BUFFALO -- It was a total team effort, and not in a good way. For three quarters Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Eagles played an abysmal game on offense, an abysmal game on defense and an abysmal game by the coaching staff. Triple Abysmal, then -- and, no, it isn’t the name of an obscure IPA.
Then the Eagles made it interesting in the fourth quarter before losing to the Bills, 31-24. Only the future will tell us if that fourth quarter was meaningful, or just some camouflage for a team that is a lot more capable of playing wretched football than any of us ever suspected.
Trailing by 31-14 after three quarters, on merit, the combination of Mike Vick-to-DeSean Jackson woke them out of a slumber that featured four turnovers and some of the worst run defense, and worst tackling, any of us has seen by the Eagles since, well, since last week.
A 31-yard touchdown, a catch-and-run where Jackson tiptoed in along the sideline, brought the Eagles back to 31-21 with 14:51 left to play. A 26-yard catch by Jackson set up the 35-yard Alex Henery field goal that made it 31-24 with 9:29 left. That one could have been a touchdown, too -- Vick’s rushing score was called back because guard Danny Watkins was called for illegal hands to the face.
After the Eagles’ defense held -- not a misprint -- the Eagles had the ball on their own 20 and marched nicely down the field. With good blocking up front, Vick carved into the Bills’ defense with key completions to Jackson and Jason Avant. Faced with a third-and-3 at the Bills’ 25-yard line with 2 minutes remaining, a pass to Avant that was short of the first down line was intercepted kind of pried away from the Eagles’ receiver and intercepted by the Bills’ Nick Barnett. And that -- the Eagles’ fifth turnover of the day and Vick’s fourth interception -- was that.
Except for this final insult: with the Bills lined up to go for it on fourth-and-inches with 1:23 left, and with the Bills very obviously just calling signals in an attempt to get the Eagles to jump offsides -- a ploy that never works -- the Eagles’ Juqua Parker obliged.
Earlier, there were two memorable symbols of the Eagles’ futility. At the end of the first half, rather than kicking a field goal with 8 seconds remaining and (shockingly) no timeouts remaining, the Eagles decided to run a play instead, with Vick throwing an incompletion into the end zone. Despite their complaints that there should have been 1 second remaining, the officials ruled otherwise. It was a colossal error by Andy Reid.
Then, to open the second half, the Eagles tried a surprise onsides kick. Two things happened: 1) they didn’t recover and, 2) because they hadn’t waited for the referee’s whistle to put the ball in play, it wouldn’t have counted anyway.
What a mess.