Where Philadelphia Eagles, Michael Vick Have Just Been Plain Lucky
The Philadelphia Eagles' 3-2 record isn't terrible and is not cause for panic, but the Eagles are still a very flawed team. Last season, the "Dream Team" managed only an 8-8 record.
In 2012, a full offseason has again created optimism for the team. But the team still has many problems that must be fixed if the team is to win consistently.
While the team managed to win three games so far, including beating the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants, the team does not seem as dominant as the top teams in the NFL. The reason for this is that the team has often been lucky in certain circumstances, and this has contributed to its record.
Here are some areas where the team has been just plain lucky so far.
1. The Play of Nnamdi Asomugha
Many observers have credited Nnamdi Asomugha for stepping up this season and playing like his shutdown self once again, but much of this is not true.
While it is true that Asomugha has been much better than last year, as evidenced by the Eagles having the confidence to match him up one-on-one with opposing wideouts, he has actually played much worse than his results would reveal.
Asomugha has been getting burned consistently. In almost every game there is at least one instance where Asomugha has allowed a big catch. And there have been many instances when Asomugha should have gotten burned but the Eagles have lucked out.
For example, in the Baltimore Ravens game Asomugha got burned by Jacoby Jones twice. The first went for a touchdown catch, and the second time was nullified by a questionable pass interference call. Jones is not even the best receiver on the Ravens.
In his most recent game against the Steelers, Asomugha lucked out after getting burned by Antonio Brown when the ball bounced off Brown's fingertips.
It may not be such a great idea to leave Asomugha on an island with the best receivers in the game from now on. He is a good cornerback, but he is no longer an elite one.
One could argue that turnovers are, in fact, unlucky, and that the turnover problems were caused by a few reckless runs and tipped passes, which can be easily fixed.
However, a look at the tape shows that the Eagles have actually been lucky to have turned the ball over only as many times as they have. They should have more.
Vick has lost five fumbles so far, but he has fumbled a total of eight times. In the game-winning drive against the Cleveland Browns, Vick was hit by a defender while scrambling for a first down and instantly lost the ball. While falling, he somehow recovered the ball with one arm and kept the play alive.
Some would call it his determination and drive to win. Others would call it luck. The ball could have bounced much further away, in which case the Browns would have certainly recovered it and won the game.
Against the Steelers, Vick fumbled two times, but it should have been three. He slid head-first and did not secure the ball tightly. The ball slammed against the ground and popped into the air, making it easy for the Steelers to recover it.
The play was luckily taken back by the referees, who noted that Vick's leg was touched by a Steeler's leg. Although that contact had nothing to do with Vick's fumble, he was technically down by contact. Again, lucky.
We also have to consider all the times Vick has thrown right into coverage and the ball was not picked off.
3. The Poor Play of Opposing Quarterbacks
This slide won't claim that the Eagles defense has not played well. It has been much-improved and is a bigger strength than the offense this season. But it has gotten some help from poor decisions from opposing signal-callers.
In Week 1, Brandon Weeden played awfully, having by far the worst game of his NFL career so far. The Eagles did a good job blanketing his receivers, but Weeden threw right into coverage consistently. When he was pressured he decided to loft the ball as high as he could into the air, making it easy for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to pick off.
In the second game of the season, Joe Flacco turned the ball over twice. He was careless in the pocket on the Ravens' first drive and allowed the ball to be stripped. He also threw an inaccurate pass across the middle of the field right into the arms of DeMeco Ryans.
Eli Manning played well, but he threw away his team's momentum when he threw right into coverage in the red zone, right into the hands of Rodgers-Cromartie.
Even Ben Roethlisberger was not at his best against Philly, as he was not able to throw a single touchdown pass and missed a few open receivers.
Good defenses make it harder for quarterbacks to find their rhythm, but the Eagles D-Line has not been as effective at generating pressure as it was in 2011. As a result, quarterbacks who maintain their composure can still pick through coverages and beat blitzes.
Kevin Kolb did that this season and it resulted in a 27-6 loss in Arizona.
4. Poor Coaching Decisions
The coaching staff has made a number of poor coaching decisions, and they have been lucky to overcome them this season.
Against the Giants, a passing play was called in a non-shotgun formation on 3rd-and-goal despite needing only a yard or two for the touchdown. The Eagles were still able to take the lead with a field goal, but needed a strong defensive performance to win.
Andy Reid then chose to ice the Giants' kicker, who completely missed the field goal wide on his first try, and was lucky that he missed it twice.
In the Steelers game, he chose to go for it on fourth down with 13:11 left to play in the fourth quarter and on his own 31-yard line. He was bailed out by a spectacular effort by LeSean McCoy, as 95 percent of running backs would have been stopped way short of the first down.
Eagles coaches have made their fair share of mistakes this season, but they have gotten lucky on many of the mistakes. But if this becomes a pattern, the Eagles cannot expect to win consistently. You can't go for it on fourth down deep in your own territory and expect to win every game.