WATCHING the Eagles' relatively unexpressive offense this season, there is a perception that Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have abandoned the deep bombs that made this team so fun to watch when Michael Vick took over in 2010.

Viewing the statistics, that perception is not reality.

"I wouldn't say we're not going for the deep ball," tight end Brent Celek said. "Sometimes, teams take that away. Sometimes, maybe we just don't execute as well as we could have. The big thing is that we try not to force anything; we just take what the defense gives us, whether that's deep, whether that's underneath, we do it that way."

Believe it or not, the Eagles are actually on pace to exceed their number of throws of 21 yards or longer from both 2010 and 2011.

Through the first 5 weeks of the season, Vick and the Eagles have attempted 20 throws greater than 21 yards, according to SI.com. In 2011, they attempted 50 throws of the same distance, compared with 55 in 2010. When you break down those numbers, the Eagles attempted about 18 deep balls at this point in the 2010 season and 16 in 2011.

They've also completed more throws of 21 yards or longer this season (35 percent) than they did in 2011 (32 percent) and they are just a shade below 2010's mark (40 percent).

The perception comes in, according to Mornhinweg, regarding touchdowns on deep plays. That's where the Eagles are down.

"We're still taking our shots," Mornhinweg said Thursday. "I believe we're sixth [in the NFL] in big plays. That sounds a little better than it is because we've only had one touchdown on the big plays. We had some opportunities that we haven't taken advantage of and we've gotten not quite as good as I want, but we've gotten some big plays that are there for us."

Vick has six touchdown passes in five games. Only one of them (16.6 percent) has been as a result of a throw of more than 21 yards. That number is in line with last year, as three of the Eagles' 17 touchdowns (17.6 percent) came on throws of 21 yards or longer. In 2010, they connected on seven of 21 deep balls (33 percent) for touchdowns.

"Not enough touchdowns off the big plays," Mornhinweg said. "We're typically used to scoring some touchdowns."

Jeremy Maclin, who has the only Eagles' deep-pass touchdown reception (23 yards vs. Baltimore in Week 2), said the Birds have faced either coverage preventing the deep pass or intense pressure to get rid of the ball quickly.

When Vick is forced to pass quickly, his receivers likely will not get far enough downfield for a bomb.

"We see the extremes of both," Maclin said. "We'll always have opportunities to [go deep]. Teams understand that. That's why they play us, [and] we get different looks sometimes. We've just got to be patient. Eventually, those things will come."

As a whole, the Eagles are actually bucking a leaguewide trend by continuing to go after the deep ball. Through the first 5 weeks of the season, there have been 449 total passing completions of 21 yards or longer - compared with 476 at this point last season.

"Offenses aren't going downtown anymore," Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said. "It's more of the intermediate passing game. I think we had one play that was 20-or-more yards, and you feel good about that, and that's because of the pressure that our d-line is getting. It's about when the quarterback has to throw."

Detroit has given up eight completions of greater than 21 yards this season, a number down significantly from last year's season split of 14 - and that's been without safety Louis Delmas patrolling the field for the first three games.

"If you watch film, it's obvious what [opponents are] doing," wideout DeSean Jackson said. "When we do have single coverage, they're blitzing us. We're just staying patient."

Patience is a virtue. But busting out for one long touchdown heave would not only spice up an offense that could desperately use it, it also would change the perception.

"Defense are playing a little different," Vick said. "That's why we play, that's why we scheme. They're giving us some things that we can take advantage of. And at some point, we'll get our shots down the field."

Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @DNFlyers.