The Eagles will rebound. They have no choice. They have had tough openers before in Andy Reid's tenure, and they have always banded together and shown great fortitude and turned the season around. On Sunday, the Eagles took their lumps early and came up just short in a 27-20 loss to Green Bay. It was a tough way to begin the new season, the new generation, and now Reid has the job in front of him of making sure his team gets back on the right track right away.
It won't be easy. A gruesome left knee injury suffered by fullback Leonard Weaver, a torn ACL pending an MRI, and the long-term prognosis didn't appear promising, although there was no official word after the game. Center Jamaal Jackson left the game a torn biceps injury, waving himself off the field between plays, and that injury could end his season.
Michael Vick led a tremendous comeback in the fourth quarter, but in the end a fourth-and-1 Vick run was stuffed and, well, here we are. Oh and 1. The Eagles managed just 49 total yards in the first half and were down 27-10 before Vick rallied the offense and the defense, helped by a Nate Allen interception, climbed back into the game.
But with time winding down, with the Eagles driving, the Packers blitzed the line of scrimmage and stuffed Vick (16 of 24 passing, 175 yards, 11 carries, 103 yards) at the line of scrimmage and the game was over.
Disappointing, yes. Promising, yes, in the way the Eagles came roaring back in the fourth quarter.
And many questions to answer in the long run.
The Eagles played the second half without quarterback Kevin Kolb and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, both of whom suffered concussions. Will they return on Sunday against Detroit in a critical early-season game? Stay tuned. If Kolb is healthy, said Reid, he will start. There is no quarterback controversy, so it isn't worth the effort to try to stir it up. Kolb is the quarterback and the Eagles will grow with him.
Meanwhile, the Eagles put up a valiant effort defensively for the most part, employing all kinds of schemes against the potent Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay offense. But in the end, the Packers showed why many believe they are a Super Bowl-caliber team. Green Bay committed just one penalty and after an early interception, played a near-flawless game mixing the run and pass.
The Eagles couldn't get anything going with Kolb in the game. DeSean Jackson garnered double- and sometimes triple-coverage from the Packers secondary and was blanked until midway through the third quarter. Tight end Brent Celek had one pass thrown his way in the first half. The Eagles generated a meager 49 total net yards of offense in those first two quarters, gaining just three first downs.
What happened? Well, there were a bunch of penalties -- an illegal formation call when Vick opened the game at wide receiver, an offensive pass interference penalty against Celek, a holding call against Jason Peters -- and the Packers were able to pressure Kolb despite playing with just two defensive tackles -- because of injuries -- and five linebackers on the field.
Even when the Eagles had something going, as they did early in the third quarter, they made mistakes to end chances. Eldra Buckley caught a pass from Vick and struggled for extra yardage. But he lost the football, Green Bay recovered and then drove for a touchdown to turn a 13-3 halftime lead into a huge 20-3 advantage in the third quarter.
Then, after Vick inspired another drive with a 31-yard scramble to reach the 2-yard line, a handoff to LeSean McCoy seemingly got the Eagles into the end zone as McCoy reached out around the left end. But no.
Clay Harbor was penalized for holding and, oh, by the way, Jason Peters limped off the field with an injury. McCoy scored a couple of plays later and it was 20-10 and the Eagles had some energy at Lincoln Financial Field.
But Rodgers got the ball back after Jordy Nelson's kickoff return to the 49-yard line and the Packers struck quickly, scoring a touchdown on a 32-yard pass from Rodgers to Greg Jennings, working against Ellis Hobbs.
That made it 27-10 and turned the mood in South Philadelphia to dark and gloomy. The last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter lifted the spriris and made things extremely interesting -- the Eagles had the ball, a touchdown away from a tie -- but the fact is the Eagles are 0-1 and they need to forget about the loss and look to Detroit.
There is much work to do. That is obvious. The injuries are a huge problem and the challenge for Howie Roseman and his staff is to find a competent replacement for Weaver, a Pro Bowl player a year ago. Mike McGlynn needs to step up at center. After an injury-free preseason, the Eagles were smacked in the face by a spate of serious ones, and the roster is going to need to be addressed.
Just as important is the mental state of this young team. The Eagles came out playing excellent football in the first half. Sean McDermott's defense pressured Rodgers and forced the early turnover -- a Joselio Hanson interception. The offense, though, just couldn't get it going. Green Bay had too much going on. The Packers covered the Eagles receivers very, very well and that raises some questions, such as this: If teams double and triple Jackson, who steps up to become the go-to receiver? The Eagles had no answers in the opener.
As for what is next, the Eagles need to get it together quickly. Teams find out who their leaders are in times like this. The NFL season is a long, winding road and it makes no sense to count out the Eagles right now.
But it was an unpleasant start, and not just on the scoreboard. The Eagles have no choice but to regroup. That process starts immediately, with Detroit -- coming of a tough, emotional loss and without its starting quarterback -- waiting on Sunday.
Certainly, Reid will accentuate the comeback, the heart the team showed. The Eagles didn't quit, not a bit. The fourth quarter was a thriller. The Eagles have something to build upon.
*NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT *
<span id="1284331500534S"> </span>Juqua Parker had an excellent game at left defensive end, one of four the Eagles used in the game. Parker had a couple of sacks and really handled the edge. The Eagels used Brandon Graham, Parker, Antwan Barnes and Stewart Bradley at the position.
- Too many penalties and Reid knows he needs to get that cleaned up. Green Bay played with the discipline of a contending team while the Eagles played a team with 22 new players on its roster from last year's end-of-season roster.
- The pass-interference penalty against Celek was, upon review, an awful call. But who can complain about the refs on a day like this?
- Great game for Sav Rocca, who averaged 47.6 yards per punt on five kicks.
- Tough game for Buckley, who also had a penalty for running into a fair catch by punt return man Treman Willians.
- Bobby April won't be happy with his kickoff return team. Jordy Nelson averaged 31 yards on kickoff returns.
- A key drive for Green Bay was at the end of the first half when the Packers drove 39 yards on seven plays, eating up only 41 seconds. Mason Crosby then kicked a 56-yard field goal, a Packers franchise record.
- The Eagles had 10 penalties for 80 yards, while the Packers committed two penalties. Big difference there.
- Red zone, anyone? The Eagles were two of three inside the 20-yard line, but the one they missed hurt late in the game and forced them to go for a touchdown in the final minutes.
- Good game for McCoy, who really can make plays in the screen game.