“You’ve got to shake it off, 7,” said former Eagles linebacker Ike Reese, now a media man about town in Philadelphia.
“Oh, no doubt, no doubt,” said
Sunday is here. The new one is the Baltimore Ravens defense, one that flies to the football, that creates turnovers, that changes it look from play to play and that thrives on applying pressure to the quarterback.
This is a huge one for the Eagles and for Vick, who insisted all week that he put the struggles from last Sunday’s win over Cleveland behind him as soon as the game was over, one won late thanks in large part to a 91-yard Vick-led touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
All eyes are on Vick today for this home opener, of course. Eagles fans reacted with great concern to the performance last week that included four turnovers. It is fair to wonder how much the rust accumulated during an inactive preseason affected Vick and his timing. It is also fair to wonder how a veteran quarterback could struggle as he did in certain situations.
But, hey, it happens, right? Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions for the Lions, but a late touchdown by Detroit beat the Rams last Sunday and Stafford and Co. move on and nobody has made him a national story this week.
So why Vick? Well, because he’s Michael Vick, and because this is Philadelphia and because it wouldn’t be game day without a side order of angst to go along with the bacon, eggs and Scrapple for breakfast.
The truth is, though, that this is a perfect platform for Vick to get back on the right track and lift this offense to the great heights everyone expects. It’s the home opener and the fans are raring to go. It’s a gorgeous day in Philadelphia. It’s a perfect Sunday to play football.
And Vick has something to prove. Turnovers is the statistic that, more than any other, killed the playoff chances a year ago. How many times have you heard “If we can reduce our turnovers …” from the offense and the team in the months after the 2011 campaign?
Last week’s game would have been a lot more comfortable had it not been for the five turnovers, four of which – the interceptions -- led directly to Cleveland points. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that the Eagles defense was playing lights-out football , even with the Browns generally having great field position for most of the second half when
Today’s challenge is significant for Vick and for the Eagles. This isn’t the Ravens team of a few years ago when 17 points might be good enough to win the game. Baltimore is a balanced team offensively, explosive enough to blow open a Monday night game against Cincinnati. The Ravens are stacked, in fact, on offense. They play an up-tempo game, and they play it well.
The Eagles have to score points to win. They need to come out playing precision football against a pressure-oriented Baltimore defense that jumps on every loose ball and poor throw and tries to score six points the other way immediately.
How do the Eagles get Vick into an early groove? They tried last week by moving the pocket and throwing short passes and getting the football out of his hands. It worked for a time as Vick completed his first six passes. Then came the interceptions and the questions and the concern.
Would offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid do something today to change the script? Run heavily early? Use some no-huddle to get the Ravens off track? Call some running plays for Vick to get him loose and force the Ravens to account for his legs, too?
That the Eagles prefer opening the game throwing the football is no secret. Like most teams, the Eagles try to get a lead in the first half and then have a more mixed offense in the second half. The script doesn’t always work that way, but that’s the intention.
The sense here is that with wide receivers
That may not be a bad way to go, anyway. The Ravens are going to tax Juan Castillo’s defense in many ways, and that is certainly something to keep an eye on.
But No. 7 is going to be the focal point, as usual. He’s the dynamic heart of the offense, and today is his stage, his show, to put his game back on the rails. What do we want? Good decisions, accurate passes and perfect timing. He’s got a lot on his shoulders today, Michael Vick does, with the whole world of Eagles fans watching and hopeful that the big stage against a great opponent is the right formula for Vick and the team to win the home opener today.