Mike Check: How Vick picked apart the Cowboys

Michael Vick played one of his best games as an Eagle Sunday night against the Cowboys. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Michael Vick completed 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' 34-7 win over the Cowboys Sunday night.

It was one of Vick's best performances as an Eagle, as he completed 75 percent of his passes, averaged a season-best 9.96 yards per attempt and produced a 129.9 QB rating (second-best mark of the past two seasons).

How did he do it? That's what we look at in the weekly Mike Check feature, starting with pass distribution:

   Targets Catches
 Brent Celek
 Jason Avant
 Jeremy Maclin
 DeSean Jackson
 LeSean McCoy
 Clay Harbor
 Owen Schmitt
 0  0
TOTALS 28 21 279 1

For the second straight week, Celek was the Eagles' most-targeted receiver. But there was a huge difference in the Vick-Celek connection from the first six games. Before Sunday, Celek's catch rate (receptions per targets) was 43 percent. But on Sunday, Vick connected on seven of nine passes to Celek (78 percent).

Vick completed all eight of his passes to Avant and Maclin for 128 yards.

Jackson was the Eagles' second-most targeted receiver, but his longest catch went for just 14 yards.

McCoy had a nice-looking catch and run on a screen; Harbor too; and Vick looked for Schmitt in the red zone.

Riley Cooper played, but was not targeted, and Steve Smith was on the field for zero snaps.


All week, we talked about Rob Ryan's plans to bring a heavy blitz against Vick. Overall, the Cowboys blitzed (defined here as 5 or more pass rushers) on 18 of 36 dropbacks, or 50 percent of the time. On the season, Vick has been blitzed on 115 of 270 dropbacks, or about 42.6 percent of the time.

How'd he do? Against the blitz, Vick was 8-for-12 for 103 yards (8.58 YPA); all four sacks came on blitzes; and he ran twice when blitzed.

The non-blitz numbers are more impressive. Vick completed 13 of 16 passes for 176 yards (11.0 YPA). He was not sacked and ran twice. In other words, Vick picked the Cowboys apart when they rushed four defenders or fewer. When they rushed five or fewer, he was 20-for-24 for 267 yards.

Here is the breakdown by number of rushers:

No. of Rushers No. of Plays Completions Attempts Yards
2 1 1 1 8
3 8 6 7 85
4 9 6 8 83
5 10 7 8 91
6 8 1 4 12
7 0 0 0 0
8 0 0 0 0

While Vick's numbers overall were good against the blitz, he still struggled against six or more pass rushers. By my count, all four sacks came when the Cowboys sent six. And Vick completed just 1 of 4 passes for 8 yards against six rushers.

On the season, he is 14-for-28 (50 percent) for 145 yards (5.18 YPA) against six or more rushers. Those numbers still need to get better.


As a team, the Eagles went 7-for-12 on third down. Vick had the ball in his hands on nine of those, and the offense converted five of them. Overall, Vick was 5-for-7 for 76 yards on third down. He also ran once and was sacked once.

The offense converted four of six red-zone trips into touchdowns. Vick was 3-for-7 for 20 yards in the red zone, completing touchdowns to Maclin and Celek. McCoy took care of the other two scores.

On the season, the Eagles are scoring touchdowns in the red zone 45.71 percent of the time, which ranks 24th in the NFL.


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 11 14 104
Mid 7 11 111
Deep 3 3 64
Bomb 0 0 0

What stands out here? Well, first of all, Vick attempted zero Bomb passes, as he explained, because the safeties were playing so deep.

He attempted three Deep passes (16-25 yards from the line of scrimmage), and completed all of them - one to Avant, one to Maclin and one to Celek.

Vick did an excellent job of not forcing the ball downfield and working the Short and Mid areas of the field.


This was Vick at his finest. The fact that he changed the play at the line on the Maclin touchdown is a great sign. And it looked like he did that on one of the McCoy touchdown runs also. As a passer, he was consistent, accurate and made good decisions. And he ran seven times for 50 yards. Vick is on pace to run for 964 yards, which would be the second-highest total of his career.

Turnovers can be tricky. Sometimes the ball bounces your way; sometimes it doesn't. For example, Tony Romo got credited with an interception, even though it was largely Martellus Bennett's fault. Vick, meanwhile, was stripped by DeMarcus Ware, but Todd Herremans recovered the fumble. Overall, though, Vick was smart with the ball. There was only one near-interception on a slant to Jackson, and that may have been the wide receiver's fault.

Last year, Vick threw his first interception of the season against Chicago. He'll have to take care of the football Monday night if the Eagles want to win their third straight and improve to 4-4.

If you missed it from earlier Wednesday, here's my post on what they're saying about the Eagles.

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