More than fumbles haunt Philadelphia.
Despite the turnovers that trail Vick like a shadowy phantom, the heart of the problem in Philadelphia lies not so much in the abundance of falling balls but in the scarcity of rising plays.
For some evidence, start by looking at games from the present season.
Vick’s two best games of 2012 were against the New York Giants, where he was fumble-free, and the Detroit Lions, where he had one ball dropped and recovered. The Giants game produced a skintight win that could have easily gone the other way, and the Lions game gave Philadelphia a stunning, hard-to-swallow loss. With the team's slim victories, the Eagles have hardly convinced themselves that they are winners.
As they escaped with a narrow 17-16 finish against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins remained incredulous in a postgame interview posted on the Philadelphia Eagles website: “This might be one of the sloppiest wins in my career. It’s still setting in that we actually won the game.”
Little did Jenkins know that the game would set the tone for next five games.
Of the nine fumbles Vick has had this year, three occurred in games that the Eagles went on to win. Then, six of Vick’s eight interceptions were thrown in games the Eagles won. Only two of the eight interceptions—both in the Detroit Lions game—were thrown in a game Philadelphia lost.
Vick’s passing record of 1,632 yards, the ninth best in the league, goes a long way to offset the potential damage from the fumbles, interceptions and sacks.
For further proof, examine Vick's two previous seasons as a starter in Philly.
In 2011, Vick had 10 fumbles, four that were lost. In a game-by-game review, Vick fumbled six times when the Birds lost but four times when they won. So 40 percent of the time, Vick dropped the ball in a winning game. Of the four lost balls, just two were given up in a loss.
In 2010, Vick's first season back in the NFL, he had 11 total fumbles, three that were lost. Five of those mistakes did not cost the Eagles the win. The remaining six fumbles resulted in Philadelphia being buried in a loss. Once again, 45 percent of the time that Vick fumbled, the Eagles still came up with the win.
If mishandled balls aren’t the root cause of Philadelphia’s failure, what keeps the Eagles from fulfilling the preseason dream-team predictions put forth by experts?
A lack of sacks
The Eagles defense has not had a sack in three straight games. Not since 1983 have the Eagles been sack-less for three games in a row. By Game 6 last year, the Eagles had 18 sacks. This year, they have pulled down just seven.
The missing defense is one of the biggest reasons why Philadelphia was minus one defensive coordinator as of Monday morning. With the promotion of Todd Bowles as the new defense strategist, Philadelphia hopes to cure the sack famine and other defensive deficits.
A line of offense
The loss of two starting linemen early in the season, especially center Jason Kelce, unquestionably punched a hole in the gut of the Eagles offensive line.
It’s time for those holes to be filled.
Against the Lions, an inexperienced center, Dallas Reynolds, caused the game's only turnover when he snapped the ball before Vick was ready. Then, the lineman with the most experience, Todd Herremans, gave up a sack in overtime when he was overpowered by the Lions defense.
Additionally, the offensive line has to step up its run protection. League record-setter LeSean McCoy can only use routes to which he can gain access. Being one of the top running backs in the league is only a threat if you can pull the trigger on the run.
A lot of receivers
The talent in the Eagles receiver pool should reflect in the points on the Eagles scoreboard. To date, it does not.
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin recently returned from a hip injury and led the team with 130 receiving yards against Detroit, but the effort was not enough to save the game.The Eagles' top-ranked receiver, DeSean Jackson, picked up 74 yards in the same game. Meanwhile, tight end Brent Celek cost the offense at least 12 points when he dropped a comparably easy touchdown pass and again when he pushed off on a second play before making an end-zone catch that was overturned.
If Philadelphia wants to turn its mediocre season around, the team must go beyond giving its quarterback a football to take to dinner and stir up a complete menu of areas to evaluate and radically improve.