HERE'S A STAT you won't find just anywhere: This season's only both undefeated and nauseated NFL quarterback plays right here in Philadelphia.
Bit of a strange Eagles year so far, isn't it? Two games, two wins, each by a point, each on a final, redeeming drive at the end of an error-filled afternoon. The Elias Sports Bureau says no other NFL team has ever opened its season with a pair of one-point wins.
This time it was Eagles 24, Ravens 23, the presumed quality of the opposition making the result a lot more palatable than last week's tire-screeching escape from Cleveland.
"Just thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach, as far as how many times we turned the ball over in two games," Michael Vick said after two interceptions and a pair of fumbles brought the season turnover total to nine, a number that is astonishing, and also is untenable going forward. "We just gotta do a better job of holding onto the football. I gotta do a better job with decision-making, and everything will work itself out. I believe in my guys outside [the wide receivers]. I believe in the guys in front of me."
And when push comes to shove, Vick believes in himself, as he showed us again on a 10-play, 80-yard drive for the winning points that ended with Vick sliding smoothly into the end zone on a quarterback draw from the Ravens' 1, a minute and 55 seconds remaining.
"We knew if we put a hat on a hat, Michael Vick would get into the end zone," left guard Evan Mathis said. "And we did. And it felt good . . . We had full confidence we could [muster another winning drive]. You could see a sense of urgency in every person's eyes, that this was it - do or die. There's no reason to hang your head about being down. There's no reason to worry about any mistakes earlier in the game. Just go out and execute."
The Ravens had time after that to get within range for kicker Justin Tucker, who'd already hit from 56 and 51, but back-to-back incompletions on third- and fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 46 ended the visitors' day. The Eagles hurriedly left the field before any of the befuddled replacement refs could write a new chapter of their adventures by calling a penalty kick or a goaltending violation.
"You cut away them turnovers, best team in the league, period, hands down," said wide receiver DeSean Jackson, whose seven catches for 114 yards included a 49-yarder on which he retained the ball after a vicious hit from Ed Reed.
Jackson said the Eagles were "very angry at ourselves" when they came in for halftime down 17-7, three turnovers having blunted promising drives.
"We came in the locker room and said, 'The second half's going to be totally different.' We went out there in the second half and definitely proved we could play with the best in the league," Jackson said.
The Eagles won the second half, 17-6. After watching Ray Rice rumble for 78 yards on 7 first-half carries, they allowed him just 21 yards on nine carries after halftime, perhaps contributing to Baltimore coach John Harbaugh's reluctance to run in short yardage late. Quarterback Joe Flacco, the pride of Audubon, N.J., who played on a high school field right across the Delaware River, barely 5 miles from the Linc, completed eight of 25 passes for 137 second-half yards as the Eagles' defense went into shutdown mode. Flacco said afterward he'd suffered contused ribs early in the second half.
"We got a middle linebacker," defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said, after DeMeco Ryans sacked Flacco, intercepted him, and contributed six solo tackles. "He meets all the qualifications you're looking for, when you're looking for a guy to run the defense."
Both teams used a lot of no-huddle, which wasn't a surprise from the Ravens, who came out that way in their opener against Cincinnati. It was a new wrinkle from the Eagles, and Vick said it helped him develop a rhythm, on a day when he lost his starting center, Jason Kelce, to a serious-looking third-quarter knee injury, and saw Demetress Bell replace left tackle King Dunlap when the King pulled a hammy on the very next series. Oh, and wideout Jeremy Maclin reinjured his hip somewhere right in there, as well, right after scoring a spectacular touchdown on his only catch of the game.
"[Dallas Reynolds and Bell] came in with a lot of confidence," said Mathis, who finished with different guys on each side of him than he had at the start. "Everybody had confidence in them, that they would execute, and they performed very well."
Reynolds, 28, got his first NFL snaps, in his fourth season, the first three spent on the practice squad.
"I just had to step in," Reynolds said. "At that point, I didn't really have time to think of anything, just jump in and go."
Castillo said Eagles coach Andy Reid mentioned to him early in the offseason that "offenses are going to start going to no-huddle," so "we've been working on no-huddle since OTAs."
Castillo said he needed to get a feel for how the Ravens wanted to attack. Once it became apparent they wanted to run, the Birds stacked the box and shut that down. Flacco, pressured on most throws, didn't thread many needles.
"I thought our defense played very stout and aggressive, and they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and the run game. The third-down defense in particular did a nice job," Reid said in the wake of his second 2-0 start, his first since the Super Bowl season of 2004. The Ravens converted only four of 14 third downs. "The whole offense just continued to battle. Everything wasn't pretty."
No, in fact, it was a chippy, choppy game, marred by several scrums and the puzzled, overmatched officiating, which treated the crowd to a pair of 2-minute warnings in the second half, in case anyone was stuck in a stadium bathroom line. (The clock was run down to trigger the first one in error.)
For Eagles fans, the bottom line from the whole thing could be that without the maddening turnovers, their team might have won handily. Anyone who thought the Ravens - the only team in the league to go to the playoffs each of the past four seasons - would field vastly superior personnel to the Eagles' was wrong.
"It just goes to show how good we can be," said Vick, who threw an interception in the end zone to end the Eagles' first drive, after completing his first five passes. That was the only turnover that was really the quarterback's fault; his other pick bounced off Brent Celek's hands, and the fumble Vick was charged with was the fault of rookie running back Bryce Brown, who just couldn't grasp the ball. "It definitely shows how good our defense is, because they're stopping the offense and putting the ball back on our side so we can score points."
The Eagles survived five turnovers in Week 1 because their defense produced four. They survived four Sunday because their defense came up with two, one that set up a touchdown, and stopped the Ravens twice on fourth down.
It also helped that Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg balanced the playcalling, 41 runs, including some Vick scrambles, vs. 32 passes. LeSean McCoy carved out 81 tough yards on 25 carries and scored a touchdown.
"It feels amazing," Celek said after catching eight passes for 157 yards, and winning a gold medal in the hurdles, clearing Reed with room to spare after making a catch midway through the third. "These were the games we were losing last year."