The Eagles were tested early but ultimately emerged victorious with a season opening win against the Rams, upping Andy Reid’s record to 6-7 in season openers.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Eagles got the job done on Sunday.
Championship caliber teams survive when they are tested. While there is a lot of football still to be played over the next 16 weeks, the Eagles (1-0) passed an early test and gave glimpses of why some have penciled them in to play for the Lombardi Trophy in February, topping the Rams 31-13 in week one.
As expected Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo brought the house against the Eagles offense, often confusing the Eagles offensive line and running backs with blitz packages that sent Michael Vick running for his life time and time again. Then the Rams gashed the interior of the Eagles youthful new-look defense for a Steven Jackson 47-yard touchdown run that left MLB Casey Matthews with tire marks across his back, but ultimately the defense settled down to make plays. Jackson left the game shortly thereafter with an injury and finished with two carries for 56 yards.
That was one of the lone highlights for St. Louis.
“You work through the first game and the first part of the season and that’s what you are seeing as you watch the different games,” Reid said. “You have to enjoy these things-every one you get.”
Vick was spectacular at eluding pressure, rushing for 98 yards against a defense that was woefully unprepared to contain him — added to his NFL record of QB rushing for 100 yards in a game before to kneel-downs. The Eagles franchise quarterback also added two passing touchdowns, rekindling his fruitful connection with WR DeSean Jackson who ended up with six catches, 102 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles offense thrived on passes over the middle of the field where Vick was 11-21 and completed both of his touchdown passes.
“I’m thankful for the victory, don’t get me wrong,” Vick said afterwards. “I just wish that it could have been a little cleaner.”
Philadelphia’s offensive line bore down in the second half once the offense settled into a more balanced attack using the run game late. RB LeSean McCoy topped the century mark with 122 yards on 15 carries and added the exclamation point for the Birds, a 49-yard fourth quarter touchdown scamper. The Eagles second year-back also hauled in a first quarter score.
On the defensive side of the ball the linebackers struggled early to fight off blocks and appeared to get swallowed up against the run by Rams interior linemen, but later settled. The pass rush was as good as anyone could ask for. New Eagles additions DE Jason Babin and DT Cullen Jenkins showed why the Eagles gave them big money contracts this offseason, Babin had two sacks and Jenkins added one. All told the Eagles pass rush was the strength of the defense with five sacks and held the Rams to 2-12 on third downs.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was driven from the game with a hand injury in the fourth quarter, but he was held in check all afternoon, finishing just 17-30 for 188 yards.
Next up for the Eagles is a Sunday night showdown with the Falcons in Atlanta in week two. While the Bears shut down Matt Ryan and company, winning 30-12 at Soldier Field, the Falcons present even more difficult challenges than the Rams. Michael Turner will look to duplicate Jackson’s early success and Ryan is a much more polished version of Sam Bradford. Besides, The Falcons are 17-1 in games Ryan starts at the Georgia Dome.
All of those questions can marinate for the next week, but for now the Eagles are 1-0 and atop the NFC East after the Giants fell to the Redskins in the season opener — Cowboys later lost their first game in a heartbreaker to NY Jets.
Afterwards Reid spoke about his team’s depth saying “We’re blessed to have some good players. We’ve had them over the years, to coach good players I was curious to see how they would respond in the tough times of the game and in the high times. They never hung their head, the new guys or the old guys.”
Clearing the notebook:
- Not only was First round pick OG Danny Watkins demoted to backing-up Kyle DeVan at right guard, but he was among the inactives on Sunday. It will be interesting to see what his role develops into as the season goes along, and what how much time he will get with the first unit on the practice field at Novacare starting this week.
- DE Juqua Parker’s 56 yard fumble return touchdown in the first quarter, which was the team’s second score of the game, was the defensive end’s second career score. His first was a 55 yard interception that he took to the house against the 49ers in October 2008.
- WR Jeremy Maclin hauled in one pass for 20 yards on Sunday, which is a significant step from his offseason health ordeals and missing all of training camp and the preseason. Maclin hails from St. Louis and had 1,000 friends and family members in attendance.