10. Tuesday Night Football.
I find a Tuesday night game to be fascinating. I don’t like it though. I wish the game could just be played around on Monday evening instead of giving the Eagles a short week.
This was the first Tuesday game in modern NFL history (and hopefully the last).
This game also ruins one of my favorite trivia questions to ask people: “What are the only two days in which an NFL game cannot be played?”
9. Injuries to key players in the season’s first game.
The Eagles’ injuries against the Green Bay Packers in the first game of the season were absolutely ridiculous.
Pro Bowl fullback Leonard Weaver suffered a gruesome season-ending ACL tear. Center Jamaal Jackson, who Donovan McNabb called the most important player on the Eagles’ offense in 2009, suffered a season-ending triceps tear. Former All-Pro middle linebacker Stewart Bradley suffered a concussion and missed next week’s game against Detroit.
And Kevin Kolb, the future face of the franchise, suffered a concussion on a sack by All-World linebacker Clay Matthews, ultimately catapulting the Eagles into one of the craziest seasons in franchise history.
Never in my life have I seen so many quality players lost in one game to injury. It’s incredible that the Eagles were able to overcome the losses of their starting quarterback, fullback, center, and middle linebacker to still win the division title.
If not for the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants would have likely won the NFC East division title this season.
8. A struggling defense that always makes a big stop in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles have had anything but a good defense this season, even leading to some speculation about the job security of defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
They’ve allowed huge games to players like Jahvid Best, Kenny Britt, and Keiland Williams (each scored 3 touchdowns).
They almost allowed the Lions to come back and beat them. And the 49ers. And the Colts.
Yet every time this team has needed a late game stop, it has come through.
Joselio Hanson knocked down a fourth down pass to secure a victory against Detroit, despite the Lions recovering an onside kick. Trevard Lindley intercepted Alex Smith with a minute left to beat San Francisco. Asante Samuel picked off Peyton Manning, arguably the signature play of the season by the defense. Asante intercepted a pass and Darryl Tapp recovered a fumble in the last few minutes of a win against the Giants. Tapp also recovered a fumble against the Texans with just two minutes remaining. And Trevor Laws’ big sack of Eli Manning helped the Eagles’ defense give Jackson a chance to win it on the last play of the game.
7. Four night games in five weeks.
I would predict that four night games in five weeks is an NFL record. It’s impossible to look up unless you want to go through every NFL team for every season, and I don’t have 474 spare hours to check.
But I can’t remember it ever happening. The Eagles played the Redskins on Monday Night Football, the Giants on Sunday Night Football, the Texans on Thursday Night Football, and the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.
They won them all: 59-28, 27-17, 34-24, and 27-20.
6. Andy Reid’s complaint to league officials.
When Andy Reid complained to the league officials after the game against the Houston Texans about the non-calls on quarterback Michael Vick, you knew something special was happening.
Reid doesn’t publicly express his displeasure and when he went to great lengths to protect Michael Vick, you got the feeling that he knew just how valuable Vick was to the entire Eagles’ organization.
5. Donovan McNabb’s disappearance in Washington.
This counts as part of the Eagles season because it makes head coach Andy Reid look like an absolute genius for choosing to let go of McNabb after the 2009 season.
Although he didn’t go with Kolb as planned, the Eagles have a very stable quarterback situation in 2010 and likely for a few years.
The Redskins benched McNabb in the final two minutes against the Redskins, kept him as starter, rewarded him with a 78 million dollar contract, benched him again, demoted him to third string, and will likely release him after the 2010 season (unless he demands a release first, which he should).
I intentionally didn’t root for McNabb this season because I don’t want to root for the quarterback of a division rival but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him once he was benched in the most disrespectful way possible.
4. Miracle at the New Meadowlands.
The greatest game in Philadelphia Eagles history. One of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.
The Eagles looked lifeless for 52 minutes against the Giants. They trailed 31-10 and a loss was all but certain (I said before the game that the loser would miss the postseason).
Then Brent Celek caught a 65-yard touchdown pass. Riley Cooper grabbed Akers’ onside kick, executed to perfection with 10 men on the field.
Vick led a touchdown drive and rushed in from four yards out. The defense made a stand. And then Vick led a 7-play, 88-yard drive, culminating in a 13-yard touchdown to Jeremy Maclin to tie the game with 1:16 remaining.
What happened next was probably the greatest regular season play in Philadelphia Eagles history.
After a defensive stop, DeSean Jackson fielded a punt with 14 seconds remaining and did exactly what every Eagles fan in the country prayed would not happen.
He fumbled the punt. But incredibly, Jackson scooped it. He darted around. He found a hole. And the rest is history.
Jackson’s 65-yard walkoff punt return touchdown–sore foot and all–was the greatest regular season moment of my life as an Eagles fan.
3. No Kevin Kolb.
We all know what happened.
Andy Reid believed in Kevin Kolb so much that he traded his six-time Pro Bowl quarterback to a division rival, officially handing the fourth-year player the starting job.
But after a brutal half against Green Bay, a concussion, and six incredible quarters by Michael Vick, Kolb was back to the one place he never wanted to be again: the bench.
He made three starts this season, winning the first two, including a dominating performance against the probable top-seeded Atlanta Falcons.
But he never regained his starting job.
2. The explosive offense.
The Eagles have a great offense. We all know that. After all, they did set the franchise record for points scored last season.
But nobody expected the Eagles’ offense to be as powerful as it was this season.
Michael Vick turned into the NFL’s most exciting player and the best quarterback in the NFC. LeSean McCoy turned into top 10 running back in the NFL. DeSean Jackson continued an electrifying career that ranks him among the greatest big-play receivers in the history of the National Football League. And Jeremy Maclin quietly turned in a phenomenal season as the Eagles’ number two wide receiver.
At times, the offense was unstoppable. Literally unstoppable.
Like against the Redskins on Monday Night Football, when Vick and Jackson helped the Eagles scored 59 points, including 35 in the first 15:06. Had the Eagles played their starters for the entire game, I believe they would have broken the Chicago Bears’ 70 year old record for points in a game (73).
Or against the Giants, when Vick led the Eagles on a ridiculous 21-point fourth quarter comeback, and Jackson ensured that the Eagles wouldn’t even need overtime. The Eagles became the fifth team in NFL history to overcome a 21-point fourth quarter comeback and win in regulation.
The Vick to Jackson connection in 2010 ranks up with any big play quarterback-to-receiver combination in the history of the NFL.
In fact, you could make a case that Jackson provided the three signature plays of the entire NFL in 2010: his 88-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the game against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football; his fourth quarter 91-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football; and his 65-yard walkoff punt return touchdown against the New York Giants, which has already been named as the NFL Play of the Year by FOXSports, as well as SportsCenter.
With a few more seasons of dominance, the Eagles’ offense could rival the Greatest Show On Turf, the St. Louis Rams’ offense which featured Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, and Isaac Bruce.
1. The resurrection of Michael Vick.
This might be the number one sports story in 2010.
Vick was the Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback in 2006. He was sentenced to prison for dog fighting in 2007 and 2008.
He was unusually involved in the Eagles’ offense in 2009, playing a wildcat role that almost seemed to disrupt the Eagles’ offense at times.
And he became the most exciting player in the NFL in 2010, by turning into a complete quarterback for the first time in his career.
Vick’s rushing numbers were vintage Vick: 676 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in yards per carry (6.8), as usual, and turned in a 103-yard rushing performance against the Green Bay Packers in literally 30 minutes of football.
But his passing statistics were off the charts.
He completed 233 of 372 passes for 3018 yards, setting career highs in completion percentage (62.6) and yards per attempt (8.1). He tossed 21 touchdowns against just six interceptions. And he posted a triple-digit passer rating of 100.2.
He became the first quarterback with 3000 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 500 rushing yards, and seven rushing touchdowns in a single season.
And he provided two of the single most incredible performances by a quarterback in NFL history.
He completed 20 of 28 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns in a 59-28 win against the Redskins. He began the game by completing 9 of 9 passes for 226 yards and 3 touchdowns. Oh, and he rushed 8 times for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those are legitimately Madden numbers. Had Vick played the entire game, I believe he could have accounted for eight or nine total touchdowns.
Against the Giants, Vick played poorly for three and a half quarterbacks, before engineering an explosive, electrifying 21-point fourth quarter comeback. Never have I seen an NFL quarterback put a team on his back like Vick did for those three fourth quarter drives. He tossed two touchdowns and rushed for another in the final eight minutes. Had Jackson been forced to call for a fair catch on Matt Dodge’s punt with 14 seconds remaining, I truly believe Vick would have been able to connect with a receiver for a quick 20-yard pass to set up David Akers for a long field goal attempt.
Vick likely won’t win NFL MVP this season, which is a shame, because he would have in 2008 or 2009.
But he will undoubtedly win Comeback Player of the Year.
More importantly, he’s entered himself into a small group of quarterbacks who are dominant with both their arms and their legs.
For the first time in his career, Michael Vick has become a truly elite NFL quarterback.