Here is a focused look at one element of the game.

There was going to come a time when Michael Vick's freestyling ways were going to hurt the Eagles, and it came Tuesday night in a game that never felt right from the start.

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The Eagles lost a stinker to the Minnesota Vikings, 24-14, on a crisp, clear evening at Lincoln Financial Field. But they lost so much more - any shot at a first-round bye in the playoffs, and the illusion that Vick is perfect.

A few hours after he was named to the Pro Bowl, the quarterback had easily his worst game as an Eagle. The throws were off-target, the decisions a split-second too late, but it was the swashbuckling quarterback's ball security that ultimately cost the Eagles.

Vick fumbled twice against Minnesota - he also threw an interception - and both fumbles came at inopportune times. He coughed up the football just before halftime on a game-changing play that netted the Vikings seven points. And Vick was stripped of the ball in the third quarter when it seemed as if he was going to lead the Eagles on one of his patented comebacks.

"I've got to do a better job of protecting the football," said Vick, who suffered a bruised quadriceps on the first play from scrimmage.

The second-quarter fumble was another example of the Eagles turning over the ball in a crucial spot and not being able to recover from the blow.

The Eagles sleepwalked through most of the first half, but still led, 7-0, with 2 minutes, 20 seconds to go when they got the ball back after the defense had held again.

Vick and the offense seemed to get their moxie back as they advanced into Vikings territory.

A 22-yard pass to tight end Brent Celek and an 8-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin gave the Eagles a second and 2 at the 39-yard line. But when Vick dropped back to pass - again - the game turned.

Minnesota had been blitzing its cornerbacks from both directions on a number of plays in the first half, forcing Vick out of the pocket. This time, though, he had hardly any time to react. Vick never had much time in the pocket behind blockers who could not contain Minnesota's all-out blitz.

Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield rushed from the right side untouched and got to Vick in a nanosecond. The quarterback turned to avoid Winfield, but he held the football out and the cornerback punched it into the air and onto the grass. Vick probably had the quicker path to pounce on the football, but he slipped.

An all-alone Winfield scooped up the ball and darted 45 yards for a touchdown. The score was knotted, 7-7, with 44 seconds left before the break, and it was as if someone had taken a Hoover to the Linc.

"It was a huge momentum swing for the Vikings," Vick said.

The Eagles' defense could not maintain the tie, however. Vick has bailed out the defense on numerous occasions throughout this remarkable season. But when he wasn't anywhere near his best, it was no surprise that a young defense was not going to repay him the favor.

Still, when the Eagles got the ball back, trailing by 17-7 midway through the third quarter, there was a sliver of hope. And Vick again marched the troops down the field. It felt a little like the magic act he had pulled on the Giants last week when the Eagles rallied from a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

Vick mixed up his passes to his receivers, and when he needed to get yards, he simply ran for them. But he scrambled one time too many. On second and 10 from the Vikings' 28, Vick had a lane up the middle. He zoomed through it, but in trying to get extra yards, he was stripped by defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

"I was trying to do more than what I could at the time," Vick said. "That's just trying to press the issue instead of letting it happen."

Would it be second-guessing to say that maybe he should have slid? Vick doesn't slide, however. It's one of the things that makes him so great. But this time, it cost him and the Eagles.

Minnesota cornerback Asher Allen flopped on the fumble, and another Eagles scoring opportunity was washed away by a Vick fumble.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane