Mike Check: Connecting with DeSean

Michael Vick was under a lot of pressure Sunday against the 49ers. (Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)

Michael Vick completed 30 of 46 passes for a career-high 416 yards, two touchdowns and an interception last week against the 49ers.

Yet the Eagles went just 2-for-7 in the red zone, turned the ball over three times and scored three points in the second half of their 24-23 loss.

Here's the weekly breakdown of Vick's performance, looking ahead to the big picture.

As always, let's start with pass distribution:

  Targets Catches Yards Drops
DeSean Jackson 9 6 171 1
Jeremy Maclin 11 7 74 0
Jason Avant 8 6 69 0
Clay Harbor 3 3 55 0
LeSean McCoy 9 6 34 0
Owen Schmitt 1 1 11 0
Brent Celek 4 1 2 0
TOTAL 45 30 416 1

Let's start with Jackson. After catching just four balls for 51 yards the previous two weeks, Jackson broke out with six catches for 171 yards. The truth is, that could have looked more like 8 catches for 250 yards. Vick underthrew Jackson on the Eagles' first offensive play, but it looked like the Eagles' speedy wide receiver was in position to catch the ball. He didn't make the play, so I counted it as a drop. By my count, that's five drops in four games for Jackson. On the interception, Vick was pressured and underthrew Jackson again.

Maclin had another productive game, although he obviously had the costly fumble on the final drive. Maclin was the Eagles' most-targeted receiver. He got open deep on one play, but Vick just overthrew him.

Avant had a 20-yard grab on 3rd-and-9 in the fourth.

Harbor had a very good game with three catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. But he saw less playing time (just 11 snaps) than in any of the three previous games. Celek hasn't gotten going as a receiver, but he's still the No. 1 tight end, having played about 87 percent of the snaps on Sunday.

McCoy had his most productive game as a receiver, and Schmitt had a catch for the second straight week.

Steve Smith played 10 snaps, and Riley Cooper played five snaps, but neither was targeted.

Vick threw the ball away once. That's why only 45 targets show above, even though he officially attempted 46 passes.


The 49ers blitzed Vick on 20 of 56 dropbacks, or 35.7 percent. That's slightly less than what we saw from the Rams, Falcons and 49ers in the first three games. A reminder that for our purposes, a blitz is any rush of five or more defenders.

Vick finally was able to hit on some big plays against the blitz. He was 14-for-17 for 162 yards, averaging 9.53 yards per attempt. He was 16-for-29 for 254 yards (8.76 YPA) when the 49ers rushed three or four.

Here's the breakdown:

No. of Rushers No. of Plays Comp. Attempts Yards
3 10 6 8 120
4 26 10 21 134
5 18 12 15 141
6 1 1 1 10
7 1 1 1 11

The 49ers tried several different things to slow down the Eagles. They kept linemen or linebackers near the line of scrimmage at times to spy Vick and chase him down when he took off and ran.

When they did blitz, it was usually only with one extra defender. Often times, though, they sent the slot cornerback. The 49ers only rushed more than five defenders on two of 56 dropbacks.

We really saw a couple mismatches Sunday. The Eagles offensive line had all kinds of issues with the 49ers front seven. But San Francisco's secondary could not keep up with the Eagles receivers. Vick hit on four plays that picked up 25 yards or more. On three of them, the 49ers were only rushing three or four defenders. In other words, the Eagles receivers were able to make big plays downfield even when the 49ers had seven or eight players in coverage.

Entering the game, Vick was only averaging 5.38 yards per attempt against the blitz, so it's an encouraging sign that he averaged 9.53 against the Niners.

Vick took off and ran eight times, picking up 75 yards and averaging 9.4 yards per carry. Only two of those runs came against the blitz. One of the sacks came from a 4-man rush, the other on a 5-man rush. In the last three weeks, Vick has only run two times and taken one sack against the blitz.


As a team, the Eagles were 5-for-13 on third down. Vick had the ball in his hands on 12 of those plays. He completed 8 of 9 passes for 123 yards and also ran three times for 30 yards, but those numbers are slightly misleading. On four of the completions, the Eagles failed to pick up a third down.

Vick was 3-for-4 to McCoy on third down, but those completions picked up only 2 total yards, and two of them lost yardage.

Jackson, on the other hand, caught all three balls thrown his direction on third down for 99 yards.

The Eagles were only 2-for-7 in the red zone. Vick was 7-for-11 for 48 yards inside the 49ers' 20. He targeted McCoy four times; Avant twice; Maclin twice; Celek twice; and Harbor once.

The offense just made too many mistakes in the red zone: there was a sack, penalties, the Ronnie Brown fumble and two missed field goals (although, technically, only one was in the red zone).

My remedy for fixing the red-zone woes? Keep the ball in the hands of Vick or McCoy. There's no need for Brown or Schmitt or anyone else to get touches. No need to get cute. The Eagles have capable red-zone receivers like Maclin, Smith and Avant. Celek and Harbor should be weapons down there too. Last year, Vick ran for 9 touchdowns in the red zone.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying it, but I see no reason why they can't just have him drop back or roll out and make a play either with his arms or legs.


Here's a chart of Vick's throws by distance. I used the same ranges that Football Outsiders uses so we'd have a point of reference. Short is 5 yards or less. Mid is 6 to 15 yards. Deep is 16 to 25 yards. And Bomb is more than 25 yards. These are measured from the line of scrimmage to the point where the ball is touched, hits the ground or goes out of bounds.

   Completions Attempts
 Short  16 24
 Mid  7 9
 Deep  5 7
 Bomb  2 5

What stands out? The Bomb throws, which travel more than 25 yards from the line of scrimmage. The previous two weeks, Vick had not even attempted one of these throws. He attempted five against the 49ers, completed two and really had a chance to complete the other three (two to Jackson, one to Maclin), as I mentioned above.

He's been very good on the Deep throws (16-25 yards from the line of scrimmage) the past two weeks, completing 8 of 13 attempts.

Overall, Vick is completing 61.2 percent of his passes, just slightly below last year's number (62.6 percent). In the last three weeks, Vick has completed 67.0 percent of his attempts. On the season, his yards per attempt is up to 7.92. Again, slightly below last year (8.11).


This performance by Vick reminded me the 2010 version of the Eagles. He hit on big plays downfield and with his legs.

Maybe most importantly, he did a lot of his damage when he was under pressure. If you read MTC regularly, you know I am not shy about criticizing Vick for not getting rid of the ball. And in the past, I've said (along with many others) that he relies on his legs too much against the blitz, rather than making the proper reads and adjustments.

But as you can see by the numbers, he is getting rid of the football this year. And much of the pressure in the second half Sunday came from 4- or 5-man rushes, meaning the Eagles' protection should have been better because they had enough bodies in to block.

Vick still has plenty to work on. He missed on a few big throws, and while the interception wasn't his fault, he got lucky later in the game when a 49ers defensive back dropped a pick that was right in his hands. He's thrown into traffic in the red zone too much all season, but I still think he gives the Eagles the best chance to score down there.

Offensively, the Eagles' problems are fixable. They need to take care of the football (9 turnovers in their last three games) and simplify things in the red zone (currently rank 23rd in the NFL). If those issues linger, the season could be over by the bye week. But if they get fixed, this offense has a chance to revert to the explosive unit it was a year ago.

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