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BUFFALO, NY (CBS)—Maybe the first four games weren’t an aberration after all. Maybe everything that said the Eagles were winners of just one game was true. Maybe the true Michael Vick has been the one that’s appeared the second half of last season and carried over into this year—and Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
Against the Bills, a plethora of errors showed up in lost edge containment and shoddy tackling on defense, a growing wart each week under new coordinator Juan Castillo, Vick’s three first-half interceptions, which resulted in 14 points for Buffalo, stupid penalties and poor special teams play.
It all led to a horrid 31-24 Eagles’ loss to the Buffalo Bills that opened a Pandora’s box of speculative questions: Is this the beginning of the end of Andy Reid’s reign? Was appointing Castillo the defensive coordinator a major error? Is this team as talented as many of the pundits originally thought back in August after signing Nnamdi Asomugha and Jason Babin, and trading for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie?
The Eagles fell to 1-4 and the defeat did everything but end any chance the Eagles have of making the playoffs—barring a miraculous nine-game run. The way they’ve been playing, it appears highly unlikely any of the miscues that have haunted them will disappear any time soon.
Philadelphia was down 28-7 in the third quarter, and made a valiant run late in the game when a fluky interception meant another Eagles’ downfall. The final, comical exclamation point came on a fake-snap count, when Buffalo, clinging to its touchdown lead at the Philadelphia 49 on a fourth-and-one play, drew the Eagles offsides and sealed the victory.
The loss wasted 489 yards of offense for the Eagles, and a career game for Jason Avant, who caught nine passes for 139 yards but couldn’t hang on to Vick’s last pass, which Buffalo linebacker Nick Barnett stripped and batted into the air for Vick’s fourth interception.
“We know if we keep working on the small things, we’re going to be okay,” Eagles’ left offensive tackle King Dunlop said. “When we click and work on all the small things, we’re okay. We’re moving the ball up and down the field, we just have to eliminate the turnovers and the mistakes. We need to do the small things right, keep working on that and once we work out the small things, we’re going to be all right.”
It’s those inane mishaps that continuously crept back the first month of this season. With Buffalo intending to draw the Eagles offsides, and everyone in Ralph Wilson Stadium fully aware of the ploy Bills’ coach Chan Gailey was trying—the Eagles were still drawn offsides when Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hard count caused Juqua Parker to jump and give the Bills a fresh set of downs.
“I got anxious. I thought they were going to run a play and I jumped offsides, that was the game,” Parker said. “We’re a good team, I believe that. Once we play the way we’re able to play, we’re going to be okay.”
In the end, five turnovers, an early 14-0 deficit, effortless tackling and the senseless penalties proved to be insurmountable.
Vick did finish strong. He placed the Eagles in a position to tie, ending by completing 26 of 40 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, though tossing a career-high four interceptions.
“I think we’re a better football team, but sitting at 1-4, you can’t say whether it’s a good football team or not,” Vick said. “I give a lot of credit to Buffalo. They did their job. We put ourselves in position to score and make plays, and a lot of times we didn’t. As a quarterback, an interception is an interception. Some of them got tipped, and some they just picked off. You just can’t have them in this game. I think guys are trying so hard to make a play.
“We know what we’re capable of and know what we can do. I totally understand. In our position, we’re desperate for us to win. At times in the game, you have to make a conscious effort to protect the ball. I think we have to put this all together for four quarters. I think this out of the coach’s hands. It’s in the player’s hands. We have to take control. We have to control [the turnovers] as players.”
Turnovers seemed to be very much on Reid’s mind afterward.
“Key turnovers, and you can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win in the National Football League,” Reid said. “Listen, I’m not saying anything on that [about Park jumping offside]. I’m not hanging one guy out to dry. A lot of people were at fault here. There’s no one to blame but me. The guys stay determined in the second half and made plays.”
Can there be any juggling of the coaching staff or personnel in the future? What will the future hold for Reid?
“Listen, we’re one game at a time, I’m looking at one game at a time, and that’s the way we’ve always been doing it here,” Reid said. “In the National Football League, your job is on the line every week. I did think [the defense] was adequately prepared. [Vick] did some good things and placed us in a position to win the game. All I’m concerned with is that next game, I have to get this team better, I have to get myself better. We need to eliminate turnovers and penalties in crucial situations. That’s what we need to do. We have no excuses for anything. We have to get better.”
The time to get better may finally be ticking on Reid after this debacle.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito