By Zach Berman, The Philadelphia Inquirer –
PHILADELPHIA — Before Michael Vick’s second game-winning drive in as many weeks began, he looked at a patchwork offense that was missing three starters to injuries and again beset by turnovers. It was not a situation that would usually inspire confidence.
But standing in front of his teammates in the seconds before a 10-play, 80-yard series sealed the Eagles’ thrilling 24-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Vick displayed the swagger he swore he would never lack after last week’s game.
“This is what great teams are made of, game-winning drives,” Vick told the offense on the sideline, according to receiver Damaris Johnson.
The grandiose statement might be better reserved for hackneyed sports movies, but it worked Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Vick went 4 of 5 for 70 passing yards on the winning drive and ran for a 1-yard score, propelling many in the crowd of 69,144 into euphoria.
It also showed that the 32-year-old Vick is developing the ability to thrive in the clutch.
Entering the season, Vick had never led one of these drives in an Eagles uniform. His first came last week. His second came on Sunday.
“In the moment,” Vick said after the game, “you have to be at your best and it’s got to be by any means necessary.”
The theatrics concluded a game in which the Eagles opened with a no-huddle offense and finished with 486 yards while converting 7 of 15 third downs. Vick passed for 371 yards, LeSean McCoy rushed for 81 yards, and both Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson topped 100 receiving yards.
Starters Jason Kelce, Jeremy Maclin and King Dunlap left the game with injuries.
A come-from-behind win over a Super Bowl contender is not a panacea for the team’s mounting issues, but it at least allowed the Eagles to celebrate a 2-0 start to the season. The Eagles visit the 2-0 Arizona Cardinals this Sunday.
By that point, the Eagles will need to improve the turnover issue that continues to plague the offense. They committed four turnovers on Sunday, increasing their season total to nine. Two were in the red zone against Baltimore, thwarting scoring opportunities that could have positioned the Eagles to win the game without needing the final drive.
“I’d like to see what it looks like when you don’t have the turnovers,” coach Andy Reid said. “We can be a very explosive team if we just take care of those.”
Vick threw an interception on the game’s first drive, inexplicably throwing across his body for the second consecutive week. He was also charged with a fumble on a handoff that Bryce Brown could not grip and threw an interception that deflected off Celek’s hands. McCoy, who is ordinarily sure-handed, fumbled for the second consecutive week, 11 yards from the end zone.
“Sometimes you have to get singles and doubles and that’s what I have to learn to understand,” Vick said of his interception. “I just force too many balls sometimes.”
The Eagles were saved by a defense that has been stout through the first two games, never letting the Ravens take a big lead. The no-huddle offense that Baltimore unveiled during a 44-point effort last week did little to bother the Eagles, who held the Ravens to 325 yards and limited them to 4 for 14 on third downs. Trent Cole forced a fumble and DeMeco Ryans registered an interception.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh noticed the Eagles keeping eight players in the box to stop the run and relying on man-to-man coverage against Baltimore’s receivers. Even though Baltimore running back Ray Rice experienced success rushing the ball (6.2 yards per carry), he had only 16 carries. And almost every time the Eagles needed a stop, someone made a play — especially on Baltimore’s final drive, when the Ravens could not overcome a one-point deficit.
“I think the confidence level is building,” cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “When you look at the numbers at the end of the game, whether it’s how much they threw for or how much they rushed for, (the numbers have) been fairly good so far.”
But no matter how well the defense has played or how many yards the offense accumulated, there would not be such widespread confidence in the locker room if Vick had not led consecutive game-winning scores.
Several players identified a difference between this year’s team and last year’s, particularly when it comes to the resolve in the fourth quarter. That’s an intangible characteristic that the Eagles have shown in consecutive weeks.
After the game, Vick tried to piece together all that went into his winning drive but he couldn’t remember the details. At the mention of the touchdown, he smiled, knowing that clutch quarterbacks are defined by drives such as this.
“That’s all we need to remember,” Vick said.