When Steven Jackson scampered 47 yards to paydirt on the Rams' first play from scrimmage, you could hear the Delaware Valley muttering expletives less than four minutes into the season. As it turned out, that was basically the only moment where the result was in question.
The Eagles defense was gashed in the running game, Michael Vick took his share of hits, and the team battled penalties and clock management issues. In the end, they were simply more talented than their counterparts, and cruised to a rather easy 31-13 victory to open the 2011 season.
The addition of Nnamdi Asomugha has already paid dividends. Despite their running backs accounting for 169 yards on the ground, St. Louis lacked the ability to throw the ball down the field. QB Sam Bradford was 17-for-30 for 189 yards, with wide receivers catching nine balls for 100 yards. Most of those were on underneath routes to Danny Amendola, who had five receptions for 45.
Bradford's mates didn't exactly do him any favors either. The Rams dropped several catchable passes, some of which were drive killers.
The changes along the defensive line were also visible. While backs had little trouble finding holes most of the afternoon, averaging 4.8 yards per carry, the front four brought down the quarterback five times, including two from Jason Babin in his first game back in an Eagles uniform.
Darryl Tapp was among the four linemen with a sack, and also was credited with a forced fumble that swung the momentum permanently. Tied 7-7 in the first quarter, Tapp got immediate pressure from the right defensive end position, disrupting a handoff in the backfield. Bradford put the ball on the carpet, and Juqua Parker picked up and returned 56 yards for the score.
Overall, it was mixed results for Juan Castillo's defense. Steven Jackson injured his quad on his long TD run and managed only two carries, but the Rams were still able to pound the rock. Cadillac Williams was particularly effective, rushing for 91 yards on 19 carries. The Eagles also obliged with a litany of drive-extending penalties.
The effort was more than enough for Vick's potent offense to close. St. Louis had some success, especially blitzing to his blindside, but in typical Vick fashion, he made enough big plays to make them pay. The phenom carried for 98 yards, and threw for another 187 and two touchdowns.
Vick connected with DeSean Jackson on a beautiful loft to the back of the end zone to extend their lead early in the third quarter. Up by seven coming out of the locker room, Vick rolled to his left with the pass rush in his face. He managed to elude the would-be sackers, lobbing a touch pass off of his back foot into a crossing DeSean's hands. [Watch video]
Jackson was the leading receiver on the day, catching six passes for 102 yards.
LeSean McCoy put the game on ice in the fourth quarter. Nothing was coming easy in the running game earlier, but he had his way on the Eagles' final scoring drive, capping it by blasting through the line of scrimmage and racing to the end zone for a 49-yard score. He finished with 15 carries for 122 yards, and added a touchdown reception in the first quarter.
The offense was not super-efficient, with Vick completing less than 50% of his passes against a blitz-happy defense, and the defense has to find a way to limit the ground game. However, some of the sloppy play can be attributed to the lack of off-season programs and the short amount of time they had to integrate new signings and all the changes along the offensive line.
It was a solid start though, proving they have one of more talented rosters in the league, if there was ever any doubt. Plenty of time to work out the kinks.