The Philadelphia Eagles got a couple of scares, then gave one.
After losing quarterback Kevin Kolb and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley to first-half concussions Sunday, the Eagles rallied behind Michael Vick and found a flicker of hope in what had been a lifeless effort. It wasn’t enough in the end, though, as the Green Bay Packers walked away with a 27-20 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
In the end, the game raised more questions than it answered — both in the way the Eagles handled the concussions, and how they now might weave Vick into the mix.
There’s no question Vick was more effective than Kolb, who the Eagles feel good enough about to have traded Donovan McNabb to Washington. Kolb is the starting quarterback, and Coach Andy Reid made that clear after the game, saying the fourth-year player will resume as soon as he’s ruled healthy.
But there’s also no denying Vick was more effective in the opener, nearly erasing a 17-point deficit in the second half with three scoring drives: two touchdowns and a field goal. Looking like the Vick of old — always elusive, sometimes forcing passes — he turned in the 10th 100-yard rushing game of his career, with 103 in 11 carries.
“The key in this game is to keep the defense off balance, play pitch and catch, play keep-away,” Vick said. “If you can do that, you have almost a 100% chance of winning the game, regardless of how you play, whether it’s in the pocket or outside the pocket.”
Vick has not started a game since Dec. 31, 2006, in Philadelphia, when he was playing for Atlanta. He missed two seasons while serving an 18-month sentence in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring. He signed with the Eagles before last season and mostly was used in “wildcat” formations.
Sunday’s game essentially was decided with two minutes to play when Vick lined up in the shotgun and was stonewalled at the Green Bay 42 on a run up the middle on fourth-and-one. The Eagles, trailing by a touchdown, watched helplessly as the Packers took three knees to end it.
The performance wasn’t a thing of beauty for the Packers, who showed vulnerabilities on their offensive line (they gave up three sacks in the first 16 minutes) and had several defensive breakdowns. But they also got two touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers, a club-record 56-yard field goal from Mason Crosby, and a tough victory on the road.
“I played terrible, probably about as bad as I can play,” said Rodgers, who completed 19 of 31 passes for 188 yards with two interceptions to go with his touchdowns. “It has got to get better. I missed a lot of throws I could make in my sleep.
“I’m disappointed with that, but I think we made the plays to win, and the defense did a great job in the first half.… We need to clean things up, obviously, and hopefully come out more aggressive against Buffalo” on Sunday.
The Eagles, meanwhile, might have been too aggressive in allowing Kolb and Bradley to continue playing in the first half after they sustained concussions. They were injured on consecutive drives, with Kolb looking woozy after being driven into the ground from behind by linebacker Clay Matthews, and Bradley’s head colliding with the thigh of fellow linebacker Ernie Sims.
The Bradley play was especially alarming because he was knocked to the turf, then climbed to his feet and stumbled sideways like a boxer out on his feet. He fell back to the ground, got up and walked to the sidelines, was briefly checked out by the medical staff, and returned for the next defensive series.
Because of the extreme danger of so-called second-impact syndrome — two concussions in a short time span — the NFL has ruled that players who suffer a concussion in a game or practice cannot return to action that day, and must be cleared by an independent neurologist.
Reid said both Kolb and Bradley were initially cleared by the medical staff on the sideline, and the determination to sit them was made at halftime.
“They were fine,” he said. “All of the questions they answered with the doctors registered well, but as it went on, they weren’t feeling well. So we took them out.”