Ravens vs. Eagles: 10 Winners and Losers from Philadelphia Following the 24-23 W

Randy JobstSenior Analyst ISeptember 17, 2012

Ravens vs. Eagles: 10 Winners and Losers from Philadelphia Following the 24-23 W

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    Winning pretty is so overrated. The Eagles won their second straight game they nearly flushed down the toilet. They now have nine turnovers through the first two games of the season, including six from Michael Vick. They also have two straight games ending with a clutch fourth-quarter game-winning drive and a tough defensive stand late.

    There is too much parity on the NFL to think you can always win pretty. Winning ugly like this is a good thing. You have to think this is what the playoffs will be like. Tough, physical games where it doesn’t matter how you start; it matters more how you finish.

    The important thing to take away from the first two games is the Eagles record. They are 2-0. At worst, they will be tied for the best record in the NFL. It’s early, but it is still crucial to get off to a great start. Last year, the Eagles blew the second game of the season against the Falcons last season and couldn’t get another victory until Week 6.

Winner: Michael Vick

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    Michael Vick has been a turnover machine through the first two weeks. Outside of that, he has also been a scoring machine and the most clutch player in the NFL so far this season. Turnovers can be fixed, but you can’t teach clutch. Some players just have it.

    I never thought Vick was a clutch player, but I didn’t think he was unclutch either. He was somewhere in the middle. After the first two games this season, he is a flat-out clutch player.

    Vick has been outstanding at the end of his first two games this season. Actually, when he has had at least halfway decent protection and when he isn’t turning the ball over, he has been unstoppable. Take away his turnovers for a second. Vick has thrown for 688 yards and scored four total touchdowns this season. That puts him on pace for 32 touchdowns and 5,504 passing yards, assuming he played all 16 games.

    Eventually, Vick will figure out a way to limit his turnovers. He is never going to be mistake-free, but he can at least get to a point where he only commits one turnover a game.  The Eagles might have beat the Ravens by 20 had they been able to protect the football.

Losers: Offensive Line

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    It was a rough day for the Eagles offensive line. King Dunlap left with a hamstring injury and Jason Kelce was knocked out with a knee injury. The Eagles only dressed seven offensive linemen. One more injury and a defensive lineman might have been playing both ways.

    Kelce will get an MRI tomorrow. The extent of his knee injury is still unknown at this point, but it is not looking good.

    You really feel for a guy like Kelce. He has worked his butt off since being taken in the sixth round last year. He has become one of the better centers in the NFL and has looked solid so far this season.

    Hopefully, it is just a sprain, but that would be a bit of a shock to me. It didn’t look good on the field. Dunlap just suffered a hamstring injury. He should be OK, but isn’t a lock to play next week. It is way too early to tell.

    Even if he can’t go, the Eagles still have Dennis Kelly and Demetress Bell at left tackle. They don’t have any centers behind backup Dallas Reynolds right now.

    Remember when we didn’t know if the Eagles were going to keep Dallas Reynolds or Steve Vallos as their backup center back in training camp? It matters a heck of a lot more now. Hopefully, Kelce is OK.

Winners: DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek

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    DeSean Jackson was called every name in the book after his contract dispute last season. I hope people aren’t still questioning his toughness after this game. If they are, and they are a so-called “expert," turn the channel or find something else to read. Jackson is, pound-for-pound, the toughest player in the NFL.

    Jackson made big catch after big catch in traffic against the Ravens and took a lot of major league shots in the process. He also didn’t back down from any of the pushing and shoving. You want them from your wide receivers. Finesse teams don’t win Super Bowls anymore. You have to be tough. Playoff games are physical and nasty.

    Brent Celek was even better than Jackson in Week 2. Neither player got in the end zone, but they did racked up 15 receptions for 271 yards. That is getting the job done. You just get the feeling that as long as the Eagles have at least Maclin or Jackson at 100 percent with Celek, they will move the football in the air for four quarters.

Loser: Bryce Brown

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    This one is pretty simple. Running backs cannot fumble handoffs as rookie backups and expect to keep getting touches. Brown fumbled his second carry, a fumble the Eagles lost. He had just one more touch the rest of the way. I am surprised he saw the field after that blunder.

    The Eagles have enough turnovers issues with Michael Vick’s interceptions and LeSean McCoy losing his second fumble in as many weeks. Botched handoffs cannot happen. Sure, the fumble gets credited to Vick, but that was clearly Brown’s fault. He ran before he secured the football. He hasn’t exactly set the world on fire on any of his touches this season. Now, he will have to prove himself just to be a part of this offense going forward.

    Remember, the Eagles have Chris Polk and Dion Lewis all itching to get touches. Once Lewis is healthy again, he might steal Brown’s carries.

Winner: Juan Castillo

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    Juan Castillo took a beating last year as the Eagles defensive coordinator. This season will be different. You can just tell by the way his unit is playing. He is also making adjustments. That was evident this week against the Ravens.

    The Eagles defense was a little up and down in the first half, but they really settled down in the second half. They held Ray Rice to just 21 yards in the second half after he ran for 78 in the first. They also held the Ravens to just six points.

    The key thing for this defense is that they aren’t trying to be something they’re not, and they are all on the same page. Nobody is running the wrong coverage and the defense isn’t trying to be too complicated.

    Actually, this might be the simplest defense in the league. Just man up with your linebackers and corners, use your safeties over the top and let your front four attack the backfield. It works for this personnel, and it works because Castillo is making adjustments at the right times.

Loser: Marty Morhinweg

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    I don’t know what Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was thinking during the Eagles final drive. When the Eagles got down to the Ravens' one-yard line with two minutes to go, he decided to get cute. Cute doesn’t work in the NFL.

    On the 2nd-and-goal play from the one-yard line, Mornhinweg called a pass play that nearly resulted in a lost fumble. The problem I have with the play call is that it stopped the clock. The Ravens still had two timeouts at this point. The Eagles need to kill some clock or force the Ravens to burn a timeout before the score a touchdown.

    That doesn’t mean you purposely don’t score on second down, but passing the ball there is a dumb call. Keep in mind that Vick has thrown two picks prior to that pass.

    Luckily for the Eagles, their defense stepped up and preserved the win. The Ravens had just under two minutes left in the game with both timeouts when their offense took over. They only needed a field goal to win the game. Justin Tucker had made two 50-plus yard field goals earlier in the game. Giving the Ravens over 100 seconds with two timeouts and just a one-point deficit seems like a death wish.

    Hopefully the next time the Eagles are in a situation like this, they will do the right thing and keep it on the ground.

Winner: Derek Landri

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    I can’t convince you that Derek Landri had a great game based on the stat sheets. I rarely can when it comes to Landri. He isn’t that type of player. He is a disrupter and a penetrator. He gets off the ball very quickly and gets into the backfield with relative ease at times.

    Landri is really the key to the Eagles pass-rush. His ability to draw double teams, get off the ball quickly and get penetration against double teams opens everything open for the rest of the line. He sets the tone for everyone else. He did just that against the Ravens.

    There was a couple of plays where Landri was able to get to Flacco and lay a hit on him as he was throwing the football. He didn’t get any sacks, but he disrupted a lot of plays. A couple of Flacco’s throws were off the mark because of his pressure. You can’t track that type of production on the stat sheet, but it is vital to any defense.

Loser: Jeremy Maclin

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    Jeremy Maclin is another Eagle I really feel for. He busts his hump every week, but always seems to have some health issue holding him back. From his cancer scare last summer to his nagging shoulder and hamstring injuries last season to now his hip injury this season. He just can’t seem to get healthy.

    Maclin is the right receiver for this offense. He runs crisp routes, he has good hands and can make people miss after the catch. The only reason he won’t get to the 1,000-yard mark this season is because he won’t stay healthy. That is a tough pill to swallow for any player. He hasn’t suffered the type of injury that will set him back for 12-18 months, but these nagging injuries seem to take a toll on him.

    Hopefully, he can get back to 100 percent very soon. This is going to be a very scary offense once Maclin can get healthy.

Winners: The Cornerbacks

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    Torrey Smith had a nice 40-yard catch against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but the Ravens wide receivers had just 45 yards outside of that one long play. That included all the three wide receiver sets where rookie Brandon Boykin was matched up against Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin.

    Overall, the Eagles corners held the Ravens wide outs to just 85 yards and one touchdown. This isn’t just Nnamdi Asomugha locking down his man anymore. It’s three corners locking down their man for four quarters. Eventually, they will give up a 20 or 40-yard pass at some point, but they don’t get burnt that often. Eighty-five yards for four quarters is pretty darn impressive.

    The Eagles secondary was supposed to be unstoppable last season.  It is right on track to get to that level this season. The Eagles held the Browns wide receivers to just 85 yards in Week 1.  

Losers: Special Teams

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    The Ravens couldn’t out play the Eagles on offense or defense, but they certainly did on special teams. They made three long field goals, averaged over 50 yards a punt and were a much better return unit.

    Chas Henry averaged less than 40 yards a punt, including a couple in the low 30s. That is disappointing after he was great last week against the Browns, when most of his punts went over 50 yards.

    The Eagles gave up 99 yards on three kickoff returns and 34 yards on three punts. They managed just nine yards on their three punt returns. The return game is better than it was last season, but didn’t look it on Sunday.

    Henry and the coverage unit has to get better. It didn’t matter in Week 2, but at some point, it will. A bad decision by Eagles punt returner Damaris Johnson to field a punt at the five-yard line lead to a late Ravens field goal. That three points nearly cost the Eagles the game.

    The Ravens only needed one point during their final drive instead of four. It’s a game of inches, folks; every mistake is magnified in this league full of parity.