ST. LOUIS (AP) - One game into the season and the Philadelphia Eagles are living up to their Super Bowl aspirations on both sides of the ball.
Michael Vick made his first opening day start since 2006 and led a dazzling display on offense, and a defense fortified in free agency made life miserable for Sam Bradford in an impressive 31-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Sure, it wasn't perfect - but plenty of time remains to get things right.
``We have a long way to go,' Vick said. ``I'm excited about where we are right now. That's the fun part of this game.'
The other fun part?
``I feel good,' Vick said. ``I feel like I can play another four quarters right now.'
That's got to come as a slap in the face to a perceived franchise on the rise after last season's six-victory improvement to 7-9. One game in, the Rams are error-prone and injury-riddled.
Steven Jackson hurt his right quadriceps without contact during a 47-yard scoring run on the first offensive snap and lasted only one more carry, spoiling even that highlight. Bradford was sacked five times and left in the fourth quarter with an injured index finger on his throwing hand that left him unable to grip the ball.
Before that, Bradford lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown after apparently tripping over one of his linemen's feet.
Jackson was to undergo an MRI exam on Monday. X-rays on Bradford's finger showed no break and he vowed to be ready for Week 2, a Monday night game at the New York Giants.
``Obviously, we're disappointed,' Bradford said. ``But it's a long season. I don't think anybody folded their hand after losing one game.'
In a pre-game tribute to Sept. 11, players and coaches from both teams stepped forward, all touching a huge flag that covered much of the field. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo began his postgame remarks by praising the remembrance as a ``special tribute.'
All of the Eagles game-breakers were at peak performance. They rushed for 239 yards, went 8 for 11 on third downs, and had 16 plays good for double digits.
Vick had 98 yards on eight carries and passed for two scores. LeSean McCoy had 122 yards on 15 carries and finished off the Rams with a 49-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter after catching a 7-yard score in the first. DeSean Jackson caught six passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
``In any different time and different quarter, anybody can go,' McCoy said. ``I think a lot of new guys on this team, the first thing they say is 'Man, there is so much talent on this team, more than any I've been on.''
There's room for improvement, too. Vick completed 43 percent of his passes, his worst as the starter in Philadelphia, and the Eagles have growing pains on the line.
``With the type of talent we have we can be so much better,' McCoy said. ``It's just the little things.'
Jason Babin had two of the Eagles' five sacks, plus two tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries, and Darryl Tapp had a sack and tackle for loss. The Rams were only 2 for 12 on third down.
``I think people are going to notice that's what we do best and that's our goal,' Babin said. ``Stomp them when they're really down so we can rush the passer.'
Plus, the Eagles weren't hard-hit by injuries. Linebacker Akeem Jordan, one of the team's top special teams players, sprained a shoulder and Tapp has a pectoral injury.
One of the more boisterous crowds in recent memory at the Edward Jones Dome, flush with optimism off an unbeaten preseason, was muted by the Eagles' impressive display combined with the Rams' injuries. In the second half, the Rams also lost their top cornerback, Ron Bartell, with a stinger, their leading receiver from last year, Danny Amendola, with a dislocated left elbow, and offensive tackle Jason Smith with a high left ankle sprain.
``We're pretty banged up,' Spagnuolo said.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved