All was not well in Eagle Land heading into last night's game.
Despite their first place standing in the NFC East, the team was in turmoil after losing to the Chicago Bear.
Andy Reid was unhappy with his team's focus and preparation. DeSean Jackson was unhappy with his contract, and it appeared that he was becoming a bit of a distraction.
The team's performance had also slipped. The defense had been picked apart by Chicago, and the offense was struggling in the red zone.
Making things worse, they only had a short week to prepare for the Houston Texans and their high powered offense.
But in the NFL, there is one surefire way to make everything better: Win.
It certainly was not their best performance of the season, but the Eagles indeed found a way to win last night. And because of that, things are looking up. They are now guaranteed at least a share of first place for another week, and more importantly, they have nine days to rest before their next game against the Cowboys.
What Went Right
Despite taking some hard hits, Michael Vick led the team back after they fell behind in the third quarter. Similar to what I said after the Giants game, this seemed like the type of game the Eagles had been losing in recent seasons. Instead, Vick is finding ways to win.
LeSean McCoy was the Eagles' best offensive player last night. He had some big gains both on the ground and with the screen pass, and he scored two touchdowns.
After dropping a would-be touchdown pass in the second quarter, Brent Celek came back to make the biggest play of the game when he stretched out to make a first down. (once the spot was adjusted thanks to a challenge). The Eagles went on to score a touchdown and essentially put the game away.
While the defense had some rough moments, especially trying to stop Andre Johnson, they did make a few big plays—like Trevor Laws' interception—and stopped the Texans in the fourth quarter.
David Akers became the Eagles' all-time leader in games played, and kicked two field goals to mark the occasion.
What Went Wrong
The defense struggled in the middle of the game. They couldn't seem to generate much pressure on Texans QB Matt Schaub, and the secondary was clearly overmatched against Johnson.
The offensive line allowed too many hits on Vick. It seemed like he was getting knocked to the ground on every pass.
They continue to have some red-zone issues on both sides of the ball. Jason Avant and Celek both dropped touchdown passes (although Avant's ball might have been slightly tipped). The defense can't seem to keep anyone out of the end zone once they're within the 20-yard line.
Penalties were a problem last night right from the start. Jorrick Calvin's touchdown on the opening kickoff was called back due to a holding penalty (though the hold probably did directly lead to the long return). In a way, that might have helped the Eagles, as they went on to score, anyway, and kept the Texans offense off the field.
Other penalties did hurt them, though. Multiple Texans drives were assisted by offsides calls, and the secondary had a few interference/illegal contact calls.
Bad Andy Reid Coaching Move of the Week
I was going to give Reid a pass this week since he actually won when challenging the spot on the Celek catch. While replays showed that it should have been a first down, I am so used to Reid losing these things that I expected the ruling on the field to stand.
Regardless, I have to criticize the Eagles for using two timeouts early in the second quarter. It certainly seems like the plays aren't getting sent to the huddle fast enough.
The McNabb Report
Not much news out of Washington since their defeat at the hands of the Vikings on Sunday. The Redskins will be facing the Giants this week, so Eagles fans should be pulling for the burgundy and gold.
Donovan McNabb has had a lot of success against the Giants over the past two seasons, and hopefully that can continue this week. Of course, when he played well against the Giants, he also had DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook, so it is hard to say if he can duplicate that success.
Elsewhere in the NFL
The big game this week is the battle between the New England Patriots and New York Jets. The two teams are tied atop the AFC East, and the winner of this game has a good shot at getting the conference's No. 1 seed while the loser will likely end up as a Wild Card.
Eagles' Next Opponent
The Dallas Cowboys have had 10 days to think about their heartbreaking Thanksgiving Day loss to the New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys had undergone somewhat of a renaissance under interim-coach Jason Garrett, and they looked to have pulled off an improbable comeback against the defending champs. But then WR Miles Austin had the ball stripped from him, and the Saints went on to win the game.
You have to wonder if that loss ended the Garrett-fueled resurgence. For a team that was already suffering a disappointing season, a tough loss like that can often lead to players packing things in for the season.
Since the Eagles still have to face them twice, I can only hope that is the case.
The Cowboys face the Indianapolis Colts this week. Normally at this point in the season the Colts are cruising towards a playoff bye, but this year they will struggle just to make the playoffs.
This would have been a very tough loss for the Eagles. They would have fallen out of first place and then had to wait 10 days to play again.
But coming off a win, those 10 days can now be spent recovering and preparing for the Cowboys next Sunday night.
The win certainly wasn't pretty, but it is rare for every win in the NFL to be pretty. Teams have to win ugly games too, and that's exactly what the Eagles did.
Originally published on my blog: Stranger in a Strange Land