The Philadelphia Eagles narrowly defeated the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, edging out their second straight AFC North opponent in a one-point win. The 24-23 victory makes the Eagles one of six undefeated teams remaining in the National Football League, and the Eagles stand alone in first place in the NFC East.
The Eagles capitalized Sunday with a tremendous defensive performance, as the pass-rushers got to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco early and often, forcing him to throw sooner than he wanted. On offense, DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek each turned in excellent days as pass-catchers, making life easier for Michael Vick.
And the game wouldn’t have been won without the heroic last-minute touchdown drive by Vick and the subsequent defensive stand by Juan Castillo’s group.
The following plays break down the Eagles’ win, showing what went right and what went wrong during the 60 minutes of football.
The Eagles got the kickoff and began the game with a 23-yard pass to tight end Celek. Vick had questionable protection for much of the game, but as the photo below shows, it was good for this play.
The play almost seemed to foreshadow the bulk of the offense’s game plan for the day, as Celek caught eight passes for a career-high 157 yards against a defense that rated third best in the league in 2011 in yards allowed.
It’s tough enough for opposing defenses that have to worry about Jackson and Jeremy Maclin as one of the game’s five or six best one-two receiver punches in the league, but Celek is a mismatch problem for linebackers, as he’s your classic tight end that’s too big for linebackers and too fast for safeties. Celek hauled in this pass easily, giving the Eagles a big first down to start the game.
The 2011 Eagles had absolutely no problem moving the chains, as the team racked up 6,386 yards on offense, the fourth most in the league. And they have had no problem gaining yards this season, either:
Eagles' 942 yards are 11th-most in NFL history after two games.
— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) September 16, 2012
But what the Eagles do need to cut down on is the red zone turnovers, specifically ones like this:
After marching 67 yards down the field in just eight plays, Vick made by far one of his worst decisions of the game. Vick was pressured and found himself rolling to the right, but rather than simply tucking the ball and running or throwing it away, Vick tried to throw across his body to the middle of the field to a covered backup tight end.
The pass, intended for Clay Harbor, was picked off, thwarting what could have been a quick 7-0 lead for an Eagles team playing a Ravens team it had not beaten in eight years. I know Vick wants to be a pocket-passing quarterback, but he should have just taken off here.
That wouldn’t be Vick’s last interception of the game either, nor would it be the last red zone turnover, but fortunately, Vick and the offense were able to recover from the play to still come away with a win, largely because of the great pressure from their defensive line.
Since the Eagles drafted him in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL draft, Trent Cole has been nothing less than one of the game’s most explosive and unblockable defensive ends. Cole is stellar against both the run and the pass, and he came up big for the Eagles following Vick's costly turnover.
It was still the first quarter and the Eagles were trying to recover from Vick’s miscue. The Ravens lined up at their own 20. Cole bull-rushed blind-side protector Michael Oher and knocked the ball out of the unsuspecting Flacco’s hand just as he was about to throw.
Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins fell on the football, and the Eagles had the ball back within one minute of turning it over.
The Eagles forced the Ravens into a punting situation with 1:16 remaining in the first half, which seemed like enough time for the offense (with one timeout remaining) to at least drive into field goal territory.
Sam Koch of the Ravens made an excellent punt, booming a high one to the Eagles’ 3. While it traveled just 38 yards and won’t show up in the record books, it was a tremendous punt by the seven-year veteran Koch.
Eagles’ rookie punt returner Damaris Johnson settled under it rather than letting it bounce into the end zone. Special teams superstar Brendon Ayanbadejo was far enough from Johnson that he likely thought he could return it, but to make the play worth it, Johnson would have had to get to the 20. That's just a rookie mistake.
The Eagles took over on their own six following Johnson's three-yard return, ran the ball three straight times for just four yards, and were forced to punt themselves.
Chas Henry kicked a pathetic 38-yarder, and the Ravens took over inside Eagles’ territory. Rookie kicker Justin Turner then nailed a 56-yard field goal right before halftime to put the Ravens up, 17-7.
When the Ravens got the kick to start the second half, it was imperative that the Eagles make a stop and score. That’s precisely what they did, as linebacker DeMeco Ryans intercepted a Flacco pass, and the offense marched right down the field.
One of the unsung plays of the game then came on a third down on the Ravens’ 21. Vick was pressured and rolled to his left but managed to fire a rifle throw to wide-open receiver Maclin in the corner of the end zone. Maclin kept his feet in perfectly and the play made it a three-point game, giving Philly some much-needed momentum at that point.
It was also Maclin’s only reception of the game, which may suggest he was hurt worse than the team initially thought.
What happened soon after was one of the more controversial plays of the game, and it occurred with the Eagles badly needing a touchdown to take the lead.
Replays clearly show Vick’s arm was moving forward with the intent to throw, and that is an incompletion. This gave Philly two plays remaining to pick up the one yard they needed for the go-ahead touchdown, and Vick wasted no time, running it in right up the middle on third down.
I particularly like the formation the Eagles chose for this play.
This featured three receivers, with Jackson and Maclin out wide and Jason Avant in the slot. Celek was in at tight end. McCoy was in the backfield and Vick was ready in the shotgun. Good luck defending that as a defense.
The Ravens couldn’t, and terrific blocks by Evan Mathis and Dallas Reynolds sprung Vick to a touchdown run that ultimately won the game.
The Ravens got the ball back with one last chance to score.
Rookie cornerback Brandon Boykin made one of the most athletic plays I have ever seen, when he leaped what had to have been three to four feet up in the air to knock down a pass intended for Jacoby Jones, who had already caught two touchdowns for the day (one of which was then called back due to a penalty).
Boykin's play helped the Eagles run out the clock on the Ravens, and pushed the Eagles to their first 2-0 start since 2004.
It was one of the most competitive Eagles games I can remember watching under Reid, and had just a play or two gone differently, it easily could have been a Ravens win and an Eagles loss. Fortunately though, the Eagles' great offseason is paying off, and the team enters Week 3 looking to defend their perfect record against the surprisingly 2-0 Arizona Cardinals.