Vick's costly gifts

Posted: October 10, 2011

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - If you wanted to view Mike Vick's performance in the Eagles' 31-24 loss to the Bills through rosecolored glasses, you could point out that he threw for 315 yards and completed 65 percent of his passes for the fourth straight week.

You could mention that he confounded yet another opposing defense with his catch-me-if-you-can speed, rushing for 90 yards and leapfrogging over Randall Cunningham to become the league's all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks.

But the only Vick statistic in yesterday's debacle that mattered was four. That's how many interceptions he threw in the Eagles' fourth straight loss. And while No. 4 really had more to do with wide receiver Jason Avant than Vick, that still left three others with his fingerprints all over them.

Couple those turnovers, two of which the Bills turned into touchdowns, with the brain cramp he suffered at the end of the first half when he let the clock run out on a throw into the end zone, which blew an opportunity for a field goal, and you can make a convincing case that Vick was a lot more to blame for this defeat than Juan Castillo's much-maligned defense.

"You know as a quarterback that an interception is an interception," Vick said after the game. "Regardless of how you look at it, the world is going to judge you as throwing an interception. Some of them are tipped and some of them are straight shots where guys just pick them off. You hate balls that are tipped because you can't control that. But an interception is an interception and you just can't have them in this game."

Turnovers are absolutely killing the Eagles. They had five more yesterday - Vick's four picks and a fumble by Avant at the tail end of a 35-yard third-quarter catch-and-run. That makes 15 giveaways in five games, 14 in their four-game losing skid. They've got a league-worst minus-10 turnover ratio.

Ten of those 15 turnovers belong to Vick, who now has seven interceptions to go with three lost fumbles.

In Vick's first six games last season, he threw 11 touchdown passes and didn't have a single interception or lost fumble. In his 12 games since, he's got 19 TD passes and 20 turnovers (14 interceptions, six lost fumbles). The Eagles were 4-2 in those first six games, 5-7 in the last 12, including 1-4 this season.

"He did some good things," said coach Andy Reid, who would say the same thing about Mrs. O'Leary's cow if you asked him about the cow's role in the Great Chicago Fire. "He put us in a position to win the game, or at least tie the game there at the end."

He's right. Vick helped bring the Eagles back from a 21-7 halftime deficit, completing 15 of 19 second-half passes for 203 yards. But he dug them too deep of a hole to crawl out of in the first half.

After the Eagles drove to the Buffalo 31 on their first possession, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg dialed up a screen pass to running back LeSean McCoy. But Vick didn't put enough air under the toss and it was batted by linebacker Alex Carrington and intercepted by aptly-named cornerback Reggie Corner. The Bills turned the interception into a 5-yard touchdown run by Fred Jackson.

On the Eagles' very next possession, Vick threw another pick. He took a blindside hit from linebacker Arthur Moats just as he was throwing in the direction of tight end Brent Celek. The pass was intercepted by safety George Wilson.

In the second quarter, with the Eagles trailing, 14-7, Vick again looked for Celek in the middle of the field. With pressure in his face, Vick threw a blind pass down the middle right to linebacker Nick Barnett, who returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.

"That interception was sort of my fault," Vick said. "I had a guy coming down my gun barrel and I should've just took the sack, should've just took the sack. I was just trying to force it.

"You've got to be disciplined in the moment. Sometimes it's hard, but that was a game-changer. You go from 14-7 to 21-7. Now we're in the hole trying to fight our way out. Those things can't happen."

The Eagles had a chance to close the gap to at least 11 at the end of the half. After Jamar Chaney intercepted Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with 39 seconds left in the second quarter, Vick completed a 10-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin to give the Eagles a first down at the Buffalo 38.

Vick took off and ran on the next play, gaining 12 yards but failing to get out of bounds. The Eagles already had squandered all of their timeouts, so Vick had to spike the ball to stop the clock with 13 seconds left.

A badly-thrown deep ball to DeSean Jackson was nearly intercepted by Corner, leaving the Eagles with just 8 seconds to play with. The smart move would've been to bring on kicker Alex Henery for a 43-yard field goal attempt.

Reid wanted Vick to take one more shot at the end zone and do it quickly enough so that there still would be a couple of seconds left on the clock for a field goal try if the pass was incomplete. But Vick seemed to lose track of time. By the time his incomplete pass landed behind the end zone, time had expired and the Eagles had no points to show for it.

"I take sole responsibility for that," Vick said. "That's one of our special-situation plays and I was just trying to do too much. I hung on to the ball a little too long.

"I thought I got it out on time, so I fired a bullet to the back of the end zone. But, obviously, it wasn't [fast] enough. It definitely could've given us an opportunity to have some [more] points. It's just a situation I have to learn from."

DID YOU NOTICE?

-- The Eagles were in a three-wide receiver, two-tight end set on Michael Vick's second interception. Both tight ends lined up in the backfield alongside Vick. Brent Celek went out into his route and was the intended receiver. Blitzing linebacker Arthur Moats got around Clay Harbor on Vick's blind side and hit the quarterback as he was throwing the ball.

-- LeSean McCoy had just 11 rushing attempts, but four of them went for double-digit yards.

-- How little the Eagles were in their base defense yesterday. The Bills spread them out with three-wide sets and collected most of their 143 rushing yards against the Birds' nickel and dime packages.

-- Quarterback Michael Vick foolishly put his head down on a second-quarter run, risking yet another concussion as he was tackled by safety George Wilson.

-- Andy Reid got a replay reversal early in the second quarter when he challenged a ruling that Vick had fumbled. The replay clearly showed that Vick's knee(s) had hit the ground before the ball came loose.

-- The Eagles defense's

head-scratching, nobody-in-the-middle alignment on a third-and-5 play in the second quarter. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ran right up the middle and gained 10 yards before anybody touched him.

-- Vick broke the QB rushing record of Randall Cunningham on the 53-yard run in the third quarter.

-- The impressive 56-yard punt by the Bills' Brian Moorman in the third quarter that was downed at the 3-yard line. Two plays later, safety Jairus Byrd stripped the ball away from wide receiver Jason Avant.

BY THE NUMBERS:

-- Through five games, the Eagles have 15 giveaways - nine interceptions and six lost fumbles. Through five games last year, they had just four.

Michael Vick has thrown at least one interception in four straight games and in 10 of his last 11 games dating back to last season.

-- With 90 rushing yards yesterday, Vick has 318 in five games. He's on a 1,018-yard pace, which would be the second most of his career. He rushed for 1,039 yards in 2006, his final season with the Falcons.

-- The Eagles, who had converted 48.1 percent of their third-down opportunities in the first four games (25-52), were just 2-for-9 on third down against the Bills, who came into the game ranked 20th in the league in third-down defense.

Vick was sacked just once by the Bills. The Eagles have allowed just eight sacks in the first five games. They've given up two or less in four of five games. Last year, they gave up two or less in just six games the entire season.

DeSean Jackson's 31-yard touchdown catch 9 seconds into the fourth quarter was the Eagles' first fourth-quarter touchdown since Week 1.

-- For the fifth straight game, the Eagles failed to score on their first possession. They are 53-13 under Andy Reid when they do.

-- Opposing quarterbacks have a 104.3 passer rating against the Eagles this season. They have a 63.9 completion percentage, are averaging 7.8 yards per attempts and have 11 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

-- Jamar Chaney's second-quarter interception was the first by an Eagles linebacker this season and the first since Week 11 of last season when Stewart Bradley had one against the Giants.

-- In the first five games, opposing running backs have 27 receptions for 359 yards and three touchdown catches against the Eagles.

Opponents have scored points against the Eagles on 51 straight trips to the red zone. They have converted 11 of 14 trips into touchdowns this season for a 78.6 TD success rate. That's even worse than last year's 76.7 rate, which was the highest by an NFL defense in a quarter century.

-- All 16 of the Eagles' sacks this season have been collected by defensive linemen.

-- With yesterday's loss, the Eagles are 27-21-1 against the AFC under Reid.

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