After nearly two full weeks of the NFL season in the books, one thing is certain: the more we think we know, the less we actually do. The Baltimore Ravens last week beat up on an inferior division rival in the Cincinnati Bengals, and looked like world beaters in the process. Judging by that complete dismantling in the season opener, one would be hard-pressed to deny that the Ravens would potentially be the team to beat in the AFC.
The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, looked downright bad in their week 1 tilt against a horrid Cleveland Browns offense, yet still managed to get out of their own way and earn a come from behind victory by the skin of their teeth.
While Philly got the win a week ago, the contrast between these two teams in the leadup to this game was striking. But what a difference a week can make. Here is what we learned about the Eagles somewhat surprising victory at home on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens:
1. The Eagles played down to their competition against the Browns, but were definitely up to the task of facing what many called a Super Bowl caliber team in Joe Flacco and the Ravens. While not a dominant performance by any means, the Birds stood toe to toe with Baltimore for sixty minutes, and proved themselves up to the task of beating a quality opponent on their home turf.
2. In direct contrast, Flacco’s team faced a stiffer test this week than last, and had ample opportunity to dispatch the Eagles, but couldn’t get it done on the road. The Ravens essentially played “down” against a better team, and the result was failing to put away a team that kept nipping at their heels. Baltimore was tested both by Michael Vick and a humming Eagles offense, and a wide-9 pass rush that frustrated Flacco most of the afternoon.
3. Joe Flacco is NOT yet in the class of elite quarterbacks in this league. Flacco did not kill his team on this day, but he also didn’t make plays when needed. The Baltimore signal caller completed just 22 of 42 passes, and consistently floated balls and missed checkdown and dumpoff targets all day. An elite quarterback can step into that big throw he needs to make for a big play or first down, and Flacco failed to deliver in this game when it mattered.
4. The Ravens continue to lack a big play wide receiver to take over games down the stretch. Tight end Dennis Pitta served as Flacco’s go to guy in this game, and while Pitta had a decent day, the Ravens offense needs a wideout to step up in a big situation and take control of the game. Baltimore thought they had such a play late in the game, when Jacoby Jones beat Nnamdi Asomugha in the end zone, but was flagged for offensive pass interference to negate the go ahead touchdown. The Philadelphia secondary benefited from a stiff pass rush to keep the Ravens outside threats from making impact plays most of the game.
5. Love him, loathe him, Michael Vick has somehow gotten it done two weeks in a row. Vick now has six interceptions on the year, just eight shy of his career worst for a season. He continually puts himself in precarious positions, dives head first, and exposes himself to any number of blind hits which could put him on the shelf for the year. But two weeks straight he has engineered the game winning drive, and for that credit is due. While it remains to be seen whether he can perform on the field in such fashion and stay upright for sixteen games, Vick and the Eagles are now alone atop the tough NFC East, and have to be smiling after two such hard fought wins.