The Michael Vick Experience is in serious need of repairs. If the Philadelphia Eagles can't figure out a way to get the machine running more smoothly during the bye week, the ride may need to be shut down for good.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in August that Reid needed to get back to the playoffs to keep his job as head coach. Knowing the stakes—though owners have been known to go back on their word, especially given the extenuating circumstances in Reid's personal life this year—Reid has faithfully stuck with Vick through six games, riding the roller coaster of demoralizing turnovers and late-game comebacks to the tune of 3-3.
That's just not good enough, and Reid and Vick both know it. Getting back to the playoffs is not going to happen if the Eagles continue to lose games the way Sunday's overtime loss to the Detroit Lions slipped away.
"I pretty much don't know what to say. We put ourselves in position to win games and we don't finish," Vick told reporters after the game. "Certain things can't happen. We all have to do our jobs and be accountable. We didn't get it done on offense."
The Eagles didn't exactly get it done on defense either. The Birds were up by 10 points with 5:18 to play after Vick hit Jeremy Maclin on a 70-yard pass to break the game open. Detroit's offense, stymied much of the game until the fourth quarter, answered the score with a seven-play, 80-yard drive that took less than two minutes.
Eagles fans can't exactly blame Vick for that.
Still, the ensuing drive that could have iced the game for Philadelphia went three-and-out, giving the ball back to Detroit with more than two minutes remaining in the game. The Eagles, with Vick under center and Reid ostensibly in charge of the offense, got the ball with 3:32 left to play in the game and gave it back to Detroit with 2:27 remaining, not even so much as forcing Detroit to call one timeout.
Detroit took advantage of its opportunity with the ball, constructing a 12-play drive with a few shots at the end zone before settling for a game-tying field goal to send the contest into overtime.
The defense blew the lead, but the offense didn't do much to help when it needed to. Eagles fans can blame Vick for two earlier interceptions as well—the Birds also lost a fumble in the first half on a mistimed snap that probably wasn't Vick's fault—and while none of the turnovers resulted in points for the Lions, they did halt potential scoring drives early in the game that clearly could have impacted the end result.
"I'm going to continue to try to work on ball security as much as I can, limit the interceptions, limit the fumbles and keep this football team ahead on the scoreboard," Vick explained. "That's my ultimate goal at the end of the day. I need to keep my team in a position where we are always ahead on the scoreboard. That's what matters to me."
Have you ever been to a carnival where the whole time you're on a ride you think the thing is going to fall apart? There's an odd adrenaline rush when straddling the fine line between nervous excitement and fearing for your own life.
That feeling was the Vick Experience when the Eagles got to overtime on Sunday. Everything came crashing to the ground with a thud.
In the past, the Vick Experience would have kicked into overdrive for the extra session. Instead, fans were left fearing for their playoff lives when Philadelphia won the toss and elected to receive. Make no mistake—there is a huge difference between 4-2 and 3-3 in today's NFL. If the Eagles fail to make the playoffs, this could be the game fans look back on as the reason why.
With both teams getting a chance in overtime under the NFL's new rules, it makes zero sense for a team to elect to receive the ball if it wins the toss. Sure, the Eagles defense had been on the field a lot in the fourth quarter, but why wouldn't Reid want to give Detroit a longer field to try to score, thereby giving his offense the benefit of knowing exactly what it had to do to win when it got the ball back?
By receiving the overtime kickoff under these new NFL rules, a quick series and a punt would give Detroit a short field and a chance to win the game with just a field goal.
That's precisely what happened.
The Eagles started at their own 25-yard line in overtime. They punted from their own four after two sacks and an incomplete pass that could have easily been called intentional grounding in the end zone if Vick had been one step closer to the pocket.
Three plays. Negative-21 yards. The Experience may have broken down for good, along with the offensive line.
It's actually hard to blame that series on Vick when he had no time to get rid of the ball on any of the three plays the Eagles had in overtime. Driven back into terrible field position, Philadelphia was forced to punt, giving Detroit the short field Reid should have known would happen.
Six plays later, the bumpy ride came to an unsatisfactory end, yet again.
The question in Philadelphia now, something the team and fans have two weeks to ponder, is whether the Vick Experience is too old and rusty to keep working or if the guys in charge of running the ride are incapable of pushing the right buttons at the right times.
In other words, is Vick done, or have Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg made him look that way?
The offensive line has been decimated by injuries, but the Eagles' protection schemes have done little to cover up those deficiencies. Granted, some of that has been Vick's fault, calling out poor protection at the line of scrimmage. Still, he just doesn't have enough to work with.
At times, the Eagles offense looks as dynamic as any team in the league with Vick at the helm. Then fans sit through a three-play drive that goes backwards at the most important times of the game and have to wonder what the alternatives would be. Is rookie Nick Foles the answer? Can Reid, ostensibly in his last year as head coach, decommission Vick and go with an untested rookie?
It's easy to blame the quarterback, especially when he can't stop turning the ball over. Yet as much as the defense has kept the Eagles in games this season—keeping two early wins close enough for Vick to provide late-game heroics—the unit has lost late leads in each of the last two contests. Vick hasn't been great, but he wasn't totally responsible for these losses either.
If fans focus too much on how and why the Vick Experience stopped working (if it ever truly worked since coming to Philadelphia), they might stop seeing all the other problems around the Eagles' park. Things are cracking in a lot of places, and for the next two weeks, there surely won't be much amusement in Philadelphia.
Something better get fixed by the time the gates reopen.
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