Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mike check: Vick's 4th-quarter performance

What did the Giants do to contain Michael Vick for 52 minutes? And what did Vick do differently in the fourth quarter? Here's a detailed look at his performance.

Mike check: Vick's 4th-quarter performance

Michael Vick and the Eagles take on the Vikings Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Michael Vick and the Eagles take on the Vikings Sunday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Michael Vick completed 21 of 35 passes for 242 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in Sunday's comeback win against the Giants.

He also used his legs for more big plays than we've seen all season, carrying 10 times for 130 yards.

For three-plus quarters, though, the Giants bottled up Vick and the Eagles' offense. So how'd they do it? And will other teams be able to replicate their success? What changed in the fourth quarter anyway, as Vick and the Birds looked unstoppable?

Here's a stab at answering those questions and more.

As always, let's start with pass distribution.

  Targets Catches Yards YAC Drops
Jeremy Maclin9759110
DeSean Jackson
8352200
LeSean McCoy6413100
Jason Avant
533500
Brent Celek
3272370
Jerome Harrison11720
Clay Harbor11400
TOTALS 33 21 242 80 0

As you can see, Vick went to his playmakers. Maclin was the most-targeted receiver, as he caught seven balls and a pair of touchdowns. He really played an effective overall game. Maclin was wide open deep on one play in the second half and would have had a third touchdown if Vick had been able to put more on his throw. But he was pressured and severely underthrwe it.

Also, don't forget about Maclin's block on the Brent Celek TD.

Vick looked to Jackson quite a bit, but didn't have as much success. His throw on the first play from scrimmage was off-target. Jackson had the 30-yard catch on the play where he fumbled, but Andy Reid didn't challenge. On the season, he has 15 catches of 25 yards or more, second in the NFL to Denver's Brandon Lloyd.

McCoy has not been a factor in the passing game the last two weeks. What really stuck out to me when watching Vick's throws again was that the Giants had a great gameplan and were extremely prepared. There were plays where you could tell New York's defensive players saw something they recognized and knew exactly what was coming. That was the case when the Eagles ran screens to McCoy. And it didn't help that the offensive linemen missed their blocks. McCoy has seven catches for 17 yards in the last two weeks.

Avant had three catches for 35 yards. There was a third down in the first where he had a chance, but couldn't make the catch. The throw was high, though, so I did not count it as a drop.

And Celek, of course, had the huge 65-yard grab. As I mentioned earlier this week, Celek bobbled the ball initially before gaining control and taking off for the end zone. He got open again on the first play of the final drive, but Vick was off-target with his throw. It would have been a gain of 20-plus yards.

Overall, seven different players had catches.

There were two passes that were batted down at the line of scrimmage, where the target was unclear. That's why I only have 33 targets listed even though Vick had 35 pass attempts.

THE BLITZ, PRESSURE, SHOTGUN, ETC.

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This section really reveals the most about how the Giants defended Vick, and how the Eagles came back.

The single biggest factor in the Eagles' struggling during the first three quarters was their failure to hit on any big plays against the blitz. And the biggest single factor in them coming back in the fourth was their effectiveness against the blitz.

The numbers really are staggering. Overall, the Giants blitzed Vick on 23 of 45 dropbacks (51.1 percent). Through three quarters, Vick had been blitzed 14 times. On those plays, he was 4-for-10 for 17 yards and an interception. Vick was also sacked three times on those blitzes and carried once for 1 yard for what was essentially another sack. The first 14 times the Giants blitzed, the Eagles' longest play went for 8 yards.

And then there was the fourth quarter.

The Giants kept blitzing - nine times in the final 15 minutes. On those plays, Vick was 3-for-6 for 88 yards and three touchdowns. Maybe more importantly, he carried three times for 90 yards.

In the fourth, the Eagles had four plays of 20 yards or more against the blitz. Three were runs by Vick, and the other was the touchdown to Celek. More than anything else, Vick's ability to burn the Giants with his legs when they blitzed him turned the game around.

Overall, he was 7-for-16 for 105 yards against the blitz. Maclin was Vick's go-to guy against the blitz. Seven of nine targets and five of seven completions to Maclin were against the blitz. Vick threw to Jackson four times against the blitz, and failed to complete a single pass.

It's worth noting that the previous week, the Cowboys blitzed Vick effectively. He completed just 6 of 11 passes for 16 yards in that one.

Vick was 12-for-17 for 113 yards under center and 9-for-18 for 129 yards from the shotgun.

THIRD DOWN, RED ZONE

For the second straight week, the Eagles were 4-for-11 on third downs. But, overall, they were even worse than the numbers indicate.

Vick completed just one pass all game on third down, finishing 1-for-5 for 18 yards. He was sacked three times on third down. Twice on designed runs, he successfully moved the chains.

But the one improvised run proved to be huge - Vick's 33-yard carry on 3rd-and-10 from the Eagles' 12 on their final scoring drive.

The Eagles were 3-for-4 in the red zone. And Vick was sharp. He completed 5 of 7 throws for 37 yards and a pair of touchdowns (both to Maclin). He also carried once for a 4-yard touchdown.

In the past three weeks, the Eagles are 9-for-13 in the red zone.

SUCCESS BY DISTANCE

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 10 15 51
Mid 8 10 78
Deep 2 5 48
Bomb 1 3 65

Interesting note: Vick did not attempt a Mid pass until the 15th time he dropped back. In other words, he was either going for big plays or throwing short. No intermediate attempts where Jackson and Maclin could make plays after the catch.

The only Bomb completion was the 65-yarder to Celek. The two incompletions were to Jackson and Maclin. The two deep completions were to Jackson and Avant.

I'm not too concerned about the pedestrian numbers on the Short throws. Teams are obviously game-planning well for the screens to McCoy, but the Eagles should still find success there in spots down the stretch.

OVERALL

It's true that for 52 minutes, Vick looked different from the player we've been watching all season.

I think the Giants deserve a lot of credit for that. They confused Vick with their blitzes. They hit him early and often. And they used their size up front to bat down five balls at the line of scrimmage. Remember, the Giants had faced Vick less than a month earlier, and they used that game to build a great gameplan in this one.

But then there was Vick in the fourth quarter. When the Giants blitzed and he saw a lane, he didn't scramble and look for receivers downfield. He took off. And that proved to be one of the most important aspects of the game. Vick's decisiveness and instincts. He took the Eagles to another level in the final 15 minutes, compelting 7 of 14 passes for 152 yards and running four times for 94 yards. Two touchdowns through the air; one more on the ground.

The Eagles are now 8-1 in games that Vick has started and finished.

And week after week, they are winning in the fourth quarter.

Vick's QB rating in the fourth on the season is 113.8. That's higher than Tom Brady. That's higher than Drew Brees. That's higher than Peyton Manning. It's higher than every quarterback in the league except for (go figure) David Garrard.

But there's an even better stat: fourth-quarter performance when the Eagles are either winning or losing by seven points or fewer. In other words, when it's a one-possession game; when a win or a loss can be determined by one play, by one mistake.

In those situations, Vick has a QB rating of 138.7.

Keep in mind that QB rating does not even take into account Vick's performance as a runner. The big plays with his legs were devastating to the Giants' defense. On the season, Vick has eight carries of 20 yards or more (three came in the fourth quarter against the Giants). That's seventh in the NFL. I'm including running backs here. It's more than Adrian Peterson. And it's the same number as guys like Michael Turner and Maurice Jones-Drew.

He's not perfect, and he can be contained in stretches. But no team's done it for a full game. The Eagles are averaging just under 34 points in games that he's started and finished. They've scored no fewer than 26 points in any of those games.

Winning the final two and earning a first-round bye is of great importance. There's no question Vick's body could use an extra week of rest and recovery after the beating he's taken for the last seven weeks. But after Sunday, opponents know no lead is safe against the Eagles with Vick's big-play ability.

Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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