Mike Check: Diagnosing Vick's struggles

Michael Vick posted his lowest QB rating of the past two seasons Sunday against the Bills. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)

Michael Vick's final line on Sunday was not pretty: 26-for-40 for 315 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.

That translated to a 66.1 QB rating, Vick's lowest in 17 starts with the Eagles. The previous mark (73.8) was reached just a few weeks ago against the Giants.

So was Vick as bad as the numbers indicate? Is he regressing? Or do his teammates deserve a sizable share of the blame?

Let's take a look, as always, starting with pass distribution.

  Targets Catches Yards Drops
Jason Avant 10 9 139 1
DeSean Jackson 7 5 86 0
Jeremy Maclin 7 6 54 0
LeSean McCoy 7 4 27 1
Brent Celek 4 1 6 0
Clay Harbor 1 1 3 0
TOTALS 36 26 315 2

You'll notice I only have 36 targets down. That's because Vick threw the ball away three times and spiked it once.

There were also drops by Avant and McCoy, so that line could easily look a lot more like 26-for-34 for 315 yards. I'm counting the final offensive play where Avant couldn't hold on and the ball was picked off as a drop. McCoy's came on a screen with the Eagles pinned in their own end zone.

As I wrote in Man Up, Avant had a monster game, but had the two costly miscues. The interception was the only time all game where Vick targeted Avant and the result was not a completed pass.

Jackson had an efficient game, catching balls on five of seven targets. I like what the Eagles did with him. They weren't able to hit on big plays downfield so they found ways to get him the ball with room to run. That resulted in big-time YAC on the 31-yard touchdown and the 26-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter.

Maclin had an efficient, but unspectacular game.

Vick and Celek continue to struggle to connect. On the season, Celek's been targeted 21 times and has only nine catches. That's not to place blame solely on the tight end. Vick threw to Celek in traffic on multiple occasions where he had no chance to make plays.

Steve Smith's role seems to be decreasing. He only played three snaps Sunday and hasn't had a ball thrown his way in the past two games.


There's no question in my mind that the Bills caught the Eagles off-guard with how much they blitzed. Buffalo sent extra pressure on 19 of 44 dropbacks (43.2 percent).

Vick went 10-for-17 for 135 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the blitz, averaging 7.94 yards per attempt. He was sacked once and took off and ran once.

When the Bills sent three of four defenders, Vick was 16-for-22 for 180 yards and two interceptions, averaging 8.18 yards per attempt.

In other words, his numbers weren't too different on blitz and non-blitz throws.

Keep in mind that for our purposes, a blitz is when the defense sends more than four defenders. The Bills would often only rush four, but send pressure from a linebacker or a defensive back.

Here's the full breakdown:

No. of Rushers No. of Plays Completions Attempts Yards
3 2 1 2 10
4 23 15 20 170
5 15 8 14 101
6 4 2 3 34

Teams are not sending the all-out blitzes against Vick, instead going with zone blitzes or just sending one extra defender.

The Bills had one sack, and that play might have been a designed run. Vick dropped back momentarily and then took off. He didn't gain any yards so it was counted as a sack. Vick has been sacked just five times in the last four games. On the season, the Eagles have allowed eight sacks. Only six teams have allowed fewer.


Third down was pretty much a disaster for the Eagles. They were 2-for-9 overall, but also converted with a roughing the passer penalty. They converted one of their final six third-down chances. Two of Vick's four interceptions came on third down. And the miscue at the end of the first half also occurred on third down.

Vick's favorite target on third down was Avant. He completed 3 of 4 attempts for 45 yards to Avant. McCoy and Celek were each targeted twice. Overall, Vick was 4-for-9 for 49 yards and two picks on third down.

The Eagles converted on two of three trips to the red zone. Vick only attempted one red-zone pass, the 2-yard touchdown to Maclin. On a previous play, it looked like he changed the call at the line of scrimmage to a run and McCoy picked up 15 yards.

The Eagles ran seven plays in the red zone. Three were McCoy runs; one was a Vick run; one was the Maclin touchdown; and two were penalties (by Danny Watkins and King Dunlap).

Overall, the Eagles rank 23rd in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 41.67 percent of their chances.


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 Yards
Short 12 18 109
Mid 11 14 131
Deep 2 3 40
Bomb 1 1 35

The numbers suggest Vick went to the right places with the football on most occasions (we'll get to the interceptions below).

The Eagles' top three receivers did a good job working the Mid range. Vick completed 11 of 13 passes to Avant, Jackson and Maclin on throws that traveled between 6 and 15 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Vick didn't take a lot of shots downfield, but when he did, he was effective, completing three of four attempts on passes that traveled more than 15 yards from the line.

As I mentioned above, the Eagles had success throwing shorter routes and allowing the receivers to make plays after the catch.


So, where is Vick as a quarterback after five games? Has he progressed? Has he regressed? Has he stayed the same?

Let's start with what's different, and it doesn't take a genius to figure it out: turnovers. Vick had nine turnovers in 12 games last season. He already has 10 in five games in 2011. As I mentioned yesterday, not all of those turnovers have been his fault, but at the same time, he's gotten away with some bad throws/decisions also. He's on pace for more than 22 interceptions.

There are several items to factor in with turnovers, but luck is one of them. At some point, I'd expect the giveaway numbers to come down.

Against the blitz, Vick is better this year. He seems more aware of what he's seeing. He takes off and runs less against extra pressure. And we even saw him throw the ball away on three occasions Sunday, which is a good thing. The sack numbers are down too, as I mentioned above.

Vick is completing 62.1 percent of his passes and averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. Those numbers are nearly identical to last year (62.6 percent, 8.1 YPA).

You can certainly make the argument that he's as efficient a runner as he's ever been. Vick is averaging 8.6 yards per run, which would be the second-best mark of his career, if it held up. He's on pace to run for 1,017 yards, which would also be the second-highest total of his career. Of course, that assumes a healthy Vick for the rest of the season, which is no sure thing.

There are issues that are concerning with Vick. He's a veteran quarterback and can't hold the ball for so long on that play at the end of the first half, which cost the Eagles a chance at a field goal. It was just a couple weeks ago that Vick had to be pushed off the field at the end of the first half when the field-goal unit came in. He needs to show more awareness in those situations.

Vick also needs more help - from his protection, from his coaches and from his receivers. The last two weeks, the Eagles have had chances to win or tie the game at the end. Against Buffalo, on the final drive, Vick was 6-for-6 for 51 yards before Bills defenders ripped the ball away from Avant. The previous week, he was 5-for-6 for 43 yards before the Maclin fumble.

I maintain that the Eagles' problems on offense are fixable, and the solution begins with taking care of the football. We've been saying that for weeks though. If they don't do a better job Sunday, they'll be staring at the bye week with a 1-5 record.

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