Les Bowen: Fumbling for an answer

Andy Reid, walking off field after Sunday's loss, says he confident Michael Vick can fix fumbling issue.
Andy Reid, walking off field after Sunday's loss, says he confident Michael Vick can fix fumbling issue. (RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: October 10, 2012

Andy Reid says he isn't worried about Michael Vick and the fumbles. He thinks you shouldn't be, either.

Questioners pressed the Eagles coach Monday about his quarterback's comments in the wake of Vick's fatal three-fumble (two lost) performance in Sunday's 16-14 loss at Pittsburgh. Vick said he knows he has to stop fumbling, but he also said, "It's football, things happen . . . that's how it goes sometimes," and that he believes everything happens for a reason, indicating that Vick believes his goal-line fumble was part of some grand design by God and/or the universe.

"I would imagine, because I know you guys pretty well, that probably wasn't the first time he was asked about the fumbles in that press conference," Reid said, when asked about Vick's mind-set. "I'd tell you that, listen, there's nobody more competitive than this guy, and he knows that he can't fumble. Understand that - he knows that he can't have turnovers and he can't fumble. Nobody knows it better than the player, and he doesn't want to go out there and do those things.

"We've got to go back and we've got to work on ball security. He understands that, and we'll do that, and we'll get that right. He's going to get it right, just like he did the interceptions, and we're going to get it fixed."

Reid said he will not let Vick's five lost fumbles in the first five games fundamentally change the way he thinks, just as he didn't let the six interceptions in the first two games keep him from having Vick throw the ball. Vick hasn't thrown a pick the past 3 weeks.

"I've got to trust that he'll get this thing right," Reid said.

It isn't clear that Reid's trust is well-placed. Even though Vick said Sunday that he "never had a problem with fumbling before," he is the active leader in fumbles among NFL players. Pro Football Reference lists Kerry Collins (139), Jon Kitna (109) and Donovan McNabb (95) ahead of Vick (84), but none of those guys is playing in the NFL this season.

Granted, the top career fumblers tend to be long-tenured quarterbacks, and long-tenured QBs tend to be pretty good QBs. Tom Brady (80) is next on the list after Vick. But with 84 fumbles in less than 10 full seasons (39 of them lost), Vick is fumbling at a slightly higher rate than the all-time leader, Brett Favre, who fumbled 166 times in 20 seasons.

Kind of troubling, for a guy who's never had a problem with fumbling before.

DEVELOPING STORYLINES

* Remember when everybody said if you double-teamed the Eagles' defensive ends, the d-tackles would get a strong push up the middle? Be nice to see that.

* Incredible second effort from LeSean McCoy, staring at Lawrence Timmons unblocked in the hole and finding another route from the Eagles' 30 on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. Had the Eagles won, that would have been all anyone talked about Monday.

* I remain convinced that the problem with Eagles' punt and kick returns isn't so much the returners as it is the lack of any sort of blocking. When the Birds hired Bobby April, several national media experts assured me Philadelphia would soon be the home of the best special teams in the league. Hasn't happened. Doesn't seem close to happening. Either April is overrated, or Howie Roseman is filling out the bottom of the roster with guys who can't play special teams.

* Brandon Graham got pressure again Sunday in a 19-snap appearance (he had two of the three hits on Ben Roethlisberger awarded by the Pittsburgh stat crew). I thought Fletcher Cox (45 snaps, one tackle, no QB pressure) had a disappointing day. Darryl Tapp played 23 snaps with nothing to show for them but a 15-yard penalty. Time to blow the dust off Vinny Curry?

* The Eagles have converted four of five fourth downs this season. Maybe they should solve their punting woes by never doing it.

* Ben Roethlisberger kept going back to Mike Wallace Sunday - eight targets, two catches, for 17 yards. The Eagles did a nice job in coverage, but Wallace also caught like he was wearing oven mitts.

WHO KNEW?

That it would be tough to win, scoring an average of 16 points a game? (Answer: Everyfreakingbody!!)

OBSCURE STAT

In five games, the teams playing against the Eagles have lost exactly one fumble. So that's an 8-to-1 ratio.

EXTRA POINT

The longest play of Sunday's game, by either team, was a 24-yard completion from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson on the Eagles' final drive. The Steelers' longest play of the day was that 20-yard completion to Antonio Brown that converted third-and-12 on their final drive. So, the Eagles and Steelers played more than 50 minutes with nobody gaining as much as 20 yards at a time, unless you count tacked-on penalty yards.

Sometimes this is what happens when two really good defenses face off, but for the Eagles, it speaks to a nagging concern: Where are the long strikes from this supposedly lethal, big-play offense? Marty Mornhinweg kept dialing them up Sunday, but nothing ever panned out. Vick either overthrew the receiver or coverage was too tight; once the Steelers seemed to get away with pass interference deep against Jackson.

So far this season, the longest Eagles gain is a 49-yard Vick-to-Jackson strike in Week 2 against the Ravens. D-Jax has 24 catches in five games, a pace that would blow away his all-time single-season high of 62, but his yards per catch, 16.3, would be the lowest of his career.

"When you're playing good football teams, you're going to trade punches," Andy Reid said Monday. "That's how this thing works. And so, you might not get the big play. That might not happen against good football teams. , you surely can't have mistakes . . . You've got to get rid of those. You eliminate those, now what does the game look like? . . . We're giving things up there that we don't need to."

It'll be interesting to see if the big strikes return when the Eagles play less-formidable defensive teams. The Steelers did come into Sunday third in the NFL against the pass.

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