NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Vick is showing less patience in the pocket, committing more turnovers and making fewer long completions.
Is he regressing?
Critics say Vick has reverted to his old form in Atlanta, where he was a run-first quarterback who created far more big plays with his legs than his arm.
That’s not necessarily accurate, however.
Vick and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles have struggled in 7½ of the last eight quarters — excluding the meaningless, season-ending loss to Dallas in which nearly all the starters sat.
So, there’s plenty of blame to share. The Eagles (10-6) will have to solve those problems quickly to have a chance against Green Bay (10-6) in a wild-card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
“I think it’s important starting with me that we’re all aware of it and it’s a team effort,” coach Andy Reid said Wednesday. “It’s an offensive effort to make sure that everybody’s on the same page and we’re rolling there.”
Vick has come a long way on and off the field since his days with the Falcons. He had his best season this year, leading the Eagles to the NFC East title and earning his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl.
Vick set career highs in yards passing (3,018), touchdowns passing (21), touchdowns rushing (9), completion percentage (62.6) and passer rating (100.2). He was 8-3 as a starter, 8-2 in games he finished.
But the last game — a shocking 24-14 loss to lowly Minnesota on Dec. 28 — was a tough one to accept because it cost the Eagles a chance at a first-round bye.
Vick had a difficult time against a fierce defense. The Vikings blitzed relentlessly and disguised it well. They sent cornerback Antoine Winfield after Vick often and he came up with a big play that changed the momentum of the game. Winfield sacked Vick, stripped the ball and returned it for a touchdown that made it 7-7 late in the first half.
Overall, Vick was sacked six times and threw an interception to go with the costly fumble. Critics say he had problems recognizing the blitz and adjusting.
A careful look at the game film shows that it wasn’t all Vick’s fault. There were instances when Vick made the proper read and knew the blitz was coming, but had nowhere to throw because his receivers didn’t react quickly enough.
“Hot routes and different things like that play a part and protecting is the biggest thing,” wide receiver Jason Avant said.
Vick never points any fingers at any teammates. He expects the Packers to copy some of Minnesota’s blitz schemes and plans to be ready for it.
“I think everybody took a look at that film and really critiqued it and tried to figure out what could we do to get better,” Vick said. “If we see the same things, and I’m almost 100 percent sure that we’ll get the type of looks — they might not be the exact same — but in some way, shape or form, it’ll be similar. So, we just have to be ready for it and I think we’ve learned a lot from watching that film.”
Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson downplayed the troubles against the Vikings. He was targeted 12 times, but made only two catches for 32 yards.
“We’re on the same page,” Jackson said. “Some games, things just don’t happen the way you want them to happen. We’re professionals and we try to do the best we can to get on the same page every game, so there’s going to be games like that, but hopefully we can eliminate them as much as possible.”
On Dec. 19, the New York Giants dominated Vick and the Eagles for almost 53 minutes. The Giants had a 31-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter before Vick led a remarkable comeback that was capped by Jackson’s 65-yard punt return on the final play.
The Giants put plenty of pressure on Vick throughout the game. He finally found a way to avoid it and took advantage of running lanes up the middle when New York blitzed off the edge. Vick had runs of 35, 33 and 22 yards during the rally.
Vick ran 18 times for 193 yards in the last two games. Critics look at those numbers and say, “Same old Vick.”
But he ran 18 times the previous two games, 20 times in the two games before that and 18 in the two prior. He’s had at least eight carries in each game this season that he’s finished, except against Jacksonville in Week 3.
Vick is running more out of necessity now because he’s been sacked 34 times, he’s constantly under pressure and he takes a physical beating every game. Back with the Falcons, Vick ran more because he didn’t go through his progressions and wait for a receiver to come open.
“We just have to play together and protect Vick any way possible and just not let people get in his face and let him be comfortable so he can sit back and read the defense and throw it to the right guys,” Jackson said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.