Sunday, February 7, 2016

Eagles stay on the tightrope

Eagles 24, Ravens 23

Eagles stay on the tightrope

The Eagles defense celebrates a stop late in the fourth quarter that secured the victory over the Ravens. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
The Eagles defense celebrates a stop late in the fourth quarter that secured the victory over the Ravens. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles spent the first half against the Baltimore Ravens killing themselves. Michael Vick threw another across-his-body interception in the end zone. LeSean McCoy fumbled for the second time in two weeks. Vick and rookie Bryce Brown never connected on a handoff. One, two, three shots in the foot.

In the second half, the game was killing them. Center Jason Kelce, a crucial piece of their puzzle, left with a sprained knee that looked painful and required a trip on a cart to the locker room. Then, later in the third quarter, the Eagles lost left tackle King Dunlap (hamstring) and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (hip pointer) on consecutive plays. Maclin eventually came back, but the impediments were still piled pretty high.

Oh, and the Ravens are a championship-caliber team.

It added up to a tall order for the Eagles. But in the end, for the second consecutive week, they found a way. Trailing by 23-17 in the fourth quarter -- the Ravens’ Justin Tucker made field goals of 56, 51 and 48 yards along the way -- the Eagles got the ball back with 4:43 remaining. After that, this is what happened:

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Vick hit DeSean Jackson for 14 yards. He his Brent Celek, who had a monster game, for 24 yards. Vick scrambled for 8 yards. On a third-and-2, Vick hit Celek again for 13 yards. Then he hit Clay Harbor for 19 yards. For the second consecutive week, when it mattered most, despite everything, the quarterback was getting it done. This week, he was masterful.

And then, three plays later -- and after a ridiculous scare caused by bad officiating, when a Vick incompletion under duress was mistakenly ruled a fumble -- Vick scored on a shotgun draw. The Eagles, somehow, had a 24-23 lead. And then, one last time, the defense held.

The Eagles continue to ride the tightrope.

The Eagles are 2-0.

It was the Eagles’ second game of the season, and we continue trying to take their temperature. We see a defense that is much tougher and much more competitive than last season’s. We see an offense with scads of talent and only a scintilla of discipline. Taken together, the Eagles have been a careening car so far this season, forever on two wheels.

The truth is that we really won’t know for a while. The truth also is that the Eagles are playing a style -- communing with danger, always -- that is impossible as a long-term survival strategy. You cannot expect to give the ball away at such a ridiculous rate -- five last week, four this week -- and win games in the NFL. Not a lot of games, anyway, and especially not against good teams. The math is just too hard.

For a long time on Sunday, it appeared as if the Eagles would be defined by their mistakes. In the end, though, Vick made sure that would not be true.

Overall, here is the early-season verdict: if they could clean up some of their untidiness, this Eagles team might just be dangerous.

Daily News Executive Sports Editor
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About this blog
Rich Hofmann arrived at the Daily News in 1980 for a job whose status was officially designated as "full-time, temporary." A senior at Penn at the time, he was hired to fill in on the copy desk during a staff illness. The notion of him covering the Eagles or being a columnist did not exist in anyone's imagination. It was supposed to be six weeks and out, but he never left. It is only one of the reasons why so many people have concerns about him as a potential house guest. Rich has blogged the postseasons of the Flyers and Eagles. E-mail Rich at Reach Rich at

Rich Hofmann Daily News Executive Sports Editor
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