MIAMI – Whether Juan Castillo is back or not, and whether Andy Reid has to fire his defensive coordinator to save his job or not, the Eagles defense played inspired football for their embattled coach in a 26-10 win over a languid Miami Dolphins team on Sunday.
The 5-8 Eagles’ slim playoffs hopes are still alive for another week no matter who wins tonight’s Cowboys-Giants game. They still have to win their final three games to get to 8-8 and have any chance of winning the NFC East. They’re still not mathematically eliminated from the wild card race, but their best shot remains through their own division.
Michael Vick returned to action after missing the last three games with broken ribs. The Eagles quarterback was shaky, but managed to keep the turnovers to a minimum – he had only one interception – something Vince Young couldn’t do in his place.
Vick completed 15 of 30 passes for 208 yards with a touchdown. He also ran two times for nine yards
But the Eagles defense gets the credit for this win.
The offense scored 17 points off three Miami turnovers and the defense provided points, too, when defensive end Phillip Hunt -- dressing for the first time since October -- sacked quarterback J.P. Losman in the end zone for a fourth quarter safety.
Losman was in for the injured Matt Moore, who was knocked out of the game with a head injury.
The Eagles had a dubious start. Vick got knocked around like a pinball on the first possession and the Eagles were forced to punt. The right flank of the Eagles’ line broke down, however, and Chas Henry’s punt was blocked.
Miami had great field position at the Eagles 15 and cashed in on third down when Moore threw a beauty of a throw into the corner of the end zone and Brandon Marshall pulled in the pass for a 16-yard touchdown. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was covering. It was the fourth touchdown he allowed this season.
The Eagles punted on their next two possessions and were ineffective as Vick shook off the rust. But the Dolphins inexplicably attempted a 55-yard field goal and missed and the Eagles used great field position to put together a touchdown-scoring drive.
LeSean McCoy scored from two yards out for his 13th rushing touchdown and 16th overall score on the season. He added another a series later after Moore overthrew one of his receivers and Kurt Coleman picked him off for his fourth interception on the season. Coleman ran 35 yards down the Miami 1 and McCoy punched it in from there.
The turnovers didn’t end there for the Eagles. Asante Samuel, returning to his native South Florida, forced and recovered a fumble and an Alex Henery 40-yard field gave the Eagles a 17-7 lead.
Castillo’s defense held the Dolphins again and when Miami punted to DeSean Jackson he took two steps after he fielded the punt and then threw a lateral across the field to Curtis Marsh, who fumbled. It was a boneheaded call in that situation, but the Eagles got away with it because defensive end Jason Babin sacked Moore and forced another fumble.
Babin added two more sacks, giving him a career-high 15 on the season. The Eagles then capitalized on the turnover with Vick tossing a strike to Jackson from 40 yards out for a touchdown. It was the receiver’s first touchdown since Week 5 and only his third on the season.
It would be enough as Miami’s struggled to get anything substantial done in the second half. The Dolphins picked up a bunch of yards on the ground with Reggie Bush but they couldn’t convert in short yardage situations as the Eagles defense was stout all game.
The effort on defense for much of the season has been listless and Castillo has struggled to adapt in-game, but on this day his unit carried the Eagles.