It should be the marquee NFL game of the week this Sunday night when the Philadelphia Eagles face the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game will air on NBC-TV Channel 10 (8:20 p.m.)
Both the Eagles and Falcons have Super Bowl aspirations. The Eagles have that “dream team” label. The Falcons were picked by Sports Illustrated as one of the teams to get to the Super Bowl.
In addition, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will be heading back to Atlanta where he started his career. This won’t be his first return trip. He played down there in 2009 during his first year with the Eagles when the team still had quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb. In that game, he scored his first touchdown as an Eagle on a five-yard run. He also threw a five-yard TD pass to tight end Brent Celek.
However, Vick will be heading back this time as the Eagles starting quarterback. Last Sunday, in the team’s 31–13 win over the St. Louis Rams, he started his first season opener since 2006 when he was a member of the Falcons. He completed 14 of 32 passes for 187 yards while throwing two touchdown passes.
Vick is still a popular athlete in Atlanta. In 2001, the Falcons drafted Vick No. 1 out of Virginia Tech making him the first African-American quarterback selected first overall. He spent six years with the Falcons.
Vick guided Atlanta to the 2004 NFC championship game where they lost to the Eagles. He was selected to three Pro Bowls during his time in Atlanta.
In 2007, he went to prison for his involvement with a dogfighting operation. After he was released, the Eagles signed him in 2009. Last year, he emerged as the Eagles starting quarterback. The Associated Press, The Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly named Vick the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year after registering career highs in quarterback rating (100.2), completion percentage (62.6) and passing yards (3,018) en route to his fourth career Pro Bowl berth.
He became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,000 plus yards, rush for 500-plus yards (676), and accrue a 100-plus quarterback rating in a season, joining Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who did so in 1992 for the San Francisco 49ers.
Vick appears to be off to a good start. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who actually replaced Vick as the franchise signal caller, struggled in his first game. Chicago spanked Atlanta, 30–12 in the season opener. Ryan completed 31-of-47 passes for 319 yards and one interception with no TDs.
Ryan, former Penn Charter and Boston College star, was the third pick overall in the 2008 by the Falcons. In his first two seasons as the team’s starter, he has guided Atlanta to an outstanding 13–1 home record. A year ago, he earned his first Pro Bowl appearance. In 16 starts, he set franchise records with 357 completions on 571 pass attempts. He threw for career-highs with 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns with a career-best nine interceptions and a 91.0 passer rating.
This could be an early look at a possible NFC championship matchup. Atlanta and Philadelphia are certainly two of the conference’s top teams along with the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. It should be an interesting game. The Falcons don’t want to go down 0–2. So, the Eagles will be tested right away.
Demetress Bell will be a busy man in a few weeks. Bell, Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle, will be in training camp on July 25 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
But before training camp begins, the Eagles’ 6-foot-5, 311-pound offensive lineman, will host the Philadelphia Kids Fun Day on Tuesday, July 10 at Northeast High School, Cottman and Algon avenues and will have a variety of events for kids and adults, including autograph and photo opportunities with NFL players.
The event will begin at 2 p.m. with a free football and cheer camp for kids in grades 1–8. At 6 p.m. there will be the “Great Amazing Race with NFL players.” Kids will be paired with adults. The cost of the race is $40. Bell will have a chance to make a difference in the community prior to the start of the season.
“This is a great opportunity for the kids,” Bell said. “I always wanted to give back to the community. I wanted to do something in Philadelphia. This is where I play. It should be a fun day for everybody.”
Bell will be playing a big role in the community next week. He will be playing an important role for the Eagles this season, too. The Eagles signed Bell to a five-year deal in April. He is expected to replace left tackle Jason Peters, who suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in March.
Bell played left tackle for Buffalo Bills. He was started 30 games for the Bills over the last three seasons. A year ago, he played in seven games where he started six times and Buffalo had a 4-2 record in those matchups. He helped a Bills offense that tallied a season-high in points, rushed for 171 yards and gave up only one sack in a 41-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a part of the offensive line that didn’t give up a sack for two straight games that culminated in a 34-31 victory over the New England Patriots.
Bell will be blocking for one of the most talented offenses in the NFL, which features quarterback Michael Vick, running back LeSean McCoy, wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and tight Brent Celek. He’s looking forward to working with the Eagles offense.
“I know the players and coaches that I’m working with,” Bell said. “I don’t think I could be in a better situation. The offense is explosive at every position. We got Pro Bowl players at every position. We have a lot of great players across the board.”
The Eagles had a disappointing season a year ago. They expected to have a great year with a long run in the playoffs. But that didn’t happen. The Eagles finished the season with an 8-8 record, winning their last four games. However, there is a great deal of anticipation following a major let down from last year. The Eagles have all their key players under contract. The team is coming off a good mini-camp where all the players appear to be on the same page.
“I think everybody is excited,” Bell said. “Our practices have been really good. I think it’s going to be a good year for everybody. I know everybody wants to get back to playoffs. They want to have a big year. I understand that.”
Bell will be entering his fifth season in the NFL. He has proven to be a solid offensive lineman over the years. He feels each year he has made significant strides in terms of his skills.
“I think I’ve improved over the years,” he said. “Last year, I got injured (shoulder injury). But I’ve been working hard each year. I still feel I can do better. I feel I can do a lot more. I haven’t been playing football that long.”
Bell grew up in Summerfield, La., where he was an All-State and All-America honorable mention basketball player at Summerfield High School. He went to Northwestern State on a basketball scholarship. Before he joined the football team in 2005 as a defensive end, Bell had never played football at all. Despite the lack of experience, he was named to the Associated Press All-American and first team All-Southland Conference. He was also selected first-team All-Louisiana his senior year in 2007.
In 2008, he was a seventh round draft pick of the Bills. As far as playing football, Bell has come a long way in a very short period of time.
“I played power forward in basketball,” he said. I was a product of a basketball family. I was a basketball guy growing up. I’m working hard every day, but I still feel that I have only scratched the surface. I’m still learning more and more each day.”
It looks as if Bell’s best days are in front of him. His days as an Eagle will begin very soon in training camp.
NOTE: Bell’s event is produced in partnership with Flying Colors Sports, a marketing and community relations firm that works with professional athletes. For more information on the event, go to www.GreatAmazingRace.com.
There weren’t many bright spots in the Philadelphia Eagles loss to the San Francisco 49ers last week. One player who certainly stood out other than Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was tight end Clay Harbor. He had three receptions for a career-high 55 yards and one touchdown on a spectacular 16-yard pass from Vick.
“The touchdown was really a great play by Mike,” Harbor said. “If you watch it over again on the film, I’m in my half. In my part, I run a blitz out. I run a four-step out and Mike was looking front-side to the play. He had pressure and you see him duck over a couple of guys.
“Then, I saw him break out and scramble. I turned up field. It’s the old scramble drill. If you’re short, you go long. I tried to sneak behind the cornerback and got there. The cornerback was beaten inside. Mike put the ball where it needed to be. It was exciting. I got my first score of the year.”
Harbor, a 6-foot-2, 252-pounder, should be a factor again when the Eagles face the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York on Sunday, October 9 at 1 p.m. (Fox Channel 29.) The Eagles have utilized him as a blocker as well as a receiver. Harbor gives the team a lot of depth with Brent Celek, Eagles starting tight end. Harbor has four receptions for 72 yards and one touchdown.
Harbor was a fourth round pick out of Missouri State by the Eagles in the 2010 NFL draft. He was a three-time All-American, setting a school record with 150 career receptions for 1,906 yards and 10 TDs. In just his second year, Harbor seems to be making a sold impact.
“Every week I’m getting way more comfortable and more confident at tight end,” he said. “I think whatever I can do to help the team win, whether it’s blocking or receiving, I’m going to do that.”
The Eagles have a 1-3 record and are in last place in the NFC East. The Eagles relinquished a 20-point lead in their loss to the 49ers. Nevertheless, Harbor feels the Eagles have some positive signs heading into Sunday.
“If you look at the film, our offense is looking real well,” Harbor said. “We had 500 yards. If you rush and pass for 500 yards on offense, that’s usually a 40-point game. And we have a lot of good things on tape. We just have to clean up the red zone turnovers. We’re one of the top five offenses in the league, but we’re one of the bottom three in turnovers [too.] If we eliminate that then we’ll be right where we need to be and we could be 4-0 right now. We still have a lot of confidence as a team and we’re worrying about going to Buffalo and getting that ‘W’.”
The Philadelphia Eagles will have a chance to bounce back from a tough 16-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Oct. 14 against the Detroit Lions. The Eagles (3-2) will host the Lions (1-3) at Lincoln Financial Field. The kickoff is at 1 p.m.
The Eagles should be able to run the ball against Detroit. The Lions are ranked 15th in the NFL against the run. That means the Lions should get a heavy dose of Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, who is one of the league’s best rushers. McCoy had 16 carries for 53 yards including a 15-yard TD reception from quarterback Michael Vick in Sunday’s loss. He is the third leading rusher in the NFL with 384 yards on the ground.
Vick connected on 20-of-30 passes for 175 yards and 2 TDs, but fumbled four times. Two of those fumbles were recovered by the Steelers. In spite of his shortcomings, Vick still had the Eagles in a position to win the game. But the turnovers are really hurting the team.
In regard to throwing the football, the Eagles should have an advantage in their matchup with the Lions. DeSean Jackson, Eagles wide receiver, had four receptions for 58 yards against the Steelers. Jackson leads the team with 20 catches for 333 yards and 1 TD. In addition to Jackson, tight end Brent Celek (18 receptions for 315 yards and 1 TD), wide receivers Jason Avant (13 receptions for 126 yards) and Jeremy Maclin (9 receptions for 126 yards and 2 TDs) have been key players in the passing game.
Defensively, the Eagles need to get a pass rush together. They have to get some pressure on Matthew Stafford, Lions quarterback, who likes to throw the ball down the field. In the last two games, the Eagles haven’t been able to get to the quarterback. Stafford’s big target is wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions’ most explosive player. Johnson has 29 receptions for 423 yards and 1 TD. Stafford has completed 114-of-173 passes for 1,182 yards and 3 TDs.
Detroit is coming off a bye week. They should be well-rested and are in desperate need of a win. Detroit has lost three straight games to San Francisco 49ers (27-19), Tennessee Titans (44-41 OT) and Minnesota Vikings (20-13) respectively.
NOTES: McCoy scored his sixth-career receiving touchdown in his return to the site of his college (Pittsburgh) home games. He now has 4,764 career scrimmage yards, moving past Tom Woodeshick into 16th place on the team’s all-time scrimmage yards list.
Celek caught his first TD pass of the season. Over the last 16 games, Celek has accumulated 74 receptions for 1,062 yards and 6 TDs. Celek surpassed Keith Jackson for 16th on the team’s all-time reception list. He now trails only John Spagnola (256) and Pete Retzlaf (452) among tight ends. Celek also tied Jackson for the third-time among Eagles tight ends with his 20th regular season touchdown.
Vick eclipsed 150 career touchdowns (117 passing, 34 rushing), throwing for two TDs and a 104.2 passer rating. It was Vick’s 12th game with a passer rating that exceeded 100 during his career with the Eagles.
Michael Vick punctuated his remarkable comeback story with a sensational performance against the New York Giants in Week 15 two years ago.
Since then, Vick has been Mediocre Mike.
The Philadelphia Eagles are just 9-9 in Vick’s starts since he led them to an NFC East title by bringing them back from a 21-point deficit with 8:17 remaining to beat the Giants 38-31 on Dec. 19, 2010. DeSean Jackson finished off that stunning rally with a 65-yard punt return on the final play, but it was Vick who put the Eagles in position to win.
Vick threw for 108 yards, and ran four times for 94 yards in the last three scoring drives to set up Jackson’s clutch return. He finished with 242 yards passing and 130 more rushing.
Those were the days.
Vick has been so inconsistent lately that coach Andy Reid is asked weekly if he would consider benching the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback for rookie backup Nick Foles. Reid’s answer to that question earlier this week was seemingly innocuous.
“Right now we’re with Michael and that’s what we’re doing. We’ll evaluate as we go,” he said.
Still, it was misinterpreted by some reporters. That led to speculation Vick’s job was in jeopardy. So, Reid clarified his remarks Wednesday.
“Michael is our starting quarterback,” Reid said. “That’s not what I had in mind. Bad semantics there.”
Vick didn’t need the vote of confidence.
“I heard it, but I really don’t pay attention to what’s being said unless I’ve heard from coach himself,” Vick said. “We talked about it and it’s all about me going out and getting ready for this week against New York. It wasn’t anything serious.
“We’re in the position where we have to look forward to this week, we have to get ready for this game, that’s what’s most important. Outside distractions, we can’t let that be a deterrent to this team. We try to move forward and get ready for the next game.”
The Eagles (2-1) have a tough test against the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants (2-1) at home Sunday night. They’re coming off a 27-6 loss at Arizona that underscored several of the team’s deficiencies.
Turnovers were a major problem against the Cardinals and have been the first three weeks. The Eagles have 12 turnovers, including nine by Vick. He’s thrown six interceptions and lost three fumbles.
“Everything is good with our offense, everything is in sync, everything is intact,” Vick said. “We just have to get better. If we eliminate the turnovers and start fast, we give ourselves a chance to win the game.”
Vick has completed 55.2 percent of his passes for 905 yards and three touchdowns to go with all those turnovers. He also has 94 yards rushing and one TD. His passer rating of 66.3 is fourth-worst in the NFL.
After that incredible comeback against the Giants in 2010, Vick was considered an MVP candidate with two games remaining. He had a 63.2 completion percentage, 20 TDs, just five interceptions and a 103.6 passer rating in 11 games.
But Vick followed that up with a poor effort in a loss to lowly Minnesota that cost the Eagles a first-round bye. He threw a game-ending interception in the end zone in his next start, a playoff loss against Green Bay.
Last year was a disaster for Vick and the rest of his teammates. He started this season off by leading the Eagles to two 1-point victories with final-drive TDs, but had six picks in the two wins.
Overall, in his last 18 starts, Vick has 23 TD passes, 22 interceptions, nine lost fumbles with a passer rating of 80.1 and a 58.5 completion percentage
“I know it can be corrected,” Vick said of the turnovers. “That’s the most important thing. I know I can get my job done week in and week out. As a whole, you know you have to put it all together and that’s what I’m focused on, nothing in between. I pretty much expect us to put it all together at some point.”
Vick has plenty of support in the locker room.
“We’re always behind Mike 100 percent,” tight end Brent Celek said. “It’s a team game. It’s not that he’s doing anything to make us lose a game. It’s a team.”
Vick takes criticism for his decision-making, attempting ill-advised throws, holding the ball too long and not reading blitzes. But there’s plenty of blame to go around.
An injury-depleted offensive line has struggled, causing Vick to get knocked around quite a bit. Sometimes the running backs have failed to pick up their blocks on blitzes. Other times, the playcalling puts the offense in situations where there are more rushers than blockers.
“We have to keep Michael clean, we have to give him time to make throws,” guard Evan Mathis said. “He knows we have full confidence in him.” — (AP)
Kevin Kolb waited three years to replace Donovan McNabb as the starting quarterback for the Eagles only to keep the job just one half.
Two years later, he has a chance to prove they gave up on him too soon.
“I’m trying to prepare myself, make sure I’m not too excited, too hyped,” Kolb said. “As a quarterback, you have to be settled in. I have a lot of respect for those players and coaches.”
Kolb will lead the Arizona Cardinals against Philadelphia in a matchup of 2-0 teams on Sunday. He’s doing his best to treat this like any other game, though it certainly has a personal flavor.
The Eagles selected Kolb in the second round with their first pick in the 2007 draft, even though McNabb was firmly entrenched as the starter. Coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg groomed Kolb to be McNabb’s successor. Kolb studied hard, prepared, took mental notes, and did whatever he could to be ready when he received the chance.
When McNabb was injured in the 2009 opener, Kolb stepped in and became the first player in league history to throw for 300 yards in his first two starts. Then he went back to the bench.
His time finally arrived in 2010 after the Eagles traded McNabb to Washington. Kolb had big cleats to fill, taking over for the most successful QB in franchise history. McNabb went to six Pro Bowls and led the Eagles to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl loss in 11 seasons in Philadelphia.
But Kolb sustained a concussion in Week 1 against Green Bay, paving the way for Michael Vick to make a remarkable comeback. The rest is history.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Kolb said. “That’s how I go about life.”
Kolb started three more games after Vick was injured, leading the Eagles to a pair of wins in October. He played well, but went back to the sideline when Vick returned.
Despite all the back-and-forth, Kolb has no resentment about his time in Philadelphia.
“It’s definitely not bitterness,” he said. “I learned so much there. I have a lot of fond memories there, actually. I think about it all the time. I think the one thing it taught me was not [to] let the highs and the lows affect you that bad because you never know when the next opportunity will be and how quick it can change.”
That was a valuable lesson for Kolb.
In July 2011, he was traded to Arizona for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick. Hoping they had their first franchise quarterback since Kurt Warner retired, the Cardinals signed Kolb to a five-year, $63.5 million contract extension with $21 million guaranteed.
Again, it didn’t pan out as planned.
Injuries plagued Kolb last season and he ended up starting just nine games, going 3-6. Then he lost out to John Skelton in a preseason competition this year.
Skelton, however, injured his ankle in the opener against Seattle. Kolb stepped in and engineered the winning touchdown drive. He then led the Cardinals to a 20-18 win over New England, becoming the first quarterback to beat Tom Brady in an opener at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s somewhat ironic, but I’m taking it day by day, game by game,” Kolb said. “I learned I’m not going to try and predict anything. I went through a lot. I learned a lot from it. I learned don’t sulk, don’t feel bad for yourself. It can all happen in a hurry.”
Kolb has plenty of friends in Philadelphia, including Vick. Tight end Brent Celek already exchanged text messages with Kolb and Vick plans to do so, as well.
“We all know Kevin is a competitor and I know him as a great friend,” Vick said. “I know he’ll be amped up this week, so we have to be ready for him. That Green Bay game (in 2010), I never thought I’d be playing that day. I never knew where my career was going to go.”
Kolb didn’t play because of a turf toe injury when the Cardinals beat the Eagles 21-17 in Philadelphia last November. Still, he may have made a difference by standing on the sideline and helping the defensive players identify some of Philadelphia’s plays.
The familiarity goes both ways, though.
“We know a few of his tendencies, but he’s in a new offense and he has a new confidence, so we have to prepare like any other quarterback and take what we know about him and keep it in the back of our mind,” safety Nate Allen said. “We have to stick to what we do, disguise our coverages, try to confuse him any way we can.”
The Eagles will certainly try to rattle Kolb by hitting him hard and often. Kolb received a scathing review from Raiders defensive end Tommy Kelly after he sacked him in a preseason game. Kelly called Kolb “scared” and “skittish.”
Kolb said the accusation is “ridiculous” and no one plays scared in the NFL.
“We have to put the pressure on him,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “That’s what we saw happen to him here. When you put the pressure on him, he’s a different guy. But if you let him sit back there, he can pick you apart a little bit.” — (AP)
I did something last Sunday I haven’t done since… well, since ever.
I turned off the Eagles game late in the third quarter, unable to stomach watching my beloved Birds once again go down in flames.
As a self-professed die-hard member of Eagles Nation, we have suffered through seasons of bitter disappointment before, but never enough to make us completely give up hope. We lived through the Rich Kotite era, and the Marion Campbell era — and some of the most dismal games this city has ever seen.
But even in the lean years, we fans could take comfort in the fact that while our offense was suspect, and at times pitiful — the Eagles’ defense remained one of the most feared units in the league. No matter how many embarrassing trips into the red zone came up empty, our defense would make up for it.
The names which once struck fear in the hearts of opposing offensive coordinators are now legend. Bill Bergey, an axe murderer in a green jersey. Andre Waters, who would have clotheslined his mother if she dared to run across the middle. Reggie White, the Minister of Defense who could take over a game and win all by himself. Bednarik, Hopkins, Evans, Trotter, Joyner, Douglas, Simmons, LeMaster, Bradley, Dawkins — a virtual rogues gallery of hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners defensive players who gave 100 percent of themselves on every play of every game.
No Eagles fan could ever forget the Body Bag Game, when Eagles defenders knocked so many Redskins out of the game, they ran out of players. Or the clean, yet frightening hit laid on Cowboys’ receiver Michael Irvin that marked the All-Pro wideout’s last game in the NFL.
As an aside, I was at that game, and remember the controversy well.
Eagles’ safety Tim Hauck, who probably wasn’t more than 170 pounds soaking wet, made up in sheer ferocity what he lacked in size. That was one crazy little dude. Hauck would habitually launch himself full speed at ball carriers without regard to his own safety. When he hit Irvin, the sound reverberated like a rifle shot, and for just a second, Veteran’s stadium got eerily quiet. Then, when Hauck got up, leaving Irvin motionless on the field, the cheers went up. The cheering lasted while the stretcher came out; the paramedics loaded Irvin into a waiting ambulance, and drove off.
Later, the sports world was abuzz with the usual Philadelphia bashing, and how the ignorant fans cheered wildly while a man’s future hung in the balance. And while we denied it vehemently at the time, the naked truth of it is, yes, that’s exactly what happened.
But it was the Cowboys, after all, and if you expect an Eagles fan to feel sympathy for a Cowboy, especially an ego-driven prima donna like Michael Irvin, you’ve got another think coming. We were glad it happened, and especially glad it happened right in front of us. Fortunately, Irvin recovered, and is now boring us to death on the pre-game show every week, so all’s well that ends well.
My point is, those guys, those bright spots in on an otherwise mediocre team, are long gone now — replaced by a bunch of soft, contact-averse pansies who couldn’t tackle the leading rusher in the Pop Warner league. As bad as our offense is, and they are very bad indeed, our defense is downright embarrassing.
I know, we all had high hopes at the start of the season, but now reality has kicked in. The Eagles, the team I have loved since birth, are stinking up the NFL, and the time has come for drastic action. Not just “Fire Andy” drastic action, I mean an entire top down house cleaning.
There are a few players, notably LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek, and a small handful of others, who have struggled mightily to maintain some semblance of dignity, but theirs is a losing effort.
The time has come, fellow Eagles Nation members, to pull the plug. Time to trade, cut, sell, release or waive every last underperforming pretender on the team – starting with the front office and coaching staff.
It will mean a couple of rebuilding years, and probably several years of watching the Birds take a beating. There will be one failed savior after another (remember Bobby Hoying?) but in the end, the Eagles must do what every once-great and now awful franchise has had to do — start from scratch.
Owner Jeffrey Lurie is wise to give it some thought before the fans turn their wrath in his direction.
Daryl Gale is the city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune.