The Philadelphia Eagles have piled on turnover after turnover throughout the season. But Eagles fans like myself know that some giveaways have been more costly than others, like the interception that put the Cleveland Browns ahead for a time on Sept. 9, or the fumble returned for a touchdown by the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 23. And now Michael Vick's latest fumble on the goal line against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 7 can be added to the list.
This turnover didn't lead to a touchdown, unlike those other Vick blunders. But the impact of this fumble was really felt at the end, as the Eagles suffered a 16-14 last second defeat that wouldn't have happened if that failed drive yielded any points.
In the first quarter, Vick drove the Eagles down to the goal line with the chance to give them an early 3-0 or 7-0 lead. But on a draw play, he had the ball knocked out at the 1-yard line and the Steelers recovered, ending what would be the Birds' best first half drive by far.
Although this turnover didn't lead to a Pittsburgh score, it would haunt Philadelphia the rest of the day. If the Eagles had gotten even three points from that drive, it might have sparked them to do more for the rest of the half. Instead, they waited until after halftime to do some offensive damage - and even then, it wasn't enough.
When Philadelphia took a 14-13 lead in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh only needed a field goal to win. But if it was a 17-13 or 21-13 advantage, Ben Roethlisberger's task would have been much tougher. He marched the Steelers down the field, but he didn't have to go for a touchdown or bust - and the Eagles' defense could have easily bent but not broken if he had to go for it all.
But the bare minimum was all Roethlisberger and the Steelers had to do, as they settled for getting into field goal range and then killed the clock. Once Shaun Suisham scored the winning three points and made sure the Eagles couldn't steal another victory, Vick's devastating fumble was the clearest scapegoat imaginable.
Aside from that play and another first half fumble, Vick was relatively mistake free. He didn't throw an interception for a second straight week, and he went a respectable 20-for-30 with two touchdown passes. He is slowly starting to get more efficient, and it helps that he didn't have to throw 40-50 times again.
But for Vick and the Eagles, it is usually a case of one step forward, two steps back. Although he was on his best behavior for much of the afternoon, it took just one rotten play to doom Philadelphia. A mistake free Vick might be too much to ask for these days, but we can at least hope that the mistakes he makes aren't as damaging as this one.
The Eagles themselves have to bare some blame, since they couldn't bail Vick out like they did in their past three wins. But everyone knew they couldn't do that forever and that one day, there'd be too much for them to overcome. In this case, one big early error sealed the Eagles' fate right away, and put Vick back on the hot seat right on cue.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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