PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—The senseless penalties, being inept in the red zone, lost timeouts, misspent timeouts and wasted challenges. They were all there in their gleaming finery against a team and a player the Eagles could ill afford to make those kinds of mistakes against.

Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning is a little more than a hyperactive mime with his arm and hand gyrations in a blue horseshoe helmet. He’s a superstar that can change the course of a game with his will alone.

But the Eagles got away with a myriad of mistakes (the most striking were Philadelphia’s 14 penalties for 120 yards) in somehow defeating the Indianapolis Colts, 26-24, and Manning for the first time in his four starts against the Eagles. It also made Eagles’ coach Andy Reid 12-0 in games after the bye week.

The victory helps the Eagles improve to 5-3, while Indianapolis fell to 5-3 in a game that seemed to drag on interminably (the teams combined for 21 penalties).

“It wasn’t always pretty and we were against one of the most explosive quarterbacks in NFL history,” Reid said. “When you’re playing someone like Peyton, who will go down as the best quarterback to ever play the game, you have to be like a catcher. You have to dial up the right pitches. Sean [McDermott, Eagles’ defensive coordinator] would dial up a curveball when they were expecting fastballs.

“Our focus was maintaining intensity for all four quarters. We challenge each other this whole week about that. The guys, along with the coaching staff, put their hearts and souls into this one. We had to step up and make plays and the guys did that.”

Perhaps no one did more than Michael Vick, making his first start since October 3 when a rib injury sidelined him for three weeks. Vick completed 17 of 29 for 218 yards and a touchdown (for a 93.8 quarterback rating). Every time the Colts thought they had Vick contained, he slid away to scramble nine times for 75 yards, his second-highest total this season.

Vick’s 10-yard scramble in the fourth quarter with 8:22 left to play prolonged an Eagles’ drive—and more importantly kept Manning and the Colts’ offense off the field for another two minutes. When a big play had to be made, Vick was there to make it.

Another positive was the return of DeSean Jackson, who came back from a concussion he sustained on October 17 against Atlanta. The speedy wide receiver was a difference-maker, amassing 109 yards receiving on seven receptions and rushed for 20 yards on three carries. It included a nine-yard touchdown catch on the Eagles’ first possession–and two large runs to squeeze time off the clock in the fourth quarter.

Asante Samuel sealed the victory with his second interception of the game, picking off Manning with :27 left to play.

This game, however, was pocked with flags.

With less than four minutes to play, Eagles’ defensive end Trent Cole was called for a personal foul when he hit Manning on the helmet—giving the Colts a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 31. It looked innocuous enough, just a mere slap, but it came at a crucial moment, on fourth down, and after Manning had fumbled away the ball. That was negated by the Cole penalty. Indianapolis didn’t waste the opportunity, when Javarris James scored his second touchdown of the game, leaving the Eagles with a 26-24 lead with 1:50 left to play.

The Cole play seemed typical of an afternoon filled with dubious calls.

With 2:23 remaining in the first half, the game took a weird jolt, and will surely brew more controversy about helmet-to-helmet hits this week after the Eagles’ Kurt Coleman and Quintin Mikell converged simultaneously on Colts’ receiver Austin Collie, making a should-to-shoulder hits. Mikell was flagged for an illegal hit “on a defenseless receiver,” though replays showed Collie appeared to have caught the ball.

Coleman made contact with the back of Collie’s helmet, only after Mikell made the initial hit on Collie’s right, spinning him into Coleman, coming in from the left. Collie was on the field for roughly 10 minutes, and then was carted off the field, though his arms or legs were not moving (Collie was later diagnosed with a concussion in the locker room, but was alert, and had movement in his limbs).

Asked if the hit may have made his defense hesitant, Reid said, “it was going on throughout the locker room to keep focused and maintaining our focus throughout four quarters. That was everyone, players and coaches alike. Listen, those things are going to be called in a safe direction. Do you like it? No. But things like that will be called against you and you can’t go into the tank if they are. You can think the world is against you when you think like that.”

The Mikell personal-foul penalty gave the Colts possession at the Eagles’ 45. The next play Manning went up top and hit Blair White for a 33-yard reception, to the Eagles’ 12. That’s when another Mikell penalty was called, a half-the-distance facemask, pushing the ball to the Eagles’ 6. The next play, James rolled into the end zone, pulling the Colts to within 16-14.

Take away the personal foul penalties to Mikell and Cole, which the Colts used to score 14 points, coupled with the Eagles’ futility to score touchdowns in the red zone, and the game could have been lopsided. Instead, when the Eagles had the ball inside the Colts’ 10 four times in the first half, they had to settle for David Akers’ field goals (22, 21 and 31 yards) on three of those four possessions.

Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito

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