Pinned in the heart of the Eagles second half schedule, many overlooked the matchup with the Houston Texans on Thursday night. Even though it was a non-conference game, it was a must win for the Eagles considering how tight the NFC is looking at this point in the season. Once again, Michael Vick carried Philadelphia on his back and led the Eagles to a 34-24 win at Lincoln Financial Field.
Offensively, the Eagles continued their dominance of opposing defenses. Vick led the Eagles to touchdowns on four of six red zone possessions and to a 50 percent third down conversion rate. He controlled the game and let the offense work itself out against one of the worst defenses in the league.
Defensively, the Eagles were pretty shaky. The Texans scored touchdowns on all three of their red zone trips. Coming into the game Philadelphia allowed touchdowns on 76.7 percent of red zone possessions, which is the worst in the league. Now for the grades:
Was Michael Vick slippery or what against the Texans? He dodged a couple of tackles throughout the game that should have resulted in sacks and he instead turned them into big carries. He had his fifth game of the season with a quarterback rating over 100 and his seventh over 90. Vick completed 22 of 33 passes for 302 yards (third time in four games throwing over 300 yards).
Vick did a great job controlling the game under pressure. He had his first come from behind win as the Eagles starting quarterback. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown (on top of a rushing touchdown) in the fourth quarter. That’s a passer rating of 153.2. The Eagles are averaging 33.6 points per game with Vick under center and have scored over 25 points in each of those games.
I’m still a bit worried and annoyed by Vick’s refusal to slide. He said in an interview after the game that he knows how to slide, but would rather not to. He’s all smiles right now while he is healthy, but one hit can end all of the Eagles dreams with Vick under center.
Running backs: A
On the ground, LeSean McCoy only rushed 12 times for 44 yards. However, McCoy hauled in a team high eight passes for 86 yards and finished with two touchdowns on the day. On the season he has 67 receptions, which is only 23 away from tying the Eagles single season record set by Brian Westbrook in 2007. He is averaging just over five catches per game and with four games left, he is poised to contend for that record. I really cannot say enough about how much Shady has developed in the last year. He is extremely versatile and does a great job making people miss.
Even though he only had three touches on the night, Jerome Harrison had a huge third down carry that went for 14 yards. He broke a tackle and quickly moved to the edge of the field and beat out a couple of linebackers.
Wide Receivers: A –
This was the first game of the season that the Eagles got solid production from the big three of their receiving core: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Jackson finished with 84 yards, Maclin with 68 and Celek with 55. Granted they were facing one of the worst secondaries in football, but still they seemed to do a good job getting open at all points of the field. It seems like Vick and Celek are starting to get more comfortable together, as the tight end was targeted a season high seven times from No. 7. Also, hats off to Brent Celek for keeping the Eagles in the game late in the fourth quarter when he stretched for a first down on 3rd and 19. That play changed the outcome of the game.
What is the deal with Jason Avant? For the third time this season Avant dropped a touchdown pass that could have changed the outlook of the game. He is regarded as having some of the best hands in football, but seems to miss at the worst possible times. Both Avant and Celek dropped touchdown passes on a second half drive that resulted in a touchdown.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line only allowed one sack to the Texans. More impressively, they only allowed two tackles and one tackle for a loss to Mario Williams, who is regarded as one of the most dominant defensive ends in the country. However the line as a whole continues to buckle against the blitz. Imagine what Vick could do with more time in the pocket.
Jason Peters had a great game blocking, and impressively without any penalties. He made great blocks on almost every big passing play. Todd Herremans was really inconsistent and allowed too many defenders in the backfield.
Defensive Line/Linebackers: C –
Let’s just say that if Michael Vick had as much time as Matt Schaub in the pocket, the Eagles would average 50 points a game. The front four did a terrible job getting to Schaub all night. They only blitzed nine times, which resulted in two sacks. Brandon Graham played in 70 percent of the snaps, but was practically invisible on the field. Trent Cole, a man who seems to be able to get past any offensive lineman, was shut down for most of the game. Aside from Trevor Laws’ interception in the first half, the defensive line was very unproductive against a mediocre Texans offensive line.
Stewart Bradley had another great game for the Eagles. He has been very quiet all season, but finally showed signs of leadership on Thursday. Bradley made a couple of big tackles against Arian Foster that went for losses. However, Bradley, like the rest of the linebackers, gave up a couple of big plays to tight end Joel Dreessen.
The second straight game without Asante Samuel and the Eagles secondary was torched again. Matt Schaub passed for 337 yards, 149 of which went to Andre Johnson. The Texans star receiver was injured for most of the first half, which shows how big of an impact he had in the second half. Both Nate Allen and Dmitri Patterson were beat badly on a head fake by Johnson in the second quarter that went for 42 yards.
That being said, the Eagles defense still was able to pull things together late in the fourth quarter. They were in a tough spot and the offense picked them off the ground and put them on their back. The defense really needs to step up heading into Dallas and New York.
Special Teams: A
It finally happened. The Eagles returned a kickoff for the first time this season, and one of the first times in the last decade, but then it all came crashing down on a Clay Harbor holding call. Watching Jorrick Calvin celebrate after the return without knowing there was a penalty was painful. He still rebounded and averaged over 23 yards per return.
Congratulations to Eagles kicker David Akers. He became the all-time leader in starts in franchise history (184), surpassing former safety Brian Dawkins. Akers also accounted for 10 points for the Eagles on Thursday night.
Now is when things get very interesting for the Eagles. They finish the season playing the Dallas Cowboys twice, the New York Giants at the Meadowlands and at home against the Minnesota Vikings. For the first time in the last few seasons, a 10-win team might not make the playoffs in the NFC. Now is when we see what the real Philadelphia Eagles are like and how they can respond on the road in Dallas and New York.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you must watch the Eagles post-game locker room celebration