All-22: Examining Michael Vick’s Issues

When Chip Kelly was asked to evaluate Michael Vick’s performance against the Kansas City Chiefs, the word he used was okay.

Okay is generally coach-speak for: He didn’t play well, but it’s unfair to place all the blame on one guy.

And that’s true. The offensive line had too many issues. Wide receivers struggled to get open consistently. The defense couldn’t get off the field during an 8-minute, 15-second stretch in the fourth quarter. And special teams suffered a variety of miscues.

But one week after throwing for 423 yards and completing nearly 64 percent of his passes against the Chargers, Vick was just 13-for-30 with three turnovers against the Chiefs.

What were some of his issues? Let’s take a look, starting with his first-quarter interception.

In last week’s post on DeSean Jackson, we showed how the Eagles used the same look/concept against the Chargers on four different occasions and had a lot of success.

That’s the same look/concept they used on the interception against KC.

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It’s a 3×1 look. Against San Diego, Jackson often lined up as the isolated receiver to one side of the formation. Here, he’s on the outside on the right side. The Eagles are going to run the “stick” concept to that side of the field (explained here by Chris Brown). Jackson runs a fade down the sideline. Jason Avant runs a short out. And Brent Celek runs a stick, going straight ahead and then turning around.

On the other side of the field, Riley Cooper has single coverage running a fade down the sideline.

The advantage of this concept, as explained by Brown, is that it works against a variety of coverages.

The two key defenders are circled in yellow. There’s a single-high safety, meaning Vick will have a shot to get the ball to Cooper down the sideline one-on-one. And linebacker Derrick Johnson is lurking in the middle of the field. He doesn’t have man-coverage responsibilities and is going to read Vick.

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Here, you can see Vick is staring Celek down from the second the ball is in his hands.

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When Vick starts to release the ball, Johnson is breaking in front of Celek. He gets his hands on the pass, which pops in the air before safety Eric Berry makes the interception.

“What hurt so much about that play was that I knew exactly what I needed to do,” Vick said. “I had press coverage on one side and I just tried to take the easy way out. If I just throw the fade on the other side, it never happens. I didn’t make a good throw. I made a poor decision, and it was a bad ball. It was something that I’ll learn from, and I’ll never second-guess myself like that again.”

Here’s what Vick is talking about.

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He has a shot deep to Cooper with the safety in the middle of the field. In hindsight, that’s where Vick thought he should have gone with the ball.

“I pre-determined what I was going to do, and then I second-guessed myself,” Vick said. “I had the right decision that I was going to make in my mind. It was the correct decision, and then I tried to do something else out of the box, and it didn’t work out for me.”

If he was going to throw the stick to Celek, Vick shouldn’t have stared him down the entire time, and he needed to get rid of the ball sooner.

***

On Vick’s second interception, he threw behind Cooper on a post. He did the same thing earlier in the game (pictured here).

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As was the case all game long, the Chiefs have man coverage on Cooper, who’s going to run a downfield post, breaking in at about the 35.

There was no great angle to capture the throw, but here you can see Cooper is reaching back as cornerback Sean Smith breaks it up.

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It’s not as if Cooper created great separation, but Vick’s throw didn’t even give him a chance to make a play.

“Did he miss some throws? Yeah,” Kelly said. “In the opening game, he missed a couple throws, too. But, I mean, he’s still right now playing at a pretty good level.  I think that’s the one thing with that position, you’re always going to get scrutinized.  It comes with the territory. Mike knows that. I know that. That’s part of this deal.

“We expect them to be perfect on every play, put the ball in the proper location, make the proper read.  Sometimes that doesn’t happen.”

There were several instances Thursday where pressure affected Vick, but as you can see, this was not one of them.

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He has a nice clean pocket with which to deliver the ball, but is off-target. The interception later was similar. The ball was thrown behind Cooper on a post, and Smith picked it off.

“He threw the ball on the back shoulder,” Kelly said. “More of a location situation.  If he puts the ball out in front of him, I think we’ve got a good throw.

“Everything is close in this league.  His location on that particular play wasn’t where it should have been.”

***

One of Vick’s greatest strengths is his ability to make plays when protection breaks down. For example, there was this play in the second where Jason Peters got beaten by Tamba Hali. In the first shot, it looks like Vick has no chance and it’s a sure sack.

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But Vick does an excellent job of escaping, creates space for himself and keeps his eyes downfield.

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The problem? Vick has Bryce Brown (blue circle) wide-open down the sideline. He doesn’t see him and instead makes a much more difficult throw to Cooper (yellow circle), who has a defender nearby.

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The issue here is not the throw. Vick gave Cooper a chance to make a play, and he didn’t. But Vick made things more difficult on himself by not targeting Brown and clearly was not seeing the whole field.

***

And finally, in the third, Vick had a chance to hit Jackson for a touchdown. Here, you can see how aggressively the Chiefs are playing the Eagles.

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This was the case all game long. Kansas City has 10 defenders within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs are well-equipped to play the run and are challenging the Eagles’ receivers at the line of scrimmage with just one deep safety.

Avant is going to run a post and occupy the safety. Jackson is going to run a double-move, a hitch-and-go.

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Vick has the right read, delivers a fake when Jackson makes his first move and has great protection.

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The problem? He sails his throw out of bounds. Jackson had a step too, as you can see below.

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Cornerback Brandon Flowers is trailing Jackson. With a good throw, this is a touchdown. Instead, it’s an incompletion. And the Eagles ended up settling for a field goal on the drive.

***

There were protection issues and times where Vick had nowhere to go with the ball. We’ll tackle those in the next post. But overall, the QB didn’t execute plays when he had them. And he made too many mistakes. That resulted was a 16-point output for the offense and a second straight loss.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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