No doubt, Ed Rendell and his Traveling Testosterone Army are somewhere on the airwaves at this very moment, screaming that somehow the two-day delay caused by Sunday's blizzard was to blame for the Eagles' Tuesday night flop against the Minnesota Vikings.

It's true that the Eagles rarely play this poorly on Tuesday, but the odd scheduling had nothing to do with it. Playing against a team that had little motivation and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, the Eagles - just like on Sunday - didn't bother to show up.

Once again, it was left to Michael Vick to save them, and once again that's what he tried to do. Not this time, however. The comeback didn't require the same degree of difficulty as the one against the team formerly known as the New York Giants, but there was no magic ending against the Vikings.

If only Brett Favre had been healthy enough to play, maybe the Eagles would have had a chance. But how could they beat Mighty Joe Webb.

The good news is you can stop worrying about how the Eagles will rebound on four days' rest against the Cowboys. That just became a meaningless game. By losing to the Vikings, the Eagles are locked into the third seed in the conference. They will get a home game in the wild-card round, but no longer have a chance at the first-round bye that would have been so important to getting healthy for the playoffs.

This isn't a death blow, but it isn't reason to buy ticker tape, either. It is a particularly depressing moment if you thought the quarterback could overcome anything, including the lack of support from the other side of the ball.

The Michael Vick Show, so fresh and exciting all season, suddenly went into rerun mode against the Vikings. The episode was from somewhere circa 2005, long before the plot got really interesting and the script writers went for the character development and redemption themes.

It wasn't all Vick's fault, of course. As he has been doing much of the year, the quarterback was running for safety from the outset, pursued by linemen who beat their blocks and blitzing defensive backs sprung loose to harass him.

In other instances this season, however, Vick has made something out of that nothing, but that wasn't the way this one was written. Tossing the ball off his back foot and at times when he couldn't really see his receivers, he threw one interception, could have easily thrown a couple more, and fumbled twice as the loaf of bread he carries finally fell from the shopping cart.

And when Vick isn't great, the Eagles are in trouble. This just in. That's because their defense, tenuous and unreliable all season, doesn't appear remotely able to carry the team when necessary.

Again, this isn't a surprise and it isn't necessarily anyone's fault. An NFL season takes its toll and the Eagles' defense, which wasn't that good to begin with, has suffered a series of depth charges to the depth chart.

Still, it is reality and sometimes reality stinks. Tuesday night against the Vikings, sometimes the Eagles did, too. They have a couple of weeks to get things back together - a stretch interrupted by a glorified scrimmage against the Cowboys - and then we'll find out if this is a season of destiny or just another learning season for Kevin Kolb.

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott is still scrambling to find answers. One week after (unsuccessfully) unveiling his seven-defensive back scheme against the Giants, he was tinkering against the Vikings as well. Akeem Jordan is apparently back in the linebacker rotation on passing downs, and Colt Anderson is augmenting the depleted backfield at times.

To be honest, the defense allowed only 17 points, which isn't that bad, but it was their failure in the second half to stop the bleeding - something the defense has done previously - that sealed things. There were stupid penalties, including a 12-men-on-the-field mistake that always indicates a lack of focus. There were ill-advised coverages and bad tackling and blown assignments. Not only didn't the Eagles look like a championship caliber team. They looked like a team that lost to the previously 5-9 Vikings on merit.

The defense is a big problem and not one that will be fully solved this season, however long it goes. The equation that remains is one requiring Michael Vick to be nearly perfect.

He was a long way from that on Tuesday night. And now the Eagles are a longer way from where they would like to go.

Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.