Sunday, September 16, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Eagles 24, Ravens 23
By Dan Graziano
PHILADELPHIA -- A few thoughts following the Philadelphia Eagles' 24-23 comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field:
What it means: The Eagles are 2-0 with a pair of one-point victories in games that have seen them turn the ball over nine total times. Sloppy, yes, but 2-0 is 2-0, and for all of the mistakes he's made, quarterback Michael Vick has also led two game-winning drives. If the Eagles can get their turnover problem solved, they will be very tough, and very glad they swiped these first two.
My goodness, with the turnovers: The Eagles turned the ball over five times in their opener last week in Cleveland and yet somehow managed to come back and win that game. This week, they turned it over three times in the first half alone and four times in the game. Some seemed avoidable, like Vick's first interception. And some seemed less so, like his second. But the problem is significant, and it undercuts everything they do. They have playmakers on offense, and everyone from LeSean McCoy to DeSean Jackson to a banged-up Jeremy Maclin to tight end Brent Celek showed off while the Eagles piled up the yards. But you can string together as many nice-looking offensive plays as you want -- if you keep handing it to the other team, and the other team is as fundamentally sound as the Ravens are, you're not going to win very often.
Give it up for the D: Turnovers also put a ton of pressure on your defense. And while they were victimized by a few big plays here and there, overall the Eagles' defense looked dominant in this game. They had consistent pressure in Joe Flacco's face. When Ray Rice got through the line, they swarmed to stop him. Linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks made all kinds of plays. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie covered well. Rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was disruptive. The Eagles' defense is good and deep and built to last the full 60 minutes, and it's the main reason they were still in the game with a chance to win it late in spite of the errors on offense.
One exception: Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha struggled badly with Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones, who burned him for a touchdown early and appeared to have caught another one late before an offensive pass interference call wiped it out. He was also flagged for illegal contact on the Ravens' final drive. Asomugha may be playing well most of the time, but the spotlight is on him as the team's biggest 2011 free agent, and he's going to be judged on these big plays he gives up, unless he stops giving them up.
Medical ward: Left tackle King Dunlap, center Jason Kelce and Maclin were among the significant Eagles to leave the game with injuries. Waiting to hear, obviously, on long-range consequences. But Maclin was playing with a bad hip, and that's what he injured. He came back in the game, but it might make sense for the Eagles to try to manage that injury by limiting Maclin's playing time in the next couple of weeks or sitting him out for a game.
A note on the officiating: The NFL should be ashamed of itself. The officials' lockout is the height of arrogance, and the NFL believes it can pull it off. But the crew it sent here was a mess all day. Couldn't work the microphone. Didn't know the appropriate distance on penalties. Clearly nervous, and moreso as the close game went on. It's not these guys' fault they're in this impossible situation. It's the NFL's, for locking out the real officials. The league is cheating its fans and demeaning its product, and more people should be angry at the owners for what they're doing.
What's next: The Eagles travel to Arizona, where they will take on the Cardinals next Sunday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. ET. Former Eagle Kevin Kolb played quarterback for Arizona in place of the injured John Skelton in Sunday's upset victory over New England. It's possible Skelton could return, but right now it looks as though the Eagles should get ready for Kolb, whom they traded to Arizona last summer for Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick.