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Eagles Find Opening Drive Magic

Posted Nov 11, 2012

The tried-and-true philosophy for the Eagles that had worked so well for the team over the years was to jump on teams early and unleash the defense to protect the lead.

The Eagles, however, have struggled in scoring early in 2012. That was until Sunday's loss to Dallas. The Eagles took the opening kickoff and marched 81 yards in 10 plays which resulted in Michael Vick throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper on a fade pattern for the game's opening points. It was the Eagles' first points on an opening drive all season.

"That play has always been in, but we finally called it today," Cooper said. "Mike put it right where it needed to be. It couldn’t have been anywhere else. He put it right where it needed to be and I went up, used my size and jumping ability. It felt good to get that first touchdown of the year.

"We came out on fire. We were firing on all cylinders. We were marching it down the field. We got that score and we thought it was going to be that way all game."

It was intriguing to see how the Eagles would gameplan for the Cowboys defense with the injuries along the offensive line. Todd Herremans was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week and Danny Watkins missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. Demetress Bell started at left tackle, Dennis Kelly was in at right guard and King Dunlap was the man at right tackle. Left guard Evan Mathis is the only starter from Week 1 at his original position.

Despite the injuries up front, the Eagles were aggressive, yet balanced in attacking the Cowboys on the initial drive. On the first play, Vick connected with tight end Brent Celek for a 17-yard gain. The Eagles followed that up with another short pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson, which gained 9 yards.

"We just came out and attacked," Jackson said. "We were going to come out real smooth and everybody made plays. It was what we intended to do."

Dallas defensive tackle Jason Hatcher helped out on two third-down situations. He was called for offsides on third-and-1 from the Eagles' 45-yard line. Three plays later, Hatcher was flagged for encroachment from the Cowboys' 43-yard line on third-and-3.

The Eagles made the Cowboys pay for those mistakes. On second-and-10 from the Cowboys' 38-yard line, Vick threw a designed bubble screen to his left for Jackson, who zigged and zagged around the field for a 31-yard gain to the 7-yard line.

Once inside the 20-yard line, the Eagles had to prove that they could overcome their red zone issues from last Monday's loss to New Orleans. The Eagles were 0-for-5 in the red zone with two turnovers, including a pick-six against the Saints.

On first down, LeSean McCoy took a handoff after a shotgun snap for a 2-yard line. On second down, Vick took the snap in a designed pass play. With no one open, he scrambled for a 3-yard gain to the 2-yard line.

With the Eagles facing third down, Vick took the snap and looked immediately to his far left where Cooper was lined up. Vick lofted the ball up to Cooper, who was matched up against first-round cornerback Morris Claiborne, and snatched the ball for the touchdown. It was his third career touchdown. His previous one also came against an NFC East rival last year at New York.

"It was all on Coach (Andy Reid). He gave me the opportunity to go out there and make the play. He's been talking all week about how he wanted me to go up and get it," Cooper said. "It felt good to finally come down with one."

Two years ago, the Eagles scored 110 points in the first quarter of their games. Even last season, the Eagles had 76 in the opening stanza. Getting the early boost was welcomed not only by the fans, but by the defense as well.

"It was great to see our offense go down and make a drive," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "It was really uplifting for our team. It gave us that spark, that energy on defense to know that we just need to hold them. If we hold them, we'll be fine."

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