Eagles Sleepwalk their way to a bad 24-14 loss against Vikings

Vikings CB Anotine Winfield sacks Eagles QB Michael Vick for one of his two sacks in Minnesota’s upset 24-14 win over Philadelphia in the NFL’s first Tuesday game since 1946

In a must-win situation, the Philadelphia Eagles lethargically walked through a game that was more awkward than saying, “Tuesday Night Football”.  After waiting through a somewhat lengthy 2-day postponement, due to a snowstorm that seemed worse to the NFL than others – more on this later – the Eagles were outplayed in a 24-14 home loss to a Favre-less Vikings squad that had a record of 5-9 entering the game. 

Eagles head coach Andy Reid said of his team’s poor performance and losing potential playoff rest, “We don’t deserve it after that performance. Every phase was terrible. We didn’t coach well enough. We didn’t play well enough. I’m disappointed in myself. It’s embarrassing.”

After a 2-day league mandated postponement for a snow blizzard and public safety issues that were much debated – Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell got the ire-up of the Eagles by calling the postponers “Wussies” for not playing the game in Sunday Night’s snow storm and Sportscenter led with on Sunday: “Green Bay Girl Scouts would have been selling cookies in Philly Sunday” — the 2010 NFC East Champion Eagles were flat-out “Flat”. 

The Eagles lost their opportunity to have a bye in the 2010 NFL Playoffs, they had a myriad of things go against them, many of which were their own undoing.  The Birds had too many penalties (12), forgot to run the ball (55 called passes to 16 runs), could not protect their quarterback (sacked 6 times and hit numerous other times), protected the ball poorly (3 turnovers including a fumble recovery touchdown to 1 for Minnesota) and most of all just plain “sloppy” — poor on 3rd down conversions offensively (36%) and defensively (46%).

Much to the Eagles’ chagrin, Minnesota led by former college dual threat quarterback turned part time NFL receiver and first time league starter, Joe Webb (rookie 6th Rd from UAB), brought their “A” game on a night where they were 14 ½ point underdogs.  The Vikings must have not liked staying four nights in the “bunker” like conditions of the Four Seasons Hotel as they were hungry for a win on their 2010 last appearance on the national stage (NBC “Sunday Night Football” turned to Tuesday Night). 

In a season that started out with very high expectations – missed Super Bowl by a 3-point loss in 2009 season – only to go awry – Favre Sexting allegations, roof collapsing at Metrodome, Randy Moss Trade/Waive, head coach Brad Childress firing….I can go on and on.  The Vikings decided that the NFL’s first Tuesday Night game since 1946 (New York Giants at the Boston Yanks) would serve as their Super Bowl.  Vikings DE Jared Allen said after his team’s big win, “I think this was a big win because it was a national game. We wanted to let people know that we are still here to play even though we went through a rough patch. It has been a crazy season and after the last two days and all we went through, this was a nice win.”

Interim head coach Leslie Frazier and his team must have used their time wisely at the palatial hotel by dissecting the Eagles as their game plan was spot-on.  Nine days after the Eagle’s second Miracle at the Meadowlands, there would be no magical Philly comeback this time.  Webb was able to dance around the pocket and make plays on 3rd downs like a young Randall Cunningham, All-World RB Adrian Peterson (22 rushes for 118 yards and 1 TD) was running downhill, and the Vikings beleaguered defense – have allowed 328 points in 2011 – held Philly to 14 points, while bottling-up and beating-down Eagles Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick.

Webb, making his first career start instead of Favre (concussion) looked like the veteran quarterback in the game. Peterson said of his young quarterback, “He came out and did his job and did it well”.  The youngster from UAB threw for numbers 17-26 for 195 yards and also added a rushing touchdown. But most importantly, he did not turn over the football against an Eagles defense that tried to rough him up early. 

Conversely Vick (25 of 43 (career-high for attempts), 263 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT with 63 rushing yards and 1 TD), who was named the NFC’s starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl earlier Tuesday, had to fight through a first quarter quad contusion while playing behind a porous Eagles offensive line.  MV7 basically handed the NFL’s 2010 Most Valuable Player Award to Patriots QB Tom Brady as he probably had his worst performance of the 2010 season.  Vick, on a night where no one cared that he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, was harassed into an interception and two fumbles. 

Frazier said of the challenge of playing Vick, “The more we watched tape on Michael Vick, the more he made you kind of shake in your boots a little bit because he’s making so many plays on so many people.  And we just felt like we needed to attack him and not let him attack us as much as we saw him attack other people. Our guys did a great job of executing all the things we had talked about in practice.”

The turning point of the whole game was Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield (2 sacks in the game) performing a “quadruple” with the score tied at 7-7 in the final minute of the first half.  Winfield, who looked like he was in the Birds’ backfield all night, sacked Vick, stripped the ball, recovered it on the run and sprinted untouched for 45-yard a score that left Philadelphia faithful stunned.

Frazier, who is coaching his way into losing his “interim” label, said after his team’s gratifying win, “It was a great effort by our players to battle the way that they had to all week and they showed perseverance that has become the hallmark of our team over the last few weeks. I can’t say enough about our players and the attitude they showed this week and I’m glad they were rewarded for it.”  However in the other lockerroom at the Linc there was whole different feeling in the air – remember when your high school coach would bark after a loss, “I don’t want to hear one word on the bus going home” – as Reid was disgusted.   The 12-year head coach obviously was upset by a poor effort, but he looked like a man that was going to angrily pick-up the pieces while kicking giving his team a good kick in the butt.

Because Reid – still 37-17 in the month of December for his career – knows that his Birds cannot lament over their “Terrible Tuesday” loss for too long as they have too much coming too quickly.  This young beat-up squad, who are now firmly the No. 3 seed in the NFC, must play the second leg of a 3-game stretch in a 12 or 13-day span with the Dallas Cowboys (5-10) coming in on Sunday.  Though the Cowboys’ game is basically meaningless, the Eagles (10-5) definitely should use the game to work out the kinks.  The 2010 Playoffs will be starting soon enough and more than likely the 2009 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints (11-4) or the Green Bay Packers (9-6) will be waiting on Wildcard Weekend as the conference’s sixth seed with their superstar quarterback ready to make Webb’s performance look paltry.

The Birds will now have to win three playoff games to reach the Super Bowl with more than likely 2 road games, so they have work to do. However some hope is that former SB Champs, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2007 New Giants both had to fight through the Wildcard Round before winning it all, but the Eagles are a long way from talking about Dallas and Super Bowl XLV.

My advice for the Eagles is to use this loss as motivation and then get some much-needed rest against the Cowboys before the playoffs.  But I think a disgruntled Reid has other plans for his young team. 

 Reid closed his news conference by sternly talking of resting his team for the playoffs, “We’re not good enough to do that.”


Lloyd Vance is an NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)