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Philadelphia Eagles: Breaking Down Michael Vick's Mistakes in Cleveland

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Philadelphia Eagles: Breaking Down Michael Vick's Mistakes in Cleveland
David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

In case you hadn't heard, Michael Vick had a bad game Sunday in Cleveland, throwing four interceptions in (remarkably) a winning effort.

It's always been difficult to determine whom to blame when Vick struggles because his pass protection hasn't always been topnotch. So in order to get some clarification on what went down Sunday, let's dissect Vick's four picks and fifth throw that should have been intercepted.

 

Pick No. 1
First quarter: Eagles 0, Browns 3
2nd-and-21 on the Cleveland 49-yard line

Vick takes a shotgun snap and has a chance to get set as the pocket begins to collapse. No blitz, though, so he has a few moments to buy time with his feet on a 2nd-and-long.

He does exactly that, dodging Emmanuel Stephens and rolling left, which is advantageous for him. Now he's insisting on turning this play into something positive, even though there's no reason to panic. Realistically, this drive might stall regardless.

The problem is that he then tries to throw back across the field without his feet being set. He had the time and space to plant and throw, but he sees a slightly open target and rushes. 

You just don't expect to see shots like these from non-rookie quarterbacks...

Additionally, I have no idea what he saw here:

Whom to blame?
Vick: 80 percent
Pass protection: 15 percent
Receivers: Five percent

 

Pick No. 2
Third quarter: Eagles 10, Browns 3
1st-and-10 on the Philadelphia 39-yard line

Coming out of a play-action fake, Vick has all the time in the world. And it should be noted that it's only first down, we're in Philadelphia territory and the Eagles have a one-score lead. There's absolutely no reason to force anything in a situation like this, especially with the Browns' offense struggling, but Vick so rarely has a clean pocket and wants to take advantage.

He sees something he likes and releases well before he has to. No one's even close to him in the pocket.

I'm curious to find out what exactly Vick liked about Clay Harbor as a target here. That's Harbor in red, blanketed by T.J. Ward. And with D'Qwell Jackson and L.J. Fort also in the area, it's as close to triple coverage as you'll get.

Easy breakup leading to an easy pick.

That would lead to a Cleveland field goal in a close, low-scoring game.

Whom to blame?
Vick: 90 percent
Receivers: 10 percent

 

Pick No. 3
Third quarter: Eagles 10, Browns 6
3rd-and-10 on the Cleveland 36-yard line

Again, no blitz, but the pocket collapses quickly on Vick.

He steps forward and dodges Ahtyba Rubin. He clearly has room to run in this shot (highlighted by the black arrow), but he opts instead to throw at Jeremy Maclin, who is fairly open. This choice makes more sense when you consider that Rubin was actually much closer to Vick a split second prior. Vick had no idea if he was about to get tackled or not, and the only reason that's not the case is because Danny Watkins (in the blue circle) was blatantly holding Rubin. 

The issue here isn't the decision, but the throw itself. It's a side-arm delivery that leads Maclin by about two feet too many. As a result, it's deflected right to Joe Haden.

It certainly wasn't a drop, but Maclin didn't do a very good job with the pass, and Vick's protection evaporated too quickly. There wasn't a lot more he could have done, but the pass was definitely off target. That would lead to another Browns field goal.

Whom to blame?
Pass protection: 40 percent
Vick: 30 percent
Receivers: 30 percent

 

Pick No. 4
Fourth quarter: Eagles 10, Browns 9
1st-and-10 on the Philadelphia 13-yard line

Vick has a ton of time and space after a big drop coming out of a play fake. No blitz, but the line does cave fairly quickly again. 

He can buy more time if he wants it, but is locked on to Maclin and fires with good balance and footwork.

And yet he somehow fails to see D'Qwell Jackson lurking underneath...

By the time the ball arrives, two Cleveland defenders have boxed out Maclin, and Jackson has a clear path for six points.

That score meant 13 of Cleveland's 16 points came as a result of Vick interceptions.

Whom to blame?
Vick: 85 percent
Receivers: 10 percent
Pass protection: Five percent

 

Would-Be Pick No. 5
Fourth quarter: Eagles 10, Browns 16
2nd-and-goal on the Cleveland 4-yard line

I include this one because Vick keeps getting credit for at least salvaging the victory late, when, in fact, he was very lucky to survive that final drive. On the play before his game-winning touchdown pass to Harbor, he dropped back against a nonexistent pass rush and had as much time and space as he could have needed.

A split-second later, Vick would release confidently at this...

Fort wasn't able to pull in the easy interception, and the Eagles lived to see the next down, which produced seven points to get them the last-minute victory.

Interceptions are rarely ever 100 percent on the quarterback, but this would have been pretty close to that. It's a ridiculous throw to attempt when your team has two more downs inside the 5-yard line.

And that's the problem, really. Vick doesn't stop to consider context. I understand how difficult that is, but it's what separates guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger from everyone else. That's why those quarterbacks have won each of the last nine Super Bowls.

In this morning's MMQB column, Sports Illustrated's Peter King relayed a quote from Tony Sparano during Sunday's Bills-Jets game. Mark Sanchez had just thrown a silly pass in a silly situation, resulting in an interception. And in order to emphasize the context of each play, here's what Sparano told Sanchez, per King:

"Listen son,'' Sparano said, "you didn't have to do that. You'd made six or seven positive plays in a row to get us there, and if you throw it away, it's third down and you keep the drive going. It doesn't have to be you winning the game by yourself. Cut your losses. Let your teammates help.''

Sparano told me [King] last night: "It was an easy conversation to have. Mark's a very good kid. He knew. Every play doesn't have to be a home run.''

Vick needed that advice a decade ago. Now, I fear he'll know never learn to cut his losses. He's yet to comprehend that every play doesn't have to be a home run. That's why, based on my estimates above, he alone was responsible for about 75 percent of what went wrong on those four game-changing mistakes. One player can't completely lose a game, but Vick came pretty damn close in Week 1.

Vick has to learn to stop swinging for the fences every at-bat, because lately, he's been striking out far too often. 

OK, I promise I'm done with baseball analogies for the week.

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