Wrap-up: Eagles 17, Browns 16
September, 9, 2012
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' shaky season-opening victory over the Browns in Cleveland:
What it means: That the Eagles are going to have to spend some more time listening to their doubters. Yes, they won, and that's good for them. Michael Vick engineered a game-winning drive, something he didn't do all of last year. But it was in no other way a good game for the Eagles' offense or Vick himself. He threw four interceptions, fumbled twice and eyewitness accounts of the game I'm reading (I was watching Redskins-Saints in New Orleans) indicate that he made poor decisions and looked out of rhythm all game. He's obviously not going to get away with it against better competition unless he tightens up a lot of things. This was supposed to be the more mature, responsible quarterback version of Vick this year, with a full offseason as a starter and a supposedly renewed commitment to study and detail. The early returns are not encouraging. It's only one game, but when you play in a way that reinforces the doubts people already have about you, you give your doubters licence to keep doubting.
On the flip side: As shaky as the offense may have been, the defense appears to have played very well. They held the Browns to 210 total yards, picked up two sacks and intercepted rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden four times. Yes, Weeden's a rookie, and yes, rookie running back Trent Richardson missed a bunch of preseason time due to injury and likely will play better as he gets his legs under him. But the Eagles' defense did what it had to do to keep getting the ball back in Vick's hands to give him a chance. One of the sacks was by Fletcher Cox, the first-round draft pick who had a bit of a rough preseason but was brought in to help with the interior pass rush. The other was by Jason Babin, but you probably guessed that.
Game plan stubbornness: LeSean McCoy ran for 110 yards on 20 carries. To which I say, as I'm sure Eagles fans are saying, "Why only 20 carries?" The Eagles ran 56 pass plays and 30 run plays. When you're playing a team that gave up 147 yards a game on the ground last season, and you're not being blown out, and your quarterback keeps throwing to the other team, and you have a back like McCoy ... I'm sorry, but that's just irresponsible play calling.
Defensive stars: Also need to mention that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie got two of the interceptions and safety Kurt Coleman got the other two. Those were two guys I think people had questions about coming into the season, so it has to be encouraging to see the way they performed. And speaking of such guys, indications are that DeMeco Ryans played a very good game. I continue to believe he'll play well for the Eagles this year.
What's next: The Eagles host the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. The Ravens are generally known to have a slightly tougher defense than the Browns do. Not sayin', just sayin'. Also, I'll have more on this game once I've had a chance to watch its replay. I promise.