There is a real fine line in the NFL. Football is referred to as a game of inches where one play made or missed in a 60 minute game can determine winners and losers.
Through the opening month of the season the Philadelphia Eagles, quarterback Michael Vick especially, have been flirting dangerously with that line.
The Eagles had committed 12 turnovers, more than any other team in the league, until their week four win against the defending champion Giants when they played a clean game for the first time in 2012.
Despite all the turnovers, Philadelphia entered the Steel City with a 3-1 record thanks to their strong defense and fourth quarter heroics, with all three wins aided by fourth quarter comebacks. Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, the Eagles’ Achilles heel came back to bite them.
Vick fumbled three times, losing two, in the Eagles 16-14 loss to the Steelers.
“I’ve never really had a problem fumbling the football,” Vick said. “It was just one of them days. Everything happens for a reason. If it was meant to be, I wouldn’t have fumbled the ball at the goal line. I have no explanation for it. There’s really none.”
If eight fumbles, five lost, isn’t a problem than I don’t know what is for an NFL quarterback. Vick fumbled the ball ten times last season in 13 games, and including this season has 84 in his career. Overall this season, Vick has eleven of the Philly’s 14 turnovers, five fumbles and six interceptions.
Vick’s first fumble occurred early in the first quarter on a quarterback draw at the Steelers three yard line. The ball was knocked lose by safety Ryan Clark and Pittsburgh recovered the ball in the end zone, costing Philadelphia a shot at points. Score even three points on that drive and it is a vastly different game.
“You’ve got to do a better job of protecting the football. The fumble on the goal line, the guy just put his helmet on a good spot. He put his helmet right on the ball. I tried to protect it. It came out. Can’t do anything about it.”
This is obviously a massive problem and really the only thing keeping Philadelphia from a win on Sunday. Despite the fumbles, Vick led a 17-play drive in the fourth quarter, with the Eagles trailing 13-7, hit tight end Brent Celek on a two-yard touchdown pass with just over six minutes remaining to give the Eagles the lead. Different than the previous weeks though, the defense couldn’t hold the late lead.
Vick’s fourth quarter heroics and Philadelphia’s vastly improved defense have held the Eagles in games that, based on their turnovers and lack of scoring early this season, they shouldn’t be winning.
Second-year coordinator Juan Castillo’s defense is ranked eighth in the NFL and surrendering fewer than 20 points per game, while the Eagles’ offense scores an average of just 16 points. If the offense, starting with the quarterback, can get out of their own way and eliminate the turnovers, the Eagles could be well on their way to a special season.
The current formula of turning the ball over and relying on fourth quarter comebacks bit the Eagles on Sunday and won’t get Philadelphia back to the playoffs. With head coach Andy Reid’s job on the line, Vick needs to take far better care of the football moving forward or his own future in Philadelphia could be out of his hands.
(All quotes and statistics courtesy of Phillymag.com and NFL.com)