A New Era in Philly? Foles Fills in for Injured Vick in Eagles loss to Dallas

Vick Leaves the Game with  a Concussion as Eagles lose their fifth straight

Rookie Nick Foles completed 22-of-32 passes for one touchdown, an interception and a fumble in place of the injured Michael Vick. Will he be the starter for a floundering Eagles team going nowhere fast.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

When he came onto the field, Eagles backup quarterback rookie Nick Foles received a standing ovation from the fans. Later in the game, he received in an even bigger cheer when he hit a wide open Jeremy Maclin for a 44-yard touchdown pass that gave the Birds a 14-10 lead early in the third quarter.

With Michael Vick out for the game with a concussion midway through the second quarter, it was the dawning of a new era in Eagles football-at least among the pundits and beat writers that cover the team.

But the way this game turned out, you might be seeing more of the former Arizona star because the sun is slowly setting on the Birds 2012 season and possibly Andy Reid’s career as a head coach in Philadelphia.

A punt return and a pick six by Foles sank the Eagles battleship and possibly their season as the Cowboys came away with a 38-23 win in front of a sellout crowd at Lincoln Financial Field who saw their team lose their fifth straight game.

“It’s hard to lose a game like that, “ said running back LeSean McCoy, gained 82 yards on just 16 carries. “We were in it and real fast we were down a couple of scores. That was really frustrating.”

Of course, the big question after the game was whether Foles, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 219 yards with one touchdown and one interception, would be the Eagles permanent starting quarterback? Reid said it would be Vick depending on his health.

“He’s the quarterback, yeah. But he’s hurt right now, so I just have to just see how’s he doing,” said a visibly annoyed Reid. “Let’s take a little consideration for Michael here.”

Vick left the game having completed six of his first nine passes for 70 yards with a touchdown pass to Riley Cooper on the Eagles first drive of the game. It was the first time all season the Eagles have scored on their initial series of the game.

Foles didn’t play badly and led the Eagles to a 17-10 lead midway through the third quarter. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin and led the Eagles to a 40-yard field goal by Alex Henery. But two of Foles turnovers resulted in Dallas scores.

“For having not practiced at all with the first group, I thought he came in and did some good things,” Reid said. “You saw he kept his eyes downfield and there were some positives there but again the turnovers.”

But late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter, the wheels came flying off the cart for the Eagles. First, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo hit wide receiver Dez Bryant for a 30-yard touchdown pass.

Fans express their frustration after the Eagles lose their fifth straight, something that’s never happened in Reid’s 14 years in Philadelphia. Photo by Webster Riddick.

After the Eagles went three and out on their first possession of the four quarter, it took the Cowboys less than a minute to put the game out of reach. Cowboys punt returner Dwayne Harris took a Matt McBriar kick 78 yards for the touchdown that put Dallas up 24-17.

Two plays into the Eagles next possession, Foles threw ball slightly behind DeSean Jackson and it was tipped into the hands of Brandon Carr, who took it 47 yards for the touchdown to give Dallas a 31-17 lead. Game, set and match. Both teams scored touchdowns late in the waning seconds, but it was already done.

The Eagles defense didn’t play poorly as they had in the last two weeks. They allowed 294 yards of total offense. They sacked Romo three times, but they did not force any turnovers.  On two Cowboys scoring drives, the Eagles did a poor job tackling.

On Dallas first touchdown of the game-an 11-yard touchdown pass from Romo to running back Felix Jones-four Eagles defenders just missed him and did not wrap him up.  Late in the third quarter on a third and five  from the Dallas 39, Romo escaped the grasp of Mike Patterson and Fletcher Cox and hit wide receiver Miles Austin for a 25-yard gain to prolong the drive.

Three plays later, Romo hits Bryant with a touchdown pass to give Dallas their first lead of the game.

With a 3-6 record, the stunned Eagles believe that they still have a chance to make a run for the postseason.  Considering that the New York Giants (6-4) only have a one-game lead in the NFC over the Cowboys (4-5)  in the loss column and a two and a half game over the Birds, it is within the realm of possibility.

But the way they’ve played on both sides of the football, it’s a faraway from being a sure thing.

“We’re a confident bunch. We just need to get that first win and we’ll be alright,” Maclin said. “We’re pressing right now and we really have to get it done and go out there and get a “W” next week.”

Eagles are in Must-Win Mode Against Unbeaten Atlanta

Although Michael Vick needs to cut down his turnovers, his offensive line has to do a better job of protecting him.

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report

After losing two straight games in heartbreaking fashion, the Philadelphia Eagles come off the bye week into the fire of a must-win game against the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons Sunday (1:00 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field.

“It’s a big game for us,” said Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. “The last two games, we were in position to win the games and we didn’t close it out.  We’ve got to put it all together as a team and the teams that do that are the teams that are sitting on top right now.”

While the Eagles are unbeaten (13-0) after a bye week during head coach Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach, they will be facing an explosive Falcons team that averages 28.5 points per game. Quarterback Matt Ryan is the NFC’s third-rated passer and has weapons at his disposal like running back Michael Turner, who gained 114 yards against Birds in last year’s game in Atlanta.

Ryan, a product of Penn Charter High in Philadelphia, also has wide receivers like Julio Jones (30 reception, 376 yards and four  TDs)  and Roddy White (37 receptions, 576 yards, four TDs) and veteran tight end tight end Tony Gonzalez, who burned the Eagles defense with seven receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s 35-31 win.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are coming off a tumultuous week in which they fired their defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and put everyone on notice that their jobs are not safe.  At 3-3, the Eagles are fighting to save their season.

“It’s not the offense or the defense, it’s everybody doing their job better,” Reid said Wednesday during his weekly press conference. “You know the obvious. You can’t have the turnovers and you can’t have the big plays and you’ve got to have field position in order to win the game.”

On offense, the Eagles have to figure out a way to protect Vick. The Eagles will be getting left tackle King Dunlap back from injury. The good news for the Eagles line on the injury front is that they could be getting Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters back in about three weeks.

Peters has been on the reserve non-football injured last since August after rupturing his Achilles tendon. Reid said Peters has been moving around and is making progress.

Nnamdi Asomugha intercepts Matthew Sfafford in the end zone for a rare forced turnover by the defense. The Eagles are hoping to get more turnovers in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The next biggest subject of scrutiny during this bye week was whether or not Vick was going to lose his starting job because of his 13 turnovers. While some of those miscues aren’t his fault, Vick told reporters that it’s just a matter of him protecting the football.

“It’s not hard, It’s not a science to it, just protect the football at all times,” Vick said. “Despite the circumstances, I still sit back there and try to make the plays that I know I can make and that’s just me and my confidence in myself and confidence in the guys.”

And speaking of confidence, Reid said he still trusts Vick to get the job done. He said that his quarterback has gotten better at recognizing and beating blitzes, something he’s had some trouble with earlier in the season. This week, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will dial up a number of different blitzes to stop Vick and the Eagles offense.

“He’s done fairly well against the blitz, he’s been sharp there,” Reid said. “You saw that against Detroit and you saw it against Pittsburgh who throws a lot of things at you. It’s different scheme than (Atlanta), but he’s done a respectable job in that area.”

For all of Vick’s turnovers, the good thing for the Eagles is that Vick has been responsible for the Eagles three wins and has put them in position to win two more.

With new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles at the helm, the defense, which hasn’t had a sack in the last three weeks, is looking to redeem itself after coming up in the short in the fourth quarter of the last two games.

“The main thing is we have to finish,” said rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. “That’s the biggest thing. This week we’re going to come out and just play hard, but at the end of the day, we just have to finish.”


Vick Expects to Play Better Against Baltimore

The Eagles can ill afford turnovers against a tough Baltimore Ravens defense.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

With Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the Baltimore Ravens strolling into South Philly on Sunday, Eagles fans are hoping that Michael Vick and the offense don’t duplicate the first 44-minutes and 32- seconds of their season-opener against the Cleveland Brown.

If the Eagles commit the turnovers, penalties and have a lack of balance on offense against a tough Baltimore squad, the day will with a crescendo of resounding boos at Lincoln Financial Field because the Birds are not going to walk off that field with a win.

Even though the Eagles won last week on the final drive of the game, Vick has probably been more scrutinized this week by fans and media than both President Barack Obama and his opponent Mitt Romney in the presidential campaign.  Throwing four interceptions in the last game you played makes you a topic of conversation.

But Vick said he definitely wants to put the last week behind him and wants to come out on Sunday with a better performance than he had this past week.

“I’ve got to go into the next week, I can’t dwell on the last game because I don’t plan on having that type of ball game again,” Vick said with a large crowd of reporters surrounding his locker.  “Regardless of what the situation dictates, I think you have to go out there and play your game. Don’t get frustrated and don’t get too high or too low when things aren’t going your way. Just keep pounding, keep plugging and good things are going to happen in the end.”

Oddly enough, Vick said the only motivation he has for Sunday’s game is going over the game field and seeing the game film.

“Nobody really has to motivate me, I motivate myself, I watched the film, I’m the one who lived it,” Vick said. “This is about playing the game that I love. Every game is not going to be easy.”

Just about every aspect of Vick’s game has been criticized this week from his inability to read defenses, not finding secondary receivers, not playing enough snaps during the preseason, and for holding onto the ball too long. Head coach Andy Reid defended Vick from such criticism and likened Sunday’s game versus to a basketball player getting hot late in the game after struggling.

“He finished strong and so you gotta take that and roll with it,” Reid said. “He finished the way a great player finishes.  You see this all the time in basketball. Great shooters when they have an off-day they keep shooting and when it comes down to the end, the great ones sink the winning shot.

“Michael, that’s what he did, he kept firing. He didn’t seem hesitant at the end of that game of that game where everything was on the line, he continued to fire. He’s a great player, he didn’t have a lot of reps in preseason, but he’ll continue to get better.”

Vick admitted that he has to work on his decision-making and stop trying to players when it’s not there. In Sunday’s game against Cleveland, Vick inexplicably threw passes into double and triple coverage.

“You can’t force throws, you can’t try to stick a ball in a tight spot when a guy’s not really open and try to make something happen,” Vick said. “You’ve got to give it time, you gotta work your way downfield and take what the defense gives you and keep it simple.”

While folks might think that the Ravens are salivating at the opportunity to force Vick into more turnovers, Lewis said he doesn’t think Vick will toss four interceptions against his defense.

“He’s going to get past that real quick because that’s one thing professionals do, especially a guy like that who has the ability to bounce back and make those plays,” Lewis said.”The same mistakes he made last week, we’re not looking for him to make those same mistakes this week.

“ We understand who we’re playing and we understand what Michael Vick is going to give us when we come to Philly. We’re not going to let what happen in Cleveland last week fool us into what’s going on when we come to Philly.”