FOXBORO, Mass. - The best that can be said about the game was that an X-ray of Michael Vick's injured ribs came back negative.

But if two X-rays in two preseason games for the quarterback are going to be harbinger of things to come, the Eagles are in for a very long season.

For a team that was looking for a solid effort from their starters - and the Eagles had every opportunity to do so playing against the Patriots' reserves - Monday night's 27-17 preseason victory at New England fell far short of expectations.

"It was important we got our [first team] reps in there," Andy Reid said. "Even though there can be a little bit of a mental let down when the other team is playing their twos, you still got to battle through that. You can't play sloppy football."

The offense was ineffective - until Vick left. Juan Castillo's defense made third-string Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallet look Tom Brady-esque. And to top it all off, Reid uncharacteristically lost his cool on the sidelines and got into a spat with defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who did not back down from his head coach.

The regular season couldn't arrive soon enough for the Eagles. With the starters not expected to play much of the last two preseason games, Reid's 14th team remains an enigma.

For the second straight game, Vick took only six snaps. And for the second straight game, he was injured on the sixth play. Vick dropped back to throw during his second series, but when left guard Evan Mathis was beaten inside, the quarterback spun to his right.

Waiting and ready to pounce was Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, who had gotten around right tackle Todd Herremans. Vick heaved a long pass to DeSean Jackson that fell incomplete. But just after he threw, Cunningham drove his helmet into the quarterback's midsection.

Vick got up off the ground but was hunched over and in obvious pain. He took a knee, was looked over by the Eagles medical staff, and left the game. Soon after, he went inside to the locker room for an X-ray of his ribs.

Vick missed three games in each of the last two seasons because of rib injuries, but the exam showed no fracture, according to the Eagles. He will have a magnetic resonance image and CT scan of his ribs done on Tuesday, Reid said.

"He's sore," Reid said. "He was trying to talk me into going back in. How sore is sore? He got a good shot there. The precautionary measure is to see if it's involving cartilage there."

Vick's missed three games in 2010 when he injured cartilage in his rib area.

Ten days ago, Vick bruised his thumb against the Steelers when he hit his hand on the back of the center Jason Kelce's helmet. That X-ray came back negative as well.

It's hard to fault Vick for both injuries, although it could be argued that he shouldn't have attempted the wild throw to Jackson. The story line since the end of last season has been that Vick has to do whatever it takes to avoid further injury - slide, throw out of bounds, wrap himself in Styrofoam. But for whatever reason, the man just can't avoid contact.

With Vick out, Nick Foles saw the field two quarters before planned. The rookie quarterback again showed why the Eagles made him their third-round draft pick. He made mistakes, but he showed poise and made the necessary throws, leading the Eagles to three touchdowns, although two came on short fields after turnovers.

The turnovers - a muffed punt by Brandon Boldon, and a fumble by quarterback Brian Hoyer after defensive end Phillip Hunt stripped him - were the highlights of an uneven performance by the Eagles' first-team defense.

The Eagles once again could not get off the field on third down. The Patriots converted 7 of 11 in the first half. The Eagles once again committed far too many penalties. The team had 10 penalties for 91 yards in the first half.

Five came from the defense, including two personal fouls from defensive end Darryl Tapp and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

There were some fine individual efforts. Hunt has been a menace in the first two preseason games. Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks has been all over the field, although he was beaten by tight end Alex Silvestro for a seven-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has shut down his side of the field.

But the unit as a whole has been porous and was leaky as Mallet and then Hoyer picked the defense apart with a variety of short passes. Imagine what would have happened had Brady and other Patriots stars - wide receiver Wes Welker, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez - played.

That may not be entirely fair. The Eagles prepared all week to face Bill Belichick's best. But word leaked Monday morning that the Patriots coach was resting most of his starters with New England slated to play three games in ten days.

The Eagles also have three to play in that span. Reid had said that his starters weren't likely to play - if at all - against the Browns on Friday. The Eagles open the season at Cleveland on Sept. 9.

It's safe to say Vick won't play even if he is healthy. The Eagles can't afford to lose their quarterback in a meaningless game. But if he can't avoid injury in a preseason game, what's going to happen when the bullets really start to fly?

"If he didn't play again I think he's OK," Reid said. "I'd tell you I'd probably like to see him play a little bit more. He's got enough experience. We're not talking about a rookie."

The season hinges on Vick, and the Eagles have no clue if he's any better than he was last season, and they probably won't find out for another 19 days.