Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
27 Sep 2010
by Mike Tanier
In this Walkthrough Special, a throw-by-throw recap of Michael Vick's performance against the Jaguars.
Drive 1: Vick's first pass was a short waggle to Brent Celek for a minimal gain. He then ran a short quarterback draw after a play fake for a few yards. On third down, he dropped, threw off his back foot, and overthrew DeSean Jackson on a short drag.
Drive 2: After two running plays, Vick runs for eight yards on third-and-2. He's sacked two plays later on a bad play by the Eagles line. Terrance Knighton just peels off the block by Nick Cole and gets to Vick, who has nowhere to run. Vick throws a 63-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson on the next play. It's a good throw and a patient play by Vick, who waits for Jackson to completely cross the field before throwing.
Drive 3: Vick misses Jeremy Maclin on a five-yard hitch route. It's an awful throw. Two plays later, he hits Owen Schmitt on a diving two-yard reception on third-and-1. Two plays later, a short pass over the middle from an empty-backfield set is tipped at the line. On third down, Vick really wants Jackson on a slant, but Celek has a hard time releasing from his defender, and Jackson and Celek are in the same part of the field when Vick throws, and the pass falls incomplete.
Drive 4: Starting deep in Eagles territory, Vick makes a play fake and throws deep over the middle to Maclin, but the ball is a few yards behind the receiver. After a running play, Vick waits too long in the end zone and is hit by Knighton as he throws. Luckily, the ball falls harmlessly in the middle of the field.
Drive 5: Vick hits Jackson along the left sideline on a sprint out. It's a good play design and well executed. After a six-hour challenge, Vick checks down to LeSean McCoy for a few yards. Vick then hits Jackson on a dig route from the slot. Jackson breaks free and gets a block, gaining 25 yards. Vick rolls left to elude the rush on first-and-10, throwing deep but missing Maclin by a yard or two. It's a good play and a catchable ball if the timing is just right. A Vick scramble up the middle, which featured a broken tackle and what looked like a late hit, is called back for holding. Two plays later, the Eagles convert third-and-19 when Jaguars safety Sean Considine tackles Maclin a second before the ball arrives. The pass is probably completed if Considine plays the ball cleanly. Given another first down, Vick sits in the pocket forever before throwing too high for McCoy. Once again, he is hit as he throws. The Eagles run some junk plays and then go for it on fourth-and-short, coming up short ... at least according to the refs.
Drive 6: Two-minute drill. Vick lingers in the pocket again, getting hit and bouncing the ball to Riley Cooper. Vick scrambles on the next play, dumping to McCoy for two yards with a defender draped on him. The next pass may be Vick's best of the game. He drops the ball to Celek up the seam for 21 yards, really threading it into space. Celek gets up clutching his shoulder but later returns. Vick throws up the seam to a backup tight end on the next play, but he's essentially throwing the ball away. The next two passes are excellent: a pass to Maclin on an out-route, then a slow-developing play behind seven-man protection where Vick waits for Maclin to run to the back of the end zone, then come back for the ball. Touchdown.
Drive 7: Third quarter. Celek drops a catchable pass. On a play action pass from I-formation, Vick hits Jackson, but the receiver doesn't get both feet down. It's not a bad throw. Vick hits Maclin over the middle for eight yards on third-and-10. Maclin tries to get up and run, but is down by contact.
Drive 8: Vick takes a sack on a shotgun play-action pass on second-and-8. There's a lot of penetration, so there isn't much he could have done; three defenders converge on him. Jackson lines up in the slot on third-and-15, and the Jaguars blitz the slot defender. Vick makes the right read and throw, but Jackson decides to shake and bake instead of diving for the first down. It's a good play by Vick and a mental mistake by Jackson. The Eagles punt.
Drive 9: Vick's 45-yard touchdown to Maclin. Maclin gets an easy release on what appears to be Cover-2 defense, and Vick drops the ball in the basket before the safety can arrive.
Drive 10: Vick underthrows the ball off his back foot, but Jaguars cornerback David Jones makes a terrible play on the ball and Jackson gains 41 yards. I don't want to editorialize too much, but at this point the announcers start praising Vick for his ability to throw off his back foot, which makes me a little sick to my stomach. There's a dump to Schmitt, a sack where Vick doesn't read the safety blitz, and a screen to Celek that gains 15 yards on third-and-14. Two plays later, Vick scrambles up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown.
Late Drives: With the score 28-3, the Eagles start getting conservative. On one fourth-quarter drive, Vick runs for two yards on a bootleg on second-and-10, then throws off his back foot and high over the middle for Jason Avant. Vick's final throw, late in the fourth quarter, is like his first: a rollout pass to Celek for a minimal gain.
Summary: Any game in which a quarterback throws three touchdown passes and runs for another is a very good game. Vick obviously did a lot of things right, and there were several plays where his experience was as important as his athleticism. It's true that he waited for several plays to develop, including two of his touchdown passes. Listening to the commentary, there was a lot of talk about a new Vick, one who doesn't make bad decisions or throw off-target passes. I didn't see that Vick, and you won't find that Vick in the summary I just provided. This was a strong game overall, but there were a lot of danger signs -- sacks, bad throws, bad plays by the defense that the Eagles got away with -- that tell me that the old Vick is still hanging around, waiting to show himself against a good NFL defense.
62 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2010, 7:16am by tuluse