Eagles show strength in 12-minute stretch
MIAMI - The NFL cliche is that you've got to play for 60 minutes. For the Eagles offense Sunday, a strong 12 minutes did the trick. It was the Eagles at their best.
MIAMI - The NFL cliche is that you've got to play for 60 minutes. For the Eagles offense Sunday, a strong 12 minutes did the trick.
All 24 offensive points came in a span of 11 minutes, 51 seconds of possession at the end of the first quarter and the start of the second. Just about everything good the offense produced arrived in a whirlwind in which the defense created three turnovers, and the offense took advantage each time.
More importantly, the Eagles showed the kind of resilience they missed much of the season, delivering timely plays just when it seemed like a mistake might disrupt them.
"We came up with some huge plays early when we could have easily bowed down and let the game get away from us," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. "I think the team showed a lot of character and a lot of heart today."
For those four drives, quarterback Michael Vick was razor sharp, hitting 8 of 10 passes, accounting for more than half of his 15 completions and 135 of his 208 total passing yards. Running back LeSean McCoy scored twice, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson provided the home run threat that has been missing much of the season, capping the Eagles outburst with a 34-yard touchdown, his longest score of the year, to give his team a 24-7 lead and control of the game.
Two of Jackson's four catches came in the 12-minute sequence, along with 42 of his 59 yards.
All four of tight end Brent Celek's receptions came then, too.
It was the Eagles at their best. The offense got hot, and the defense stayed hungry. They didn't allow a single first down.
But the sequence raises the question: Why have these flashes of brilliance been so brief and followed so often by such precipitous drops?
Usually, the defense has let the team down late. This week, Juan Castillo's unit maintained its edge for all four quarters while the offense faded.
"It was a pretty good first half offensively and just horrendous in the second half," said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who admitted he got too conservative with his play-calling. "We've got some work to do."
The defense sparked the 12-minute surge with a stop in their own territory, leading to a missed 55-yard field-goal attempt, an inexplicable choice by Miami.
"That was huge," Jenkins said. "That was a big turning point for us."
Four plays later, McCoy scored to tie the game. Safety Kurt Coleman intercepted Miami quarterback Matt Moore on the ensuing drive and ran the ball back to Miami's 1-yard line, setting up another McCoy touchdown. Next, cornerback Asante Samuel punched the ball loose from Davone Bess and pounced on it at Miami's 34 to set up a field goal.
"They might be steroid testing me when I go back. Every time I make a big hit or something or [cause] a fumble they always want to test me," Samuel joked after the game. "Whenever the defense makes plays, it definitely gets the offense fired up. We're out there making turnovers and making plays, the team is feeding off that."
On this day, even a disastrous gadget play couldn't stop the Eagles' momentum. Jackson fielded a punt and threw across field to rookie Curtis Marsh, who promptly lost a fumble, gifting the Dolphins possession at the Eagles' 24.
"I probably got too cute on that," Reid said.
"Early in the year we'd kind of sulk and be a little mad about the situation, but we were excited," said Coleman. "It was another opportunity for us to go out on the field and eat a little bit, and the D-line did just that."
On Miami's first snap, Jason Babin blasted Moore, knocking the ball loose for Mike Patterson to recover. It only took four plays for Vick to put up another touchdown, finding a wide-open Jackson deep.
For Eagles fans and players hungry for a victory, the win should bring relief and joy. Any victory is welcomed.
But it's hard to enjoy it fully when the team's record is 5-8. In 12 minutes, the Eagles showed their potential and then displayed the disjointed inconsistency that explains why they haven't lived up to their billing. It takes more than glimpses of all-around excellence to win with regularity.
The Eagles have three more chances to show whether those 12 minutes were a mirage or a sign of better things to come.