THE BOTTOM LINE
IT WAS FUN to watch, the kind of thing you wish you could stuff into a time capsule. Michael Vick, with fresh legs, on a fast track, facing a blitz-happy opponent that went in hard and dared him to bolt the pocket.
Vick threw some fine passes in Sunday's season-opening victory at St. Louis, most notably finding DeSean Jackson in the end zone on a dead run. But the Eagles won because Vick darted through Steve Spagnuolo's defense, improvising for 100 rushing yards on eight carries, before taking a knee three times at the end and finishing with 97. (Yes, the official statistician miscounted initially; yesterday we said two kneeldowns, but it was three.)
The Eagles just aren't going to win that way very often. Vick's legs aren't going to feel fresh all year; every field isn't going to offer the Edward Jones Dome's footing. And, not to sound like a corrupted MP3 file, but Vick can't take the dozen or so hits he took Sunday every week, and still make it through the season.
"Without question," right tackle Todd Herremans said, when asked if the offense is going to have to look less like a jailbreak going forward. "I don't think that we're trying to lean on that style of play at all. We're definitely not satisfied with how we played, but we were able to win . . . as we watch the film, there's millions of things that we can work on and that we need to work on before we go down to Atlanta."
Eagles coach Andy Reid said yesterday that he felt his players struck the right tone after the game, that he could "tell by the comments that they were humble and that they understand the situation."
Reid took heart at the way Vick, while still not sliding, exactly, went down to avoid hits a few times.
"He was about halfway down. So that's a good thing; we're getting closer," Reid said.
In general, Reid said, "when people bring an extra guy, the receivers need to be dynamic . . . they've got to make sure that they clear fast and that Michael gets the ball out fast. Sometimes you're going to have to hang onto it just a tick longer because the defense does a pretty good job, and in those cases, you're going to take a hit. You've just got to know how to get rid of it and still lean out of the hit and protect yourself the best way you possibly can."
That it would take a date against the Eagles to get A.J. Feeley his first regular-season game action since Dec. 2, 2007, when Feeley threw four interceptions, starting for the Birds against Seattle. Three of them were to Lofa Tatupu, many Eagles fans recall.
Feeley, the Rams' backup quarterback, came on in the fourth quarter Sunday after Sam Bradford, the 2010 NFL offensive Rookie of the Year, banged a finger on his passing hand on Juqua Parker's helmet. Feeley completed two of six passes for 21 yards and was sacked once.
The NFL's worst red-zone defense in 2010 got off to a much better start in 2011. Yes, the Rams only made it to the red zone once, but it was first-and-goal from the 1 after the Nnamdi Asomugha interference penalty in the third quarter. The Eagles stuffed Cadillac Williams, then benefited from a false start by tight end Billy Bajema, then nearly got an interception from Jarrad Page, then watched Sam Bradford throw a terrible fade way past his receiver in the left corner of the end zone. The Rams settled for a field goal and didn't score again.
This is Michael Vick's return to Atlanta as a starter. But of course, we've already been through much of the hoo-ha we are going to have to wade through this week, 2 years ago, when the Eagles visited the Falcons with Vick backing up Donovan McNabb and playing a handful of snaps here and there.
On Dec. 6, 2009, in a 34-7 Eagles victory, Vick scored his first touchdown since 2006, when he wore a Falcons uniform, and also threw his first touchdown pass since that time. It was the first glimpse of the Vick who now starts for the Eagles. He completed both passes he threw that day and ran four times for 17 yards. He'll have to do a little more this week.
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