Everyone is an expert before the game starts, or as Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
That goes for the Eagles and what they hope to accomplish against the Steelers’ defense this Sunday, and also goes for what the Steelers think they know about stopping Michael Vick and the Eagles.
Steve McLendon, one of Pittsburgh’s nose tackles, said he likes the new Vick that has been constructed by Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, notwithstanding Vick’s good showing last Sunday against the Giants.
“Vick is trying to stay in the pocket. He’s trying to be the quarterback he’s not. That’s the thing, he’s trying to be the quarterback he’s not, and I hope he keeps being that quarterback,” McLendon said in this article written by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We want him to sit in the pocket. As long as he’s sitting in the pocket, we have a good chance to get to him and hit him.”
McLendon’s point of view is pretty similar to the one I put forward in last week’s preview column, that the best thing about Vick when he is at his best is his unpredictability. By making him predictable, Andy Reid is also making life easier for opposing defenses.
OK, but did any of that change because of what we saw in the Giants’ game?
Yes and No. Reid and Mornhinweg called more running plays than usual, which helped keep New York’s defense off-balance. As the Eagles used Shady McCoy heavily in the second half, the Giants all but stopped blitzing.
Vick seemed to get rid of the ball much faster than in previous games this season, but whether that was a conscious effort on his part or whether the brain trust chose quicker routes remains to be seen. And it remains to be seen if Reid and Mornhinweg will stick with what worked or get all pass-delerious again. Deciding that the light bulb has gone on for the Eagles’ offense is always a dangerous thing.
Against the Giants, Vick also got himself out of the pocket on a few occasions rather than hang around and get creamed. He ran five times, not including one kneeldown, and it looked as if two of those were designed runs and three were scrambles. On the other hand, he threw 30 passes and was sacked twice. That means he ran the ball on five out of 37 non-handoff opportunities, or 13.5 percent. Judging by what has worked over his career, that’s still too low a percentage and it means, if that continues, the Steelers will know right where he is on Sunday.
They seem to think that’s a good thing, and the Eagles seem to think they have figured this thing out as well. As always, someone’s right and someone’s going to get punched in the mouth.