Through the first five games of the season the Philadelphia Eagles have shown they have what it takes to work their way down field late in games, but this weekend against the Detroit Lions, the team wants to focus on starting the same way they finish.
Quarterback Mike Vick has led the Eagles on late game scoring drives in all but one week this season. Despite leaving the field Sunday in Pittsburgh having given his team the lead, the Eagles dropped to 3-2 on a last second field goal attempt. Vick recognizes his performance before that late drive is part of the problem and hopes he and his teammates can get off on the right foot against a struggling Lions team coming off a bye week.
“I’m waiting,” Vick said in response to being asked if he is looking forward to the team putting a game away early on. “That responsibility falls on, first and foremost, me as the quarterback of this football team (and then) the offense putting it all together as a team. We want to start fast as a team on offense. That’s been our goal and we’re going to put it together at some point, but you have to do it on Sundays and you have to get it done.”
Detroit has been outscored in the first half of their last two games 33-15 and they have trailed at the end of the first quarter in all four games they have played this season. Despite entering this weekend with a 1-4 record, nobody on the Eagles should be looking past this weekend’s game heading in to their bye week. Detroit brings in the NFL’s second-ranked pass offense with Matthew Stafford having a rough start, but putting up lofty passing yardage. Stafford has a big target in Calvin Johnson, who leads the team in receiving with 423 yards and the ability to break a big gain any time the ball is in his hands.
“Their record doesn’t speak to the caliber of football team that they are and we understand that,” Eagles head coach Andy Reid said this week. “We are going to prepare ourselves to play a heck of a football team and a good football game.”
The Lions have lost one game in overtime on the road and one game by a single score, suggesting they are not far off from a winning record but a mediocre ground game has forced the Lions to rely heavily on Stafford. The former first-round draft pick of the Lions has thrown more interceptions (four) this season than touchdowns (three), but the Eagles defensive unit has struggled to create turnovers so far this season. Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans is not worried about the lack of turnovers though and believes that when they do start coming, they will come in bunches.
“Those things, when turnovers start to happen, they come in bunches. You start to get two and three in the game and when you’re not getting them, it’s like you’re so close and you think about things you could have done better to make that play. But the turnovers, they’ll come.”
Defensive stops and turnovers would certainly help the offense establish a rhythm as well, but Reid, as is typical, does not worry so much about getting off to a fast start. Instead, the head coach wants to continue to find improvement on the team overall.
“We’re just in to win it,” Reid said. “I don’t care about how many points. That’s what you want to do. If it’s by one point or however many points, that’s all you want to do. Again, we have to make sure we focus in on our job and get better at what we’re doing.”
Kevin McGuire covers college football for Examiner.com and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter (@KevinOnCFB). His work can be found on Examiner.com.