Giants working on a plan to derail the Eagles' Vick train

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick talks to wide receiver DeSean Jackson at practice yesterday.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick talks to wide receiver DeSean Jackson at practice yesterday.
Posted: November 18, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Tom Coughlin and his Giants are as Vick-sated on the Michael Vick Phenomenon as the rest of the NFL world.

However, they appear to have a plan to limit Vick's effectiveness.

Take Vick out.

"When we catch him, we catch him," said Giants safety Deon Grant.

He referenced the Eagles' first game against the Redskins, when Vick suffered cracked rib cartilage in the first quarter and was lost for the game.

"They hurt him, right?" Grant said. "Ain't nobody Superman."

The Giants have proved that, having already taken out five quarterbacks this season: Dallas' Tony Romo, Carolina's Matt Moore, Detroit's Shaun Hill and Chicago's Jay Cutler and Todd Collins.

To a man, Giants defenders spoke with reverence with regard to Vick. Grant made sure to "Give him his props," in light of Vick's unprecedented performance: 333 passing yards, 80 rushing yards, four passing touchdowns and two running TDs.

"His speed - there's nothing like it," said Giants linebacker Michael Boley, who ended Romo's season (broken clavicle) on a clean hit. Boley was as flabbergasted as anyone at Vick's output Monday night - a performance unlike any pre-prison game; one that highlighted the finer skills, which he has honed since he became an Eagle. "It pretty much showed everybody what his full potential was."

"I was, like, 'Whoa,' " gushed linebacker Keith Bulluck. "The Eagles' offense seemed like it couldn't stop itself from scoring. It was one of those 'Whoa' moments."

As such, Bulluck believes the best plan for reining in the Eagles' big-play horses is simple:

"Once we get to the ball, we get there with a bad attitude and lay the wood."

Coughlin was less ominous than was Grant and less complimentary than his players.

In fact, the Giants' coach was eerily ebullient yesterday. This, after a humiliating, 33-20 loss to the woeful Cowboys last Sunday dropped the Giants to 6-3.

It was the type of loss that might start yet another second-half slide for a poor second-half team. The type of loss that might be replicated by an Eagles offense that runs on even higher-octane fuel.

Coughlin first asserted that he watched "Monday Night Football" - the first half, anyway - and found himself enthralled with the virtuoso performance of Vick and the Eagles' offense, so much so that he found himself reacting like the general public:

"Let's see: 35-nothing, 12 plays for Washington. You put the pencil down and become a fan."

Later, pressed, Coughlin, less ebullient and more comfortably crusty, allowed that the Eagles' rout of the 'Skins prompted gastric discomfort:

"I got indigestion and a stomachache."

The Vick saga yesterday shielded Coughlin from a more likely and less pleasant interrogation. Since 2006, Coughlin's Giants have started fast and finished slow.

His springy, upbeat persona yesterday clearly is aimed at helping keep his club, which had won five straight, from another such swoon.

"There are seven games left in the regular season. It's really an exciting time for all of us," Coughlin said.

And how will his club respond?

"Resilient, I hope," he said. "That's what we're pushing. That's our word. Let's put it away and go on to the next one. Let's do so with energy . . . It's got to be a game of detail. There is no margin for error."

Not when the next game is in prime time Sunday night, against an Eagles team that not only swept the Giants last season but also scored 40 and 45 points against them. Only the Saints scored more.

And now, they have perhaps the best offense in Eagles history hosting them.

Coughlin only managed a stale joke when asked how to contain Vick.

"Try and get a 12th man out there. I think the officials will give us one of those, based on last week, maybe," he said.

Coughlin mentioned that keeping Vick contained inside the tackles might work, but, of course, Vick has broken as many plays up the middle as around the edges, either scrambling or on straight draws.

More worrisome, perhaps, is that the Giants' feared pass rush managed one sack of Kitna last week. And when you concentrate on getting to Vick, the Eagles' other weapons come into play.

"There's all kinds of strategic things you say you must do, but you have to time them up with the right circumstances. They're an excellent screen team. They rush the ball with him," Coughlin said. "You think you have a handle on how you're going to have containment on him - he finds a way to break it down."

If anything, it sounds as if Coughlin might be intent on making the Eagles run the ball conventionally.

He pointed out that while the Eagles average 151.1 rushing yards per game, Vick accounts for one-quarter of it. The receivers collect another 9 percent.

Rather than letting DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin run past their pass defense, which was exposed by Kitna and Co. for 327 yards and three touchdowns, Coughlin sounds like Mr. Conservative - especially when Vick, maddeningly elusive, has extra blockers.

"It buys time down the field. It extends the play. It forces you to stay in coverage longer," Coughlin said. "When they get involved with Jackson, they try to run through the coverage, block it up, max protection, and throw it as far as they can down the field."

Of course, that happened on the first play against the Redskins, when Vick hit Jackson for an 88-yard touchdown.

That would make any opponent's bile boil, but Coughlin's indigestion probably had plenty to do with flashbacks, too.

Last season, Donovan McNabb blew open the first Eagles-Giants game with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Jackson and a 23-yard TD strike to Maclin in the second quarter. In the second meeting, McNabb found Jackson from 60 yards to take the lead for good.

McNabb also threw an interception in the second game. Vick has yet to throw an interception . . . but Coughlin clearly thinks that could change.

"That's a little misleading," Coughlin scoffed. "There's been a lot of times when balls have been in people's hands. They haven't caught the ball."

The same hasn't been true for his quarterback. Eli Manning threw two interceptions against the Cowboys.

On the first, by rookie Bryan McCann, an in-game injury replacement, Manning threw in the Cowboys' end zone. Manning anticipated a slant by Hakeem Nicks, who saw that McCann had the route sealed off and instead broke outside.

Afterward, both Manning and Coughlin blamed Nicks for not finishing the route - the type of blame-casting that can indicate leaks at a creaky ship's seams.

Coughlin did not back off yesterday. He steamed over his team's minus-five turnover differential.

"I don't want to turn the ball over anymore. I'm tired of that stuff. I told the players that this morning," Coughlin said, campaigning unprovoked. "The responsibility for that . . . "

Well, it doesn't lie with the coaches.

Manning understands that.

"You've got to take care of the ball," Manning said. "You can't give that offense good field position. Those two on Sunday were on me."

Manning observed that one way to keep Vick at bay is to keep the ball away from the Eagles' offense.

When the Eagles do get it, the defense's plans are clear.

Notes

Tom Coughlin would not touch The Larger Vick Issue. Asked if he thought Michael Vick's imprisonment and humiliation helped mature him as a player, Coughlin sidestepped. Asked if he would have given Vick the chance the Eagles gave Vick last season, Coughlin bobbed and weaved and, eventually, said, "I have no comment about that at all." It looked like Vick had given him a bellyache again . . . With receiver Steve Smith sidelined at least a couple more weeks with a chest muscle strain and with Ramses Barden on injured reserve (ankle), the Giants added receiver Derek Hagen.

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