MICHAEL VICK wasn't why the Eagles lost to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, but given the way the season has gone, somehow it made sense that Vick put himself on the hot seat afterward.
"Obviously he's thinking about making a change at the quarterback position," Vick said of Eagles coach Andy Reid. "The thing I do know, and I'll go watch the film and evaluate myself, is that I'm giving us every opportunity to win. I'm trying my hardest. Some things don't go right, when I want them to, some things do. So if that's a decision that coach wants to make, then I support it."
News flash, Mike: The change fans are looking for this morning, in the wake of that 30-17 beating, is not the QB, so much. Think higher.
When Reid was asked about Vick, Reid said he would "go back and look at everything. I'm not going to sit here and make [rash] decisions. I'm going to go back and look at it and analyze it."
Why would Vick presume he's about to be replaced, on the day the Birds' defense dissolved into chaos, allowing scores on the Falcons' first six possessions, giving the offense no chance? Well, hey, Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo when the offense was 31st in scoring and was turning the ball over nearly three times a game, so, why not change QBs, after Vick managed to avoid a turnover for only the second time all season?
We have traveled far, far through the looking glass here, in the 3 weeks since the Eagles were a last-second field goal away from beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh and starting 4-1. The assumption going into this game was that the Eagles, humiliated on their field by the Lions 2 weeks earlier, nursing those frustrations through the bye, prodded by the jolt of the Castillo firing and the promotion of Todd Bowles, would play for their season Sunday. Instead, they were down two touchdowns to the now-7-0 Falcons by the end of the first quarter, 17 points by halftime.
The windblown Lincoln Financial Field crowd seemed so disaffected, there really wasn't that much chanting and booing. People just shook their heads in disgust and left early, to finish preparing for the big storm. That has to be the most alarming part of this, if you're Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie: A lot of fans don't feel it's worth getting all red-faced over anymore. Been there, done that, now they're just waiting for a new direction.
And the Eagles played that way, too, even though players stood up for Reid afterward.
"I don't think we showed enough pride, enough heart," said running back LeSean McCoy, who scored both Eagles touchdowns, but could carve out just 45 yards on 16 carries behind an offensive line that was missing three 2011 starters. "The Atlanta Falcons played at a [much] higher level than we did today. It was just embarrassing. The whole game."
But McCoy also said "we don't want to panic," and answered "not at all" when asked if the team has stopped listening to Reid, who lost the initial game after the bye week for the first time in his 14 seasons here.
Presumably, McCoy was not one of the players Falcons tight end Tony Gonazalez said he talked to afterward. Gonzalez said unnamed Eagles "said some things are going to go down here in Philly."
Tight end Brent Celek, whose inability to handle a Vick throw on the first Eagles snap contributed to the slow start, said Reid "is one of the greatest coaches ever, and he has all of our respect. We just gotta go out and play.
"We're not executing as a team. It's just embarrassing how we're playing out there. With the talent, the type of guys we have - we as players just have to make plays."
Asked whether he thinks the team is responding to him, Reid said: "I take full responsibility for that performance right there. So, however you write it or perceive it, that's my responsibility to make sure that they play better than that."
Reid was asked if he thought the Castillo firing unsettled the defense, instead of improving it.
"How can I stand up here and tell you it didn't, with the way we played?" he said. "I can't tell you that, other than we need to play better."
Reid, who used the word "embarrassing" for the second game in a row, also said: "We're gonna bear down and get it right, [though] it's hard for me to tell you that after a performance like that."
He said he did not regret firing Castillo, the offensive line coach Reid promoted to defensive coordinator in 2011.
"I did what I did, and that's what I thought was right at that time," Reid said.
Way back when the game began - seems like weeks ago now - the Eagles won the toss but deferred. Given that they haven't scored on an opening possession all season, and their defense came in ranked 12th in the league, and their best quarter has been the third, the decision made sense. Or it did until the Falcons drove 80 yards in 16 plays plus one penalty, scoring on a 15-yard pass from Ryan to uncovered Drew Davis, who ran past a confused Kurt Coleman. The Eagles should have been off the field on a third-and-10 incompletion from the Atlanta 37, but a blitz left Jason Babin covering running back Jacquizz Rodgers, and Babin was called for a hold. Babin got fewer and fewer reps in the defensive end rotation as the game went on.
Atlanta built leads of 14-0, 21-7 and 30-10. After a horrible, three-and-out opening, the Eagles' offense plodded along decently, but it spent much of the afternoon on the sideline, watching the pre-hurricane gloom deepen as the Falcons converted third downs seemingly at will (six of their first seven).
In fact, the Eagles had the ball just three times in the first half, scored a touchdown on one of them. But their defense gave up three touchdowns, bang-bang-bang, then gave up a field goal at the end of the first half, and that was really the game. In the Reid era, the Birds have won exactly once when trailing by 17 or more at halftime, the DeSean Jackson punt return game at the Giants, Dec. 19, 2010. In fact, they've done it three times in their 80-year history.
If there was a glaring fault offensively, it was that even without the usual turnovers and penalties, points were so hard to come by. Vick (21-for-35 for 191 yards, three sacks, a touchdown and an 84.3 passer rating) looked like just a guy - an average QB with below-average size. Defensive linemen chased him down from behind. Vick ran seven times for 42 yards, but lacked any sort of sizzle or sparkle. Could the offense look much worse with Nick Foles back there?
Of course, the bigger problem Sunday was the disastrous debut of Bowles, whose unit couldn't chase down a screen play or stop the run when it mattered. Former Penn Charter quarterback Matt Ryan faced little pass-rush pressure and was deadly, completing 22 of 29 passes for 262 yards, three touchdowns and a 137.4 passer rating.
"We didn't make the plays we needed to make," Bowles said. "We didn't coach it good, we didn't play it good, and they beat us . . . We couldn't get off the field. They ran everything we practiced, and we didn't make the plays to get off the field."
Bowles said the screens were "nothing we didn't know was coming. We didn't tackle it, we didn't make plays."
"This is not going to make or break me," Bowles said. "We'll line up next week. You're going to have some ups and downs in this business. You're frustrated today, I'm hissed off, as well we should be. I don't like losing. I'm a sore loser. We lost."