L.J. Fort dropped the ball. Every analysis of the Eagles’ 17-16 victory over Cleveland must start with that simple fact. Fort had a Mike Vick pass in his hands with 1:23 left in the season opener, and the Browns rookie let the ball fall to the turf.
Because of that drop, Vick doesn't have to deal with a clamor for backup Nick Foles -- at least not yet -- the offensive line doesn't have to find excuses for an unacceptable performance, and coach Andy Reid doesn't need to explain more ridiculous strategy. They all received a reprieve because Fort couldn't hold onto a football that hit him right in the hands.
But some painful truths have already emerged about this 2012 edition of our favorite football team:
Vick will derail this season with turnovers, if he isn't hurt first.
The offensive line is not capable of protecting Vick, or anybody else.
Reid may be more fan-friendly these days, but he's just as stubborn.
If Fort had held onto that interception, it would have been Vick's fifth pick, a career high. Under attack all day by the ordinary Cleveland defense, Vick put the football in harm's way with throws over the middle, or off the hands of his receivers, or directly into coverage. He played a dumb football game.
And he was no smarter when it came to preserving his health. According to ESPN, Vick was hit 19 times, the most by a starting NFL quarterback in any game over the past three seasons. For a franchise player who had already suffered two injuries in the past month, Vick continued to ram his small body into defenders with no concern for his physical condition.
The line protecting him must share the blame for the brutal beating Vick absorbed. Demetress Bell, the ex-Buffalo tackle who was brought here to replace Jason Peters, is so inept, he didn't even dress. His replacement, King Dunlap plays more like a court jester. The rest of the crew has proven to be far better at holding than blocking.
Finally, there's Andy Reid. On a day when his quarterback was rusty, his offensive line was struggling and his star running back was averaging 5.5 yards per carry, the newly affable coach called 56 pass plays and only 20 runs. Why?
In the end, the Eagles' defense was solid (or the Browns' offense was awful; take your pick), punter Chas Henry was spectacular and the Eagles somehow came back in the final minutes for a big win.
Which leads us right back to where we started, L.J. Fort and his hands of stone. Without him, this would be a much tougher week for all of us.
Still on good footing
David Akers tied an NFL record when he kicked a 63-yard field goal. David Akers. Does the name ring a bell?
It should. Akers is the best kicker in Eagles history, a Hall of Fame candidate who isn’t playing here for reasons that still have not been explained. All we know, two years after his departure, is that Andy Reid singled him out for the loss in the last Eagles’ playoff game, even though Akers was living a personal nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Halley, needed surgery for cancer.
Halley is fine, and so is dad. At 37, he is so fine, that he converted 85-percent of his field goals last season and is already 3-for-3 this year, including the 63-yarder. Ironically, one of the reasons the Eagles supposedly decided to dump Akers is because they were worried about his ability to kick long distances as he grew older.
What they should have been worried about is how it would look to lose a brilliant performer and a first-class citizen for no good reason. The best theory for why Reid let Akers go is that the kicker had rejected what the team considered a fair offer, a slight that simply wasn’t tolerated under Joe Banner.
But why did Reid act so coldly when he told the media to “do the math” after the Birds had lost by five and Akers had missed two field goals? Didn’t Akers deserve the same sensitivity that Reid got when his son Garrett suddenly died this summer? Wouldn’t anyone?
We may never know the answer to these questions, but one thing is clear now about the decision to let
Akers go. It was absurd.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the biggest problem on the Phillies isn’t manager Charlie Manuel or the aging roster or the rotten bullpen. Maybe the biggest problem is GM Ruben Amaro Jr.
In an ulcer-inducing interview with Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, Amaro sounded like a man in denial, about his blundering manager, about his skipper-in-waiting Ryne Sandberg and about the injury problems in 2012.
The GM said there is “no question” Manuel will be back. No question? The Phillies had the best team last year and lost. They had the best rotation this year and fell out of the race early because Manuel showed no urgency to win games in April and May. No question?
Amaro makes no sense these days. He called Manuel’s heir apparent, Sandberg, an icon with “no negatives” as a manager, and yet, when asked if he figures to be the next Phils skipper, Amaro said: “Oh, I couldn’t say that.” Why not?
The dumbest comment came when Amaro said the injury that “crushed” the 2012 Phillies was not Chase Utley’s or Ryan Howard’s. It was the back ailment of Freddy Galvis. Hello? Galvis was hitting .226 when he got hurt, and would have missed 50 games because he violated baseball’s drug policy.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe Amaro is the one who has to go.
- Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP's Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30-10 a.m.
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