Paul Domowitch: Between the tackles: Vick plays like an old bird -- a Falcon

Posted: December 29, 2010

Michael Vick took a trip down memory lane last night. And it wasn't a good trip.

After playing like a legitimate league MVP candidate most of the season, after leading the Eagles to eight wins in the nine games he had started and finished, Vick turned into a pumpkin in his team's costly 24-14 loss to the Vikings, which blew their chance of gaining a first-round playoff bye to smithereens.

Eagle Mike became Falcon Mike.

He was careless with the football, losing two fumbles, including one that was returned for a touchdown and another that effectively destroyed a potential scoring drive.

His decision-making, so good much of the season, was poor. He had trouble recognizing blitzes, which were many and varied. He often seemed befuddled by the Vikings' coverages.

While he threw just one interception - his sixth in the last five games - it easily could've been three or four if the Vikings' defensive backs knew how to catch the football.

Vick forced passes into double coverage. He missed open receivers. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes. It was only the third time this season he had a sub-60 completion percentage.

He averaged a season-low 6.1 yards per attempt. He finished with a season-low 74.1 passer rating.

In his defense, he did all of this most of the time while running for his life, because the Eagles' offensive line spent much of the game looking like its primary mission was to get him killed. And he did it on a bruised quad he said he injured on the first play of the game.

Vick was sacked a season-high six times. When a guy as elusive as Vick gets sacked that many times, the people charged with protecting him should cover their faces in shame.

His receivers didn't help him either, dropping at least three passes.

"It was terrible,'' Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Every phase was terrible.'' Reid made sure to include coaching in that evaluation.

Reid declined to single out Vick for blame, but made it clear he deserved as much as anybody on the offense, which was held to its lowest point total since the Redskins held the Vickless Eagles to 12 points in Week 4.

"The whole offense didn't play well,'' Reid said. "I expect everybody to execute the offense the way it's supposed to be executed.''

Vick ran for 63 yards on eight carries and scored his ninth rushing touchdown of the season on a 10-yard draw play with 10 minutes, 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter that got the Eagles within three points, 17-14.

But as a passer, well, he looked like the guy we remembered from Atlanta rather than the guy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg transformed into a guy who entered the game with the league's third best passer rating.

Vick opened the game with a nifty 14-yard gain on a bootleg, which apparently was the play on which he hurt his quad. Then, on the very next play, he was sacked for an 8-yard loss by cornerback Antoine Winfield, who came through untouched off the edge. Vick has to see that coming, has to get the ball out.

It was the first of Winfield's two sacks. The other, which came late in the second quarter with the Eagles clinging to a 7-0 lead, was much more costly.

Winfield, again, came in clean, got enough of a spinning Vick to knock the ball out of his hand, then beat the quarterback to the ball, picked it up and returned it 45 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

"We watched the film and saw that every time a guy came to [Vick's] left and he's looking at you, he likes to spin out. He did on that fumble. Heck, I thought I missed him.''

Said Vick: "I was trying to press the issue instead of playing smart and taking care of the football. And it cost us.''

The Eagles never quite recovered from Winfield's touchdown with 44 seconds left in the first half. They drove down close enough for a 54-yard field goal try by David Akers. But Akers' boot came up 5 yards short.

In the second half, Vick completed just 12 of 22 passes as Vikings coach Leslie Frazier threw everything but the kitchen sink at him.

"I told Andy after the game, 'You've got nowhere to go but up from here,' '' Frazier said. "What else can he see [that the Vikings didn't throw at him]?''

Frazier's defense blitzed Vick early and often, and Vick and his offensive line looked like they had never seen one before, even though just about every team they've played has sent extra men after the Eagles' elusive quarterback.

"We just didn't expect the blitz,'' right tackle Winston Justice said. "We need to do a better job of it.

"There was confusion. And at this point of the season, we can't have that. We've got to pick it up.''

Frazier said he felt it was imperative that his defense attack Vick.

"The more we watched tape on Michael Vick, the more he made you shake in your boots a little bit,'' Frazier said. "We felt like we needed to attack him and not let him attack us as much as he attacked other people.''

Vick took another vicious beating and was limping noticeably after the game. With Sunday's game against the Cowboys essentially meaningless now that the Eagles have no chance at securing one of the top two NFC seeds, there's a pretty good possibility Reid will rest Vick.

"I'm a competitor,'' Vick said. "I always want to play. But it's Andy's decision. I'll do whatever he wants me to do.''

Asked if the quad injury affected his play in the loss, Vick said: "I'm not going to use it as an excuse. It happened. I didn't come out of the game.''

Vick acknowledged that he's got to do a better job against the blitz, particularly protecting the football.

"I've got to do a better job of protecting the football,'' he said.

Just wondering

Which network will be buying the NFL's Tuesday night package when the league does its next TV deal? Paging Versus, paging Versus. Like Mikey in those old Life cereal commercials, Comcast will eat/buy anything.

Did you notice

-- Derrick Burgess was activated ahead of rookie Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.

-- Ex-Eagle receivers Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett both were inactive for the Vikings. Somewhere, Kendra was weeping.

-- The Eagles made it clear early that they weren't going to be letting the Vikings' dangerous punt returner, Greg Camarillo, get many opportunities. Sav Rocca's first punt went out of bounds. When a penalty negated the kick, his second punt also went out of bounds.

-- The Eagles' screen game, so productive most of the year, hasn't been very effective the last three games.

-- Akeem Jordan replaced Ernie Sims as one of the two linebackers in the Eagles' nickel package.

-- If the Vikings' defensive backs could catch, Michael Vick would have had four interceptions in the first half rather than just one.

-- On Joe Webb's 9-yard, third-quarter touchdown run, four Eagle defenders had shots at the Vikings quarterback and missed. Juqua Parker let him slip away behind the line of scrimmage. Then linebacker Moise Fokou not only missed him, but took out one of his teammates, safety Kurt Coleman. Then tight end Jim Kleinsasser took out Asante Samuel at the 3-yard line, leaving Webb with an open lane to the end zone.

-- Going into an early commercial break, NBC played Dr. John's "Right Place Wrong Time." Perfect.

By the numbers

-- Adrian Peterson's second-quarter fumble was his first of the season.

-- The Eagles have scored 97 points in the first quarter in their 10 wins, and just 13 points in the first quarter in their five losses.

-- When the Eagles held the Vikings to a field goal in the third quarter after Minnesota had a first-and-goal at the 3, it was just the fifth time in 26 goal-to-go situations this season that they held a team without a touchdown.

-- The Eagles went over the 1,000 mark in penalty yards. It's the first time they've done that since 2005, when they had 1,130 penalty yards on 134 infractions.

-- With the loss, the Eagles are 37-17 (.685) in regular-season games in December and January under Andy Reid.

-- The loss to the Vikings was the Eagles' first in six prime-time games this season. They are 3-1 on NBC, 1-0 on ESPN and 1-0 on NFL Network.

-- The loss snapped a five-game winning streak over the Vikings.

-- The Eagles have scored first in 12 of their 15 games this season, including last night. They are 8-4 when they score first.

-- The Eagles failed to score on their first possession for the eighth time. Their first-possession numbers this season: 77 plays, 585 yards, 7.6 yards per play, 22 first downs and seven touchdowns.

-- They have scored on 17 of 30 first and second possessions this season. Their first- and second-possession numbers: 157 plays, 1,142 yards, 7.3 yards per play, 50 first downs, 13 TDs and four field goals.

-- For just the second time this season, the Eagles failed to register an interception. The only other game in which they didn't have an interception was their Week 12 loss to the Bears.

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