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Eagles show faith in Young, get rewarded with winning effort

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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LeSean McCoy can carry a load, but the Eagles win with Vince Young's lightly regarded arm. (US Presswire)  
LeSean McCoy can carry a load, but the Eagles win with Vince Young's lightly regarded arm. (US Presswire)  

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So the Philadelphia Eagles aren't a "Dream Team." For one evening ... no, one series ... they played like the club they're supposed to be, and I don't know who deserves more attention -- the quarterback who made the plays or the offensive coordinator who called them.

The quarterback was Vince Young. The coordinator was Marty Mornhinweg. Together, they hammered out one of the most effective and memorable drives in recent Eagles history -- a series that consumed nearly nine minutes of the fourth quarter, produced six third-down conversions and ended with the winning touchdown in a 17-10 upset of the New York Giants.

"We've been waiting to jell," said defensive end Jason Babin, who made a game-clinching sack-and-strip of Eli Manning, "and I think we might have jelled."

I've heard that before, so pardon me if I'm cautious.

What I haven't heard is Vince Young making big plays to save the Eagles at a time when they historically wilt. That would be the fourth period, where the Eagles have been outscored 81-34 this season and lost after blowing five leads.

So they blew another one Sunday, this one a 10-3 advantage, before Young came to the rescue with plays he hasn't made since ... well, since the second half of the 2009 season when he was 8-2 with Tennessee.

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That was the Vince Young the Eagles hoped they were getting when they signed him this summer, and that was the Vince Young who convinced them they could trade away Kevin Kolb -- last year's safety net for Michael Vick.

The Eagles knew they almost surely would play without Vick at some point this season and weren't interested in letting Kolb go until or unless they had another option. Young was that option, with the Eagles signing him shortly after the Kolb trade, and until Sunday, they didn't know what they had.

I mean, the guy threw one pass all season, and it was intercepted, and produced a Blutarsky -- a zero, point, zero, zero -- for a passer rating.

Yet the Eagles didn't lose faith in him, with Mornhinweg having him throw on the club's first four snaps. That was a surprise for two reasons -- 1) Philadelphia has the NFC's leading rusher in LeSean McCoy and 2) Young isn't what is known as an accurate passer. Yet the Eagles put their offense in his hands and let him go.

"He's a confident man," Mornhinweg said, "and you saw that tonight. You always want to be aggressive and have great trust in our players -- no matter what's happened in the past."

OK, I get that. But this is not Steve Young, whom Mornhinweg coached in San Francisco. This is Vince Young, known more for touchdown runs than he is for touchdown passes. Yet Mornhinweg seldom called on him to run and relied more on Young's right arm.

Until the fourth period, that looked like a mistake. Young had three interceptions -- including one in the end zone that sabotaged a sure scoring drive -- and barely escaped a fourth. Yet when the Eagles took over first-and-10 at their 20 with 11:36 left, Mornhinweg never wavered -- calling his quarterback's number again and again.

Nine times Young threw, completing seven -- including his last six -- with the clincher an 8-yard score to Riley Cooper on third-and-goal. That Young pulled off the victory is not as surprising as <i>how</i> he did it -- with his arm -- and for that, he should be applauded.

But so should Mornhinweg for never losing faith in him.

"You have to be aggressive," Mornhinweg said. "You just have to in this league. And this other quarterback (Manning)? He's been really hot in the fourth quarter, and especially late. I wanted to run it twice and make them use their timeouts, which they did. Then, on third down, you have to be aggressive.

"Over the long run, it typically pays off. Now, it hasn't early in the year for us. It bit us in the rear end a couple of times, but it worked tonight. But give the players credit. They executed beautifully on that drive."

Young made the throws and five different receivers made clutch catches -- none more spectacular than Jason Avant's 13-yard shoestring catch on a second-and-16 at the Philadelphia 45. But it was that kind of evening, with Philadelphia finally producing the game we expected in the wake of their destruction of Dallas.

"This was a knock-down, drag-out Big East battle," coach Andy Reid said, before correcting himself. "[I mean] NFC East battle. It was worth every dime watching it. It was a heck of a game."

It was if you were an Eagles fan. But what happened Sunday is nothing new for Reid or this franchise. Remember, Reid is the guy who won a division title in 2002 with backup quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Koy Detmer, pressed into duty because of an injury to starter Donovan McNabb. And he's also the guy who OK'd the Kolb deal when he knew he had Young on the line.

But it's one thing to think you can win with him. It's another to go into a hostile environment and do it, especially when Young hadn't started in over a year.

"He's a winner," Mornhinweg said, "and that's why we brought him in. For exactly this kind of situation."

I don't know if they got lucky. I just know it's never wise to count the Eagles down or out when Reid is trying out a backup quarterback. Yeah, I know, it didn't work with Mike McMahon, but it did with Detmer and Feeley and Jeff Garcia and Vick. And now it has with Vince Young -- and that's as much a tribute to the Eagles' trust in him as it is to Young's poise down the stretch.

So Young made mistakes. He made plays that mattered. And he won.

"It's always like that," Young said. "It's how quarterbacks exist in the game. I really feel like Marty did a great job of calling plays for me, keeping me poised with short routes, checking the ball down and things like that. I really feel I give all the respect to him."

Me? I give it to both of them. The Eagles won a game they weren't expected to win, and that's a change. But they won it with Vince Young, and that's not only a change ... it's a relief.

Now, of course, people want to know how long Young stays in the lineup and when Philadelphia goes back to Michael Vick. That depends on Vick, who has cracked ribs, and last time people looked, he had trouble walking.

"I'd rather just take it day by day," Reid said. "I'm pretty fortunate. I have three good quarterbacks. We're lucky that way. We'll just see how things go with Mike. I'm not going to put him in a bad position, that's for sure."

There's no reason to. The Eagles have Vince Young, and, for one night, that was a good thing.

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