ST. LOUIS -- First weeks in the NFL season are, by their very nature, untidy. First weeks after off-seasons interrupted by lockouts, as it turns out, are something worse than untidy. But even amid the clutter of their 31-13 victory over the Rams on Sunday, it was possible to see why the Eagles entered this season with a realistic hope of making a long run into January.
Yes, the offensive line, tight ends and running backs had their hands more than full dealing with the blitzing pressure of the Rams' defense. Quarterback Michael Vick was hit too often. Especially early on, the whole operation left people filled with the same dread that they had been embracing all summer, a dread that multiplied when the team began switching everybody's position in the last 2 weeks.
But here is the thing: it did get better as the game went on. The same could be said for a run defense that was gashed for a 47-yard Steven Jackson touchdown on the Rams' first play from scrimmage. All of the summer's worst fears were realized in that moment, and in the next couple of drives -- but then, like the offensive line, it pulled itself together as the game wore on. Of course, it helped that Jackson suffered a quad injury on the game's second series.
DeSean Jackson? Yes, he dropped what should have been an 88-yard touchdown pass. But he also caught 6 balls for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Vick? Yes, he was hit too often. And, yes, he made some head-scratching throws. But he also countered the Rams' blitz with his legs, sometimes to devastating effect; 8 carries and 100 yards before a couple of clock-killing kneel-downs at the end of the game. And on the touchdown pass to Jackson in the third quarter, Vick made the kind of throw that pretty much nobody else in the NFL can make -- scrambling to his left, presssure in his face, falling backward, he still got the ball to Jackson accurately, on time and with enough oomph. It really was a beauty.
Shady McCoy was excellent running the ball -- 15 carries, 122 yards and a touchdown (plus another receiving TD). On the other side of the ball, the Eagles' front four pass rush was consistent and consistently punishing. They finished the game with five sacks, two by Jason Babin.
So it was all on display, the good and the bad, all of it wrapped around the general messiness of this partticular opening game. There was plenty of fuel for both the optimists and the skeptics to feed their arguments for another week. But in the end, the skeptics are trailing, 1-0.