CLEVELAND -- On a day where pretty much everything the Eagles did on offense was disconcerting, except for the final score, the Eagles beat the Browns in their 2012 season opener, 17-16. And with that, the hand-wringing will understandably begin in earnest.
Why? Mostly because quarterback Michael Vick threw four interceptions, and because the Eagles forgot to run the ball for long stretches of the afternoon, and because the offensive line struggled (early in the game, especially) to get the Browns' pass rush blocked. Other than that, things were fine.
The Vick business will linger, though -- because, after a training camp that really wasn't much of a training camp at all because of injuries, the quarterback really did look bad at times. He is their most important player and he almost lost a game to Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who threw four interceptions himself and had a quarterback rating of 5.1.
The Eagles held a 10-3 lead at the half. Their touchdown came with 17 seconds remaining in the second quarter, on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Vick to Jeremy Maclin. Up until that point, the half had been a tragicomedy of penalties by the Eagles and missed blocks. But they pulled it together on that last drive. They got it blocked. They executed. It appeared as if things had stabilized.
But then Vick just kept throwing the ball away. His pick in the first half was a clasically poor decision -- rolling left, throwing back across his body to his right, just a recipe for disaster. And as the second half wound down, it just kept getting worse and worse. Vick was locking on his receivers with a laser and never seemed to see a sea of white jerseys and orange helmets.
One interception was into triple coverage -- yes, triple. He had all day on another one and still failed to see two defenders. The absolute disaster came in the fourth quarter, when he locked on to Maclin and threw another interception when D'Qwell Jackson stepped in and returned the pick for the touchdown that gave the Browns a 16-10 lead.
On the Eagles' next series, offensive coordinator Marty Morninweg finally remembered that he had a running attack -- or so feared what Vick might do that he fed the ball steadily to LeSean McCoy and also to rookie Bryce Brown. They moved the ball decently, but then the drive stalled -- and kicker Alex Henery missed a 45-yard field goal attempt, wide left.
On the Eagles' next drive, with the clock inside of 4 minutes, Vick was forced to run on third and 10 from the Browns' 32-yard line. He was hit, fumbled, recovered and came up a couple of feet short of a first down. Then Browns coach Pat Shurmur challenged the ruling on the field of a fumble and recovery by Vick. The challenge was denied. It was fourth-and-1 with 3:01 remaining.
McCoy ran over the right side for 3 yards and the first down. On first down, Vick just missed a diving Maclin in the back of the end zone. On second down, Vick hit tight end Brent Celek -- and Celek bulled his way to the 3-yard line. There were 2 minutes remaining.
First-and-goal at the 3. McCoy and Brown both in the backfield. The give was to Brown for a loss of 1 yard.
Second-and-goal. Vick was throwing to Maclin and somehow, Browns linebacker LJ Fort failed to intercept.
Third-and-goal. Good time.
TD pass to Clay Harbor.
With 1:18 remaining, the Eagles had a 17-16 lead.
What follows will be the recriminations.