You want to know the definition of making a play that goes far and beyond how it looks on a stat sheet, a play that makes a difference in a game and that helps define a player and a team? Think about the Brent Celek Catch and Stretch that converted a third-and-19 play and helped the Eagles beat Houston 34-24 on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Celek is one of those unsung heroes this season after his breakout 2009 campaign. His catch total is down. He stands at his locker and answers all of the questions you would expect, most of them dealing with his decline in receptions. But Celek has adapted to his role, is doing what is being asked of him, and has done well.
His Thursday night was a roller coaster. He missed a catch at the goal line in the first half, one that he makes 9 out of 10 times, but the catch cost the Eagles a touchdown and, well, Celek had the reaction you would expect when he went to the bench.
But Celek made two great plays in the fourth quarter that helped the Eagles win a tough ballgame. His first was spectaular and the second one that won't show up in the boxscore. On third and 19, with the Eagles at the Houston 24-yard line with 6-plus minutes remaining and the Eagles ahead, 27-24, Michael Vick threw to the right side for Celek. He made the catch and was tackled immediately by linebacker Kevin Bentley. Celek was initially ruled down a half yard of the first down, but head coach Andy Reid challenged the ruling and won for the second time in five challenges.
First down, Eagles, at the Houston 5-yard line. Two plays later, Vick rolled left and completed a pass to Owen Schmitt -- yes, fullback Owen Schmitt *-- *and Schmitt was wide open -- thanks to a clearing-out Celek block -- for the catch and the skip into the end zone and the Eagles had a 10-point lead and it was all over but the shouting.
"You know, I knew where I was on the field and that I wasn't down and reach out as far as I could reach," said Celek. "It was just one of those plays that you make. It helps your team win. Everybody contributed."
That's the truth. The Eagles jumped out to a 17-3 lead ealy in the second quarter and seemed in control of the game. The offense was cruising -- putting together touchdown drives of 88 yards for a touchdown, 72 yards for a touchdown and 51 yards for a field goal on the offense's opening three drives -- and a feeling of serenity seemed to settle over Lincoln Financial Field.
Not a good idea against an explosive Houston offense.
The Texans drove 80 yards and scored a touchdown and suddenly it was a game. After Trevor Laws picked off Matt Schaub late in the first half, the Eagles scored on a David Akers field goal and led 20-10 at the half. It all turned around in the third quarter, though. Houston's offense was unstoppable in those 15 minutes with touchdown drives of 79 yards and 86 yards and, uh oh, the Texans led 24-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
Then the Eagles stepped up. All of them. The defense stuffed Houston on four possessions. The offense took the lead on a Vick 2-yard touchdown run to cap a drive keyed by a Vick-to-Jackson completion for 33 yards. Then came the clinching drive, a 72-yard beauty of a drive that consumed nearly 6 minutes off the clock and ended with Schmitt's first score as an Eagle.
And there you go. Just like that, the Eagles are 8-4 with a couple of days off on Saturday and Sunday. It's like having a bye weekend in December, and that is going to pay infinite dividends. Asante Samuel, who missed his second straight game on Thursday -- along with defensive end Juqua Parker -- should be back for Dallas. Both Samuel and Parker should be back.
The Eagles have a chance to be fresh for the stretch run. They made it more dramatic than many thought against Houston, but who cares? A win is all that matters right now, and players like tight end Brent Celek, who did it all during an exciting fourth quarter, deserve all the credit.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Jerome Harrison made a very nice contribution in the fourth quarter with a nifty bounce to the outside on a 14-yard gain into the Houston red zone. He needs a few touches each week.
- Darryl Tapp took quite a few snaps in place of a quiet Brandon Graham and played well at left end.
- Too many penalties once again, 11 in all. The Eagles are too sloppy for this time of the year.
- The only injury question mark coming out of the game is a sprained knee suffered by right tackle Winston Justice. He will have an MRI on Friday.
- Terrific opening kickoff return from Jorrick Calvin, who went 102 yards with the ball, only to have the play nullified because of a holding penalty on Clay Harbor. Still, it was good to see Calvin bounce it outside and scoot up the sidelines. The Eagles need to have more of an impact in that phase of the special teams.
- The first drive was about as good as it gets for the Eagles. They drove 88 yards in 11 plays. Vick completed 7 of 8 passes and also ran for 3 yards. Vick was poised, he was precise and the offensive line gave him great protection. Opening with a 30-yard completion to Jackson set the tone for the offense.
- I'm sure the coaching staff will talk to cornerback Dimitri Patterson and safety Nate Allen, who bit on the first of two moves by wide receiver Andre Johnson, who then turned upfield and hauled in a pass from Schaub that gained 42 yards. The play set up Houston for a touchdown that capped an 8-play, 80-yard drive that made it 17-10.
- Allen came back with a perfectly timed blitz to force a fumble from Schaub in the fourth quarter that Tapp recovered. Big play from Allen.
- Remarkable that the Eagles used Chad Hall as a running back and got him 3 touches in the first half. He even took a handoff on a second-and-1 play. Hall over LeSean McCoy and even Harrison? Hall converted, but it sure was interesting strategy.
- How great is McCoy in the screen game? Better than Brian Westbrook? He gained 130 yards and two touchdowns from the line of scrimmage on 20 touches.
- Laws showed he is a little bit of an athlete with his interception and return late in the second quarter. Laws read a screen pass from Schaub to Arian Foster, leaped and made the catch and returned it 13 yards.
- Drops by Jason Avant -- he should have had the ball in the end zone, even with solid coverage -- and Celek at the goal line marred one visit to the red zone. We are watching every snap inside the 20-yard line, and here is the breakdown on the run/pass ratio: The Eagles ran 11 pass plays -- on that Vick scrambled on -- and 4 running plays -- one a touchdown -- inside the 20-yard line in the first half.
- Tough assignment for Patterson against Johnson. Really, a tough game for the defense, which put pressure on Schaub only to see him get the football away to an open receiver. Houston had its way for too much of the game after the first quarter. But at the end of the day, Johnson caught 6 catches for 149 yards -- a few of those catches came when the defense played soft -- and the defense came up with key stops in the fourth quarter as the Eagles came from behind to win.