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Make no mistake, Eagles must decrease turnovers or 2-0 will be a mirage

by | Senior NFL Columnist

PHILADELPHIA -- Imagine what the Philadelphia Eagles would look like if they could hold onto the football.

I mean, they committed four more turnovers in Sunday's 24-23 come-from-behind defeat of Baltimore and had five the week before. At this rate, they'll wind up with a staggering 72. Of course, at this rate, they won't lose, either. Because no matter how many stupid mistakes the Eagles make, they somehow manage to overcome them.

"How many turnovers today?" wide receiver DeSean Jackson asked reporters afterward.

When he was told, he shook his head.

"You cut away them turnovers," he said, "and I think [we're the] best team in the league, period."

I don't know that I would go that far. But I do know for the Eagles to accomplish anything of consequence they must overcome two opponents -- one of which is themselves. That didn't work out so well last season when they had 38 turnovers, second only to Tampa, and lost eight of their first 12 starts. But somehow, some way, the Eagles are getting by a year later, and don't ask me how.

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All I know is that it can't continue. And so do they.

"The turnovers are the things that get you," coach Andy Reid said. "We were lucky to accumulate some on the other side, the defensive side, but, listen, you can't do that. We all know that. Turnovers, penalties, field position. All those things are crucial to winning football games. We've got to eliminate that and get better."

Fortunately for Philadelphia, the defense is improved -- dramatically -- from this time last season. It didn't allow an offensive touchdown vs. Cleveland and surrendered only two TDs, including one that followed a fumble, vs. a Baltimore club that destroyed Cincinnati.

And, fortunately, Michael Vick is holding up in the face of furious pass rushes, vicious hits and numerous mistakes. With two more interceptions Sunday he has six for the year. But he also has two last-gasp drives that turned crushing losses into one-point victories.

"Can you imagine how prolific your offense could be with just half the turnovers?" he was asked.

"Just thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach," Vick said. "We just have to do a better job holding onto the football. I've got to do a better job with my decision-making, and everything will work itself out."

Philadelphia entered this season determined to protect Vick and to keep him -- and his teammates -- from committing a rash of mistakes. So far they're 0 for 2. But that's the only place they're 0-2. Yes, they've been lucky. But a smart man once said it's better to be lucky than good, and the Eagles have been both.

They piled up nearly 500 yards in offense in each of the first two weeks, survived a raft of turnovers and penalties and had replays spare them crushing turnovers on winning drives. Against Cleveland, it was a Vick fumble he recovered. Against Baltimore, it was an incomplete pass that initially was ruled a fumble. Replays, however, confirmed Vick's arm was moving forward when he lost the ball.

He scored on the next play.

"I can't even remember what happened," he said.

"You scored," someone said.

"Yeah, that's all we need to remember," he said.

He's right, of course. The Eagles are 2-0 in spite of themselves, but they're 2-0, and that's all they need to remember. At some point, though, they better clean up the hits on their quarterback, the unnecessary penalties and, of course, the passel of turnovers. Because they can't survive that way.

They know it, and so do you. The Eagles hammered ball security in the offseason, talking over and over about how they would clean up that part of their game and make themselves a better team. Yet now they're worse than ever in that department ... but they're a better team.

"What can you say about that?" Reid was asked.

"I did that to make sure if we won the game you guys [writers] would have something to write about," he said, joking.

Well then, mission accomplished.

"There's nothing I can tell you," Reid said. "I don't like turnovers. I don't want turnovers. We've got to be better at it. We have to hang onto the football. You have to throw the ball to the right person. This isn't something we planned on having."

But it is something they must address. Philadelphia is talented. It has offensive playmakers galore. Its defense seems markedly improved. And it is winning the close games it lost in 2011.

All that is good.

Now they must clean up those style points, and they're on their way. Vick insists "it all starts with me," and I would second that. He's the guy who threw four interceptions against Cleveland, and he's the guy who threw another on the Eagles' opening drive -- this one in the end zone after the Eagles drove the length of the field. It was one of two red-zone turnovers for Philadelphia, and if that sounds familiar it should. It was red-zone mistakes that sabotaged the Eagles in 2011.

"You can't always hit a home run," Vick said. "Sometimes you got to hit singles and doubles. That's what I've got to learn to understand with forcing the ball sometimes."

Nevertheless, Philadelphia is unbeaten. It won this one with two starting offensive linemen hurt -- center Jason Kelce (knee) and tackle King Dunlap (hamstring), both of whom left in the second half -- and it played with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin re-injuring a sore hip. And it won this one with Vick and the offense running the no-huddle for the first time this year and in a long, long time.

But the bottom line is this: The Philadelphia Eagles are unbeaten. Period.

"We know how good we can be," said Vick. "We see the progress and see what we do down after down. Then it's all negated by penalties and turnovers. So, the sky's the limit. I'm waiting for the type of game where it's all clean."

So is this city.


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