NEW ORLEANS -- We watched the sideline at the start of the second half for any clues. Michael Vick warmed up, Nick Foles warmed up, and it all seemed the same as always. The defense started on the field and, as they watched, Vick wore a baseball cap and Foles wore a baseball cap. Same as always.
Then, after Brandon Graham sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees, forced a fumble and recovered it -- and, no, that was not a misprint -- Vick put on his helmet and jogged easily out to the huddle. The game was still his. Trailing by 21-3, his team lacking even a hint of a spark, Vick remained in charge.
Then, bang -- a 77-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson, one of those play-action, rollout deals from 2010.
Then, bang -- the Eagles recover a Saints fumble on the kickoff. But they had to settle for a field goal.
After that, whatever the Eagles had gotten going all dribbled away. The final score was 28-13. The team has lost four games in a row and is now 3-5 at the halfway point of the season. The prospects look more grim by the day.
Where is this headed? We all sense that coach Andy Reid could go to Foles at some point because, well, just because. You wonder how close he came to making the move at halftime. We will never likely know. And it is fair to say this: Vick played with more fire in the second half, more of the “swag” he promised to re-discover.
But they can’t get it blocked, and he does sometimes make the line’s job harder, and some of this is on him. But only some. And to make the move would be to turn a very big page, and probably irrevocably. It is not something to be done lightly.
But you wonder.
How close did it come to happening?
The only justification for making a change would have been an attempt to create that spark, to resuscitate a really dead-looking team. Vick was not the biggest issue on Monday night, and did not deserve to be benched. The offensive line, which lost right tackle Todd Herremans during the game, is now four-fifths backups -- and it is playing like it.
Vick’s toughness has never been questioned, and it will not be now. He is taking a hellacious beating, but he always gets up for the next play. We do not know how Foles, the rookie from Arizona, might wear the same beating. Maybe he would get the ball out quicker and get hit less often than Vick does, but even acknowledging that possibility, this line is so threadbare right now that Foles would be seriously tested, and tattooed.
So does that make sense?
Vick was sacked seven times against the Saints. Most of them were almost-instantaneous suffocations. There was little he could do.
This entire discussion, ongoing for weeks now, is becoming exhausting. Because, on the one hand, there is the beating Vick is taking. But, on the other hand, there are some of the plays he is making/not making -- like the wide throw near the goal line to tight end Brent Celek and Celek barely tipped with one hand -- tipped it right into a 98-yard interception return the other way.
On the one hand, there are the plays he does make and there is the toughness -- which really does need to be underlined. On the other hand, though, there is his inability to sense pressure on too many plays where there is an alternative to getting clobbered.
All we know for sure is that this offense has ground completely to a halt in the last month. And that the Eagles were 0-for-5 in trying to score touchdowns in the red zone. Even on a night where they ran for more than 200 yards (including Vick’s scrambles), they could not find a way to put up the requisite points against a truly lousy defensive team.
If the answers were obvious, Reid would have already tried them. And, to repeat, most people figure he will make a change at quarterback at some point because he will have no other alternative. It is just the nature of the deal.
And while it is not all Vick’s fault, well, you can be sure that Reid knew very well, as he walked off of the field on Monday night, that he would another long night of thinking ahead of him.