rather than daylight, most of the credit for his poor afternoon can go to the Eagles front 7, who were literally playing on the other side of the ball today. Richardson rarely had a hole and if he ever did, someone, usually DeMeco Ryans, was there to fill it.
Speaking of Ryans, he made a clear and immediate impact today. The entire Eagles defense was superb in tackling today, but they were led by Ryans, who set a physical tone in both the run and pass game today. Ryans was kind of anonymous in preseason, but always brushed off those concerns saying "it's just preseason." Clearly, he was just taking it easy. Because his presence was immense in the middle today.
But before I go on too long about the defense... The story of this game is really all about Michael Vick. He equaled his career with 4 picks this afternoon, but unlike that 4 INT game in Buffalo last season, there were no flukes this afternoon. No bad tipped balls, no Jason Avant getting the ball stripped away... These picks were pretty much entirely Vick's fault. He never looked comfortable, could not read the defense, held onto the ball, got hit too often... Really all the bad stuff from last season. The question now is whether this is what we'll see all year or whether that was all the result of playing a grand total of 12 snaps in the preseason?
As bad as Vick was today, his play leads us to another concern. Your QB is really struggling. You have the lead. Your RB averaged over 7 yards per carry. Oh and you're facing a team that was one of the best defenses and worst running defenses last season. What do you do?
Well, if you're the Eagles you call 60 pass plays. This is something we've lamented for over a decade here and I wrote this very thing so many times on days where Donovan McNabb wasn't at his best. Andy Reid's "keep firing" mentality when his QB is struggling has simply never served him.
That said, he will probably argue that since Michael Vick led a 4th quarter comeback his philosophy was vindicated, but lets not forget that Vick basically had a game ending pick dropped on the play before the TD that won it (and the fumble). Still, we have to credit Vick for the game winning drive. The Eagles did shoot themselves in the foot a lot this afternoon, but we can't discount the effort of the Brown's defense. They were great today and driving 90 yards on a game winning drive against them is no small feat.
And as much as Michael Vick was the goat for most of this game, it takes some magic to go 16 plays, complete 6 passes and rush for 9 yards. LeSean McCoy only rushed for 10 yards on that drive, it was all Vick. Looking ahead to next week against the Ravens, things get much harder and that offense won't be as forgiving to the Eagles mistakes as Cleveland was.
Silver lining is... This team lost games like this last year.