Mike check: Evaluating Vick vs. Colts

Michael Vick threw for a touchdown and rushed for one against the Colts on Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Michael Vick returned to the field Sunday, leading the Eagles to a 26-24 victory against the Colts. The Birds are now 3-0 on the season in games that Vick has started and finished.

However, Sunday's performance was different from Vick's outings earlier this season.

And with that, let's get to the weekly breakdown, starting with pass targets:

  Targets Catches Yards YAC Drops
DeSean Jackson87109160
Jeremy Maclin 7 4 48 8 0
LeSean McCoy 4 3 8 5 0
Jason Avant 3 2 41 27 0
Brent Celek 2 0 0 0 0
Owen Schmitt 1 1 12 9 0
TOTALS 26 18 218 65 0

Football is a complicated game, but sometimes it can be simple. Like in this case: Get DeSean Jackson the ball, and the offense will have success.

That was clearly the Eagles' gameplan early. Vick targeted Jackson on three of his first five throws. All three were completions: one for a touchdown, one for 18 yards and the 58-yard bomb. Overall, Vick completed seven of eight targets to Jackson.

Maclin wasn't targeted until late in the first half, but ended up with seven targets overall. Vick threw four straight balls his way to start the second half, and Maclin came up with a big 22-yard grab during the final scoring drive.

McCoy had four targets. Two of those were unsuccessful screen attempts.

Official stats have Avant down for five targets, but two of those were balls that Vick threw away so I didn't count them here. Vick threw another ball away that was officially marked down as a Maclin target. That's why I have him down for 26 targets, instead of 29.

The Eagles had only 65 yards after the catch on Sunday, although that number is usually inflated by completions to McCoy, who had only 8 yards receiving. I'll have more on this tomorrow, but Jackson, Maclin, Avant and Celek all have lower YAC averages than they did in 2009.

Only five different receivers caught balls. Celek and Riley Cooper went without a catch.


Entering Sunday's game, Vick had burned teams that tried to blitz him, completing 27 of 45 on those throws and averaging 9.02 yards per attempt.

Maybe the Colts realized that, or maybe they are just not a blitzing team, but Indy only blitzed six times. On those plays, Vick went 2-for-4 for 7 yards.

But the real damage came on the two plays where he didn't attempt a pass and instead used his legs. On a 3rd-and-9 in the second quarter, Indy blitzed, and Vick took off for 24 yards and a first down. The Eagles ended up getting a field goal on the drive.

On the key 32-yard run on the final Eagles' scoring drive, Vick burned the blitz again with his legs.

Vick was sacked three times, but anyone who wants to point to that number as an accurate reflection of pass protection is mistaken. One of the sacks was definitely legit. Nick Cole got beat, and Vick had no chance.

On the second sack, though, Vick had very little pressure. There was really nobody around him, but he thought he saw an opening, took off and ended up getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage for a sack.

And the third sack was on a 3rd-and-7 play with under two minutes left. The Eagles were trying to run clock and rolled Vick out. He didn't see an open receiver, and instead of throwing it away (which would have stopped the clock), he was tackled at the line of scrimmage.

With all that being said, the offensive line did not play well. On several other plays, Vick could have been sacked, but avoided pressure.

One difference in this game was Vick's success on throws outside of the pocket. He completed just 3 of 8 for 47 yards on those attempts. Entering the game, he was 12-for-17 for 182 yards.

When Vick stayed in the pocket, he was outstanding, completing 14 of 21 for 171 yards.

At times, I thought Vick took off too early. There was a play in the red zone in the second quarter where he escaped and threw the ball away, but he probably had more time than he thought. Same thing on the 24-yard run, but who's going to complain if he picks up 24 yards?

There was also a 3rd-and-goal play from the 14, but CBS analyst Phil Simms mentioned on the broadcast that Vick didn't have anyone open on the play.

Now, part of this can be chalked up to protection. Not only problems in protection, but scheme. For example, on a 3rd-and-10 in the third, I initially thought Vick took off way too early. He picked up 3 yards, and the Eagles settled for a field goal. But then I realized that the Eagles kept two tight ends and McCoy in to block, meaning only two receivers were out in routes. That makes Vick's reads pretty easy. Look for the two receivers, and if they're not there, take off. There was nowhere else to go with the football.

Vick's attempts were split pretty evenly between the shotgun and under center. He was 8-for-14 for 84 yards under center and 9-for-15 for 134 yards out of the 'gun.

Play-action was not a factor, which can again be attributed to protection issues. Vick was 3-for-6 for 40 yards on play-action throws. The previous game against the Titans, the Eagles didn't get much off play-action either as Kevin Kolb went 3-for-8 for 17 yards. In Weeks 5 and 6, the Eagles were 18-for-21 for 335 yards off play-action.


As a team, the Eagles were 7-for-15 on third down. The ball was in Vick's hands on all 15 of those plays. He completed 5 of 9 attempts for 125 yards on third down and also carried six times.

Crazy stat No. 1: Vick averaged 13.9 yards per attempt on third-down throws. The two big ones were the 58-yard completion to Jackson and the 34-yard completion to Avant.  Vick targeted Jackson three times on third down, going 3-for-3 for 79 yards on those attempts.

During the drive that started with 12:45 left in the third quarter and took 6:48 off the clock, he converted three straight third down chances.

The Eagles took five trips into the red zone and came away with two touchdowns and three field goals. Going into the game, they had converted seven of eight trips into touchdowns with Vick at quarterback.

Vick was 4-for-7 for 13 yards in the red zone. On the first trip, he threw the 9-yard strike to Jackson for a touchdown. On the second trip, he looked for Celek but was nearly intercepted. On the third trip, Vick threw it away twice. On the fourth trip, he threw a quick hit to Jackson, who tried to make a play and ended up losing 8 yards. And on the fifth trip, Vick completed both his attempts, including the pass to Avant that set up the touchdown.


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 9 13 42
Mid 5 7 78
Deep 2 4 40
Bomb 1 2 58

Once again, Vick showed very good accuracy on throws down the field. The 58-yard completion to Jackson was a perfect throw. By my count, on throws that traveled more than 25 yards from the line of scrimmage this season, Vick is 7-for-12.

Crazy stat No. 2: He's completed 12 passes that have gained 25 yards or more. Peyton Manning has completed 14.

But Manning has attempted 351 passes. Vick? Just 125.


The second-half touchdown drive really was Vick at his best. The Eagles faced a 2nd-and-26 from their own 28, clinging to a 19-17 lead. Winston Justice had been called for a holding penalty that negated what would have been a 56-yard touchdown to Celek, and Jason Peters followed with a false start.

Vick dropped back on second down and threw a strike to Maclin for 22 yards. Suddenly 2nd-and-26 became a manageable 3rd-and-4.

The Colts came with a blitz, and Vick took off, picking up 32 yards and sending the crowd into a frenzy. In two plays, the Eagles went from 2nd-and-26 from their own 28 to 1st-and-10 at the Indy 18. They ended up scoring and taking a 26-17 lead.

The one thing I'll say about Vick as a passer is he's had little or no accuracy issues. Think about it. How many times during the course of a game do you see Vick attempt a pass where he has a receiver open and just misses him? Rarely.

Where he still has room to improve is decision-making. That may sound ridiculous to say for a guy that has not thrown an interception in 125 attempts this season, but he had four balls (by my count) that could have easily been picked in this one. That's something we hadn't seen too much of in previous weeks.

The other aspect of decision-making is knowing when to take off and run. More than at any other point this season, I thought Vick really relied on his legs. Is that a bad thing? Not in the short-term, especially given the offensive line issues. But Vick has talked at length about maturing as a passer and studying film and making reads. If that's the kind of quarterback he wants to be, Vick will need to continue to develop a sense for when the pressure is real and when he can continue to stay in the pocket and look for a receiver.

But overall, three starts (and finishes) and three wins. Defenses still have not come up with a way to stop Vick. As that final touchdown drive showed, he's capable of making monster plays wth his arm or his legs at any instant.