The bottom line: Vick must adjust to defenses

Michael Vick believes the Eagles' offense should stay the course for Sunday's playoff game against Green Bay.
Michael Vick believes the Eagles' offense should stay the course for Sunday's playoff game against Green Bay.
Posted: January 04, 2011

MAYBE MICHAEL VICK was just trying to project confidence yesterday.

What came across was closer to cluelessness. It was hard to leave Vick's brief session with reporters at NovaCare feeling like the Eagles' quarterback understands and appreciates the adjustments defenses have made over his last half-dozen games, or that he plans to do anything differently.

"I don't think we have to make changes," said Vick, who threw no interceptions in his first seven appearances this year, then threw six in his last five. His passer rating was over 100 in four of his first six games, but only once in his final six.

"I don't have to do nuttin'. I'm still going to be me. I'm still going to play my game, still play with confidence, still try to rally the guys around me, and make sure they're focused and in tune with what we're doing, what we're trying to accomplish," Vick said. "That's what's important. You can't change your game around this time of the season . . . You just go out and play your best football. It's the playoffs."

Asked about the fact that the offense's best work lately came in the final 8 minutes of the Giants game, in which it was otherwise ineffective, Vick said: "As long as you find a way to win at some point, that's all that matters. It doesn't matter what happened in three quarters. If you pull it out and you win, enough said."

There is a grain of truth there - offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said yesterday that blitzing Vick the way teams have been doing lately is high-risk, that the Eagles feel they will hit a big play eventually. But it's also true that Vick needs to work on getting the ball out quicker, and on securing it better against defenders he no longer is catching flatfooted. Minnesota's Antoine Winfield, who picked Vick's pocket for a touchdown a week ago tonight, said afterward he'd noticed on tape that Vick always spins when facing pressure off the corner. Winfield waited for the spin and knocked the ball away.

Vick conceded that "a couple games, we didn't get the ball out, I didn't get the ball out as quick as I wanted to, waiting on the downfield throws. That's why you play the game, you play the game to learn and get better, and that's what I'm doing."

Vick said getting to sit out Sunday's loss to the Cowboys helped his bruised quad. Asked if he is 100 percent, he said: "I'm getting there."

In the season opener, Vick relieved Kevin Kolb against the Packers and ran 11 times for 103 yards, while completing 16 of 24 passes for 175 yards, a touchdown and a 101.9 passer rating. But Green Bay had prepared for Vick as a second-and-long Wildcat gimmick, not an every-down threat. The Packers will benefit from that experience, and from what teams such as the Vikings, Giants and Bears have done.

What we don't know is how much Vick will benefit from that.


* The 129 penalties the Eagles incurred this season were their most since 2005, the year just about everybody got hurt, Terrell Owens got suspended, and the team finished 6-10, Andy Reid's only losing season since his first year.

* No other team in the 78-year history of the franchise averaged 5.4 yards per rushing attempt, as the 2010 Eagles did. According to Stats Inc., that's the sixth-highest figure in NFL history and the most since Atlanta averaged 5.5 in 2006. Yeah, Michael Vick would be the common link there, but LeSean McCoy averaged 5.2 yards per carry this season, which is the best figure ever for an Eagle with at least 200 carries.

* The 50 sacks allowed is the highest figure of the Reid era, boosted by the half-dozen the backups allowed in the finale. The 8-8 2007 Birds gave up 49, and the 2003 team, which went 12-4, somehow allowed 43.

* Who was upset over that "meaningless" loss to the Cowboys? Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley sat with his head tucked into his dressing stall, in full uniform, for a good half-hour after the game. Bunk is a tough, competitive guy who is playing with an elbow that might need postseason surgery. But he really isn't playing very effectively right now.

* The Birds actually threw for fewer yards this year than last - 4,215 in 2010 vs. 4,380 in 2009. Would not have guessed that. Played better opponents this year, though.

* We managed to pretty much ignore him (sorry, mate) but Sav Rocca had his best year, with a 43.8-yard gross, a 39.0-yard net and a 14-to-1 ratio on punts downed inside the 20 to touchbacks. That last one, an important punting stat, led the NFL. Rocca's gross was second in Eagles history only to Joe Muha's 47.3-yard average in 1948.


That Todd Herremans would catch as many touchdown passes this season as Jason Avant (1)? Still a fine year for the slot receiver, with 51 catches for 573 yards.


Shady McCoy's gain was Brent Celek loss. McCoy went from 40 catches for 308 yards as a rookie to a team-high 78 (which led NFL running backs) for 592 yards in his second season. Correspondingly, tight end Celek went from a team-high 76 for 971 yards in 2009 to 42 for 511 this year.


When last season ended, opinion was split over whether the Eagles needed a change at quarterback, but the one thing everybody was clear on was that the defense needed to be better. The strong hope was that the draft, the healthy return of Stewart Bradley and a full year under coordinator Sean McDermott's belt would bring solid improvement. Didn't happen.

In almost every measurable way, this defense was worse. Gave up more first downs passing and rushing. Allowed a higher third-down conversion rate. Intercepted fewer passes (yeah, really: 25 last year to 23 this year). Managed fewer sacks (44 in '09, 39 in '10.) Gave up more TDs, and more net yards. All this, even though Eagles opponents had the ball 3 minutes and 1 second less per game this year than in 2009. The Eagles' ranking of 12th among NFL defenses, based entirely on total yardage, is fraudulent.

Yeah, it was a very young defense that struggled with injuries. Still not at all impressed. Worst red-zone rate in the league? How do you win in the playoffs with that? *

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