GLENDALE, Ariz. - At least once a season, the Philadelphia Eagles give a puzzling performance in which they fall well short of pregame expectations.
Last year, they delivered a lackluster effort during an embarrassing 31-14 loss at Seattle. A 27-6 defeat to Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday wasn't quite that bad but still produced a lot of frustration among the coaches and players.
"Today was just one of those days for us," Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson said Sunday. "We didn't play Philadelphia Eagles football. Being on the road, playing a team with this (loud and rowdy) environment, and being behind early was just one of those tough things to overcome. Today was just one of those days where things weren't working our way."
The lousy showing was surprising, considering the Eagles (2-1) had a shot to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 2004. Instead, the Cardinals accomplished the feat for the first time since 1974.
As always, coach Andy Reid assumed responsibility for the team's troubles.
While he didn't deserve all of the blame - Reid didn't commit three turnovers and allow the Cardinals' defense to punish quarterback Michael Vick - the team's glaring lack of fire and inability to establish any offensive or defensive rhythm fell squarely on his shoulders.
"All in all, we obviously need to do a better job," Reid said Monday in quotes provided by the team. "I need to do a better job as the head football coach. It's my responsibility if there are failures on both sides of the football. Getting a team prepared is very, very important, and I take full responsibility for that. We need to coach better, we need to prepare better, and we need to play better."
Offensively, the Eagles' talent-laden lineup failed to score a touchdown for the first time since the 2009 regular-season finale at Dallas (24-0), a span of 35 regular-season games. They only came close to reaching the end zone once, when Jackson was tackled at the 1-yard line late in the first half, but that possession ended in disaster when Vick fumbled on a hit by blitzing safety Kerry Rhodes and safety James Sanders returned it 93 yards for a Cards touchdown that gave them a 24-0 lead.
The Eagles were no better in the second half, twice settling for Alex Henery field goals.
"I wish I had the answers," Vick said Sunday. "The only thing I know is we didn't play our best and were nowhere near our potential."
Scoring touchdowns is tough when most offensive plays end with your quarterback on the ground.
The Cardinals hammered Vick at will, collecting five sacks and knocking him to the turf at least 13 other times. At the end of the game, the back of Vick's white No. 7 jersey was covered with grass stains.
Vick did not throw an interception after tossing six in the first two games but did lose two of the Eagles' three fumbles against the Cardinals.
But despite the punishment he's taking and the mistakes he's making, Reid said he has no plans to use rookie quarterback Nick Foles next Sunday night against the New York Giants. Foles will not get any reps with the first-team offense in practice this week, Reid said Monday.
"Right now we're with Michael and that's what we're doing," Reid said. "We'll evaluate as we go."
Unless they find a way to better protect Vick, however, he may not be physically capable of staying on the field. A revamped offensive line had trouble handling the Cardinals' pass rush, especially linebacker Daryl Washington. Washington collected two sacks, two tackles for loss and three hits on Vick.
Part of the troubles could be attributed to center Dallas Reynolds and left tackle Demetress Bell, who were both starting for the first time this season in place of the injured Jason Kelce and King Dunlap, respectively.
Vick also held onto the ball too long on some plays.
"We've got to eliminate some of those hits on him," Reid said. "That's for sure. I'll tell you he's getting hit way too much. That part's got to end. We've got to limit that."
Defensively, the Eagles don't have to make too many adjustments. Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb, a former Eagle, played well, as did wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. But the Eagles' defense still allowed 20 points.
Their problem was a lack of momentum-changing big plays. The Eagles' defense forced no turnovers and really didn't rattle Kolb much.
They figure to be more motivated against the Giants, who are one of the Eagles' biggest rivals. Former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins will be honored at halftime, which should generate the emotion that was lacking in the desert Sunday.
"I'd hate to say we came out flat, but we definitely need to play better," safety Nate Allen said Sunday. "You want to win every game, but sometimes it just doesn't work that way."
Extra points: Eagles long-snapper Jon Dorenbos suffered a high ankle sprain against the Cardinals. The Eagles may work out a long-snapper to sign in the event Dorenbos cannot play against the Giants. Otherwise, tight end Brent Celek would be the long-snapper. ... Reid indicated Monday that he expects wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (hip contusion) to be back this week ... Dunlap (strained hamstring) may not be ready. If not, Bell will start against the Giants.
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