It figures—the rare Sunday you only dress 7 offensive linemen for a game, and two of ’em get knocked out of the game.
In fact, missing from Vick’s final-drive huddle were Center Jason Kelce, left tackle King Dunlap and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin who had all left the game with injuries. They were replaced by a former practice squad member (Dallas Reynolds), a player who had been demoted and deactivated last week (Demetress Bell) and an undrafted rookie free agent (Damaris Johnson).
The Eagles’ offense still came through in the clutch for the second straight game, this time driving 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown in a 24-23 victory over Baltimore at Lincoln Financial Field. “It says a lot for the guys coming off the sideline and goes to show they’ve been doing a good job during the week of studying and paying attention,” Vick said. “They understand the concept that any given moment you can be out on the field and they stepped in. Those guys did a tremendous job out there for us today.”
Reynolds, who spent the last three seasons on the Eagles’ practice squad, made his NFL debut late in the third quarter after Kelce suffered a sprained right knee when the Ravens’ Ed Reed fell on his leg while Kelce was blocking for running back LeSean McCoy.
“We let Dallas know that we have confidence in him,” left guard Evan Mathis said. “And we could see the confidence in his eyes. Dallas has been preparing for this opportunity for a long time.”
Bell, who signed with the Eagles as a free agent this past offseason, was summoned on the next series when Dunlap limped off with a strained hamstring. Bell entered training camp as a starter but was demoted halfway through the preseason and was inactive for last week’s 17-16 victory at Cleveland.
UDFA rookie Damaris Johnson joined Reynolds and Dunlap on the field just a few plays later when Maclin aggravated his hip pointer while blocking. Again, the offense kept rolling. The Eagles drove to the Ravens’ 5-yard line on that series to set up place-kicker Alex Henery’s 23-yard field goal that tied the game at 17-17.
Reynolds and Bell left the locker room immediately after the game and were unavailable for comment. “One of them (Reynolds) touched the ball on every snap, so you have to give them credit,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “(Coming off the bench) is not an easy thing to do and they battled through it. From what I could see, they all did a pretty nice job.”
The entire offense did a nice job on the final drive. Vick needed 10 plays and a penalty to cover the 80 yards. He ended the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 55 seconds left in regulation.
Kelce had an MRI today and it revealed a partial medial ligament tear and ACL tear… he can rehab and play with a brace possibly in 6 to 8 weeks… but probably is being urged by his doctors to get in-season surgery for the best possible outcome and wait to come back to football until next year.
Nate Menkin and Dennis “Hagrid” Kelly are the only other linemen on the roster, but were not activated for this game as the Eagles decided to go heavy at other spots.
“I actually went over and talked to the defensive line about that,” Reid cracked. “I was going to pick one of those guys. I would have started with the oldest and the heaviest one.” Cullen Jenkins, at 31, certainly qualifies as the oldest, and was able to get a good chuckle out of that revelation.
If Kelce has to go on injured reserve, expect the Eagles to add another offensive lineman this week. That could be the worst news of all for wide receiver Mardy Gilyard, who may be expendable now that Riley Cooper is close to returning from his broken collarbone. Gilyard had just re-signed with the Eagles on Tuesday.
At this very moment on a Monday evening, it appears that Evan Mathis is the current backup center for the Eagles. He has played there before.
One guy who plays alongside the offensive line is tight end Brent Celek. He was an unsung hero in the Ravens game, too. You definitely want to see Celek stay healthy. Not only does he take some blocking pressure off the line, he adds the playmaking factor as a big receiving target who can take a game into his own hands. Brent looks bigger and stronger than ever on his pass routes this year, and his runs after the catch are becoming fiercer every game. His plays get the home crowd jacked up, too.
Celek was a huge factor down the stretch, catching two passes for 37 yards during the drive. He finished with a team-high eight receptions for a career-high 157 yards. He also provided two of the biggest highlights.
He got the crowd riled up when he absorbed a vicious hit by Ravens safety Bernard Pollard late in the first quarter. Celek hung onto the ball for a 21-yard gain and then slowly got to his feet and signaled first down. In the third quarter, he hurdled Reed during a 24-yard pickup.
“I took a shot on that one play, but I just didn’t want to let (the Ravens) know that they got me that hard,” Celek said. “I wanted to get the crowd going and my team going. As for the hurdling, I’m not the most athletic tight end by any stretch, but when someone is coming at my knees, I try to go over them…Just to win this game feels amazing. Coming from behind every week is not something you wish for, but we’ll take it. It just shows the heart of our team. We have a never-lose attitude.”
Brent Celek had a huge day at TE against the Ravens… a real difference-maker…