JACKSONVILLE – Don't let the final score fool you. With 1:37 left in the first half on Sunday, the Eagles held a very slight 7-3 lead. Following a 10-yard punt return by Jorrick Calvin, the offense took over at their own 47-yard-line and embarked on the drive that would change the nature of the game.
With no timeouts in his arsenal, Michael Vick led the Eagles down the field, sparked by a big 21-yard completion down the middle of the field to Brent Celek on third-and-8. On the ensuing second down, Vick found Jeremy Maclin along the sideline for a 14-yard gain. But Maclin was hit as he caught the ball and rules in bounds, forcing the offense to scramble and spike the ball. With 12 seconds left, it was decision time for Andy Reid – kick the chip shot field goal and take the points or take one shot at the end zone, risking a half-ending sack. Reid went for it.
The Eagles proceeded to max protect Vick, allowing him plenty of time in the pocket but only Maclin and DeSean Jackson as receiving options. A patient-in-the-pocket Vick scanned the field and saw Maclin breaking away from his defender and fired the ball to the second-year receiver. The touchdown, the third of the season in three games for Maclin, gave the Eagles a 14-3 lead heading into halftime and they never looked back.
"It's always key to get points at the end of the half," Maclin said. "We work on our two-minute drills every week in practice and you want to capitalize on those opportunities.
"As a receiver, you never want to take your eyes off of (Vick) for a second," Maclin said. "I looked back on the initial route and I saw (Vick) starting to break the pocket, so I kind of set my guy up inside and then came back outside."
But Maclin's day was long from over. At times overshadowed by his Pro Bowl teammate DeSean Jackson, who himself had a huge day with 153 yards on 5 catches and the opening, Maclin established himself Sunday as a serious threat to opposing defense. On the day, Maclin had 4 catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns. What of the second touchdown?
Well, midway through the third quarter with the score still at 14-3, the Eagles took over at the Jacksonville 45-yard-line following an Asante Samuel interception. This time, the Vick to Maclin drive took a single play. Vick found Maclin streaking down the left sideline and hit him in the "honey hole" of the cover two defense – the area along the sideline in between the cornerback and the safety. Maclin caught the ball in stride, shook off the safety, and sprinted into the end zone.
"That was just a good ball," Maclin said. "He threw it to me in the hole and I did the rest, but he definitely put some zip on that ball."
In the long run, with Maclin playing at such a high level, the Eagles offense is sure to create serious headaches for opposing defensive coordinators. Simply, how can you cover two explosive receivers like Maclin and Jackson, especially with a quarterback like Vick who can create so much time before throwing the ball.
"It can definitely be dangerous," Maclin said. "We're just now hitting the surface. We still have room to grow. We have a lot of guy who can do a lot of different things."
Big picture, the Washington Redskins come to town next week following their surprising loss on the road to the St. Louis Rams Sunday. Combined with the New York Giants' home loss, that means the Eagles are alone atop the NFC East at 2-1.
"That sounds good," Maclin said. "Hopefully we can maintain that."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 8:40 p.m., September 26