There has been talk on the highlight shows about the Bears’ defense “containing” Michael Vick. Vick was 29 of 44 for 333 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 9 rushes for 44 yards. There are many NFL quarterbacks who wish they could be “contained” in this fashion. It was not Vick’s performance, or even the batted ball the Bears corralled for Vick’s first interception of the year that kept Vick “in check” and caused the Eagles to fall. It was Andy Reid’s predictable game plan.
Timing patterns have been the mainstay of the most effective iterations of the West Coast offense passing attack. Their approach has been patient, methodical and varied. Bill Walsh’s brain child featured quick slants, crossing patterns, pick plays, five yard “dinks” to the fullback in the flat, 10 yard “dunks” to the tight end over the middle and the occasional shot down field when the defense moved closer to the line of scrimmage to stop all that “dinking and dunking.” The offense uses the whole field and it revolutionized the way offense and subsequently defense is played throughout the league.
The Eagles offense appears to be going for the big play on every down. Andy Reid’s propensity to “go deep,” forces the quarterback to hold the ball a little longer as he waits for the receiver to uncover. Teams with a fierce pass rush like the Bears, Giants and Lions have been able to harass Vick because there is not enough short passing and running plays to keep them honest and off balance. The primary weapon the Eagles use to offset pass rushers is Vick running. We all know that someday soon that strategy will come to a disastrous conclusion.
Conspicuously absent from Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense is the intentionally short routes in the middle of the field and in the flats. The type of pass that requires a three step drop to a plant and then the ball is in the air headed for an area before the receiver turns and looks for it. This kind of play keeps defenders on their heels and sets up pump fakes and double moves. The other signature of a highly effective West Coast offense that is missing from the Eagles offense is an efficient and effective running game that sets up the play action pass and keeps defensive teams guessing.
Statistics would seem to belie the fact that the Eagles still don’t mix in enough running plays to keep their quarterbacks from taking too many hits. At first glance the Eagles appear to have a healthy running attack. The Eagles boast the third ranked running offense in the NFL. However, closer scrutiny of these stats reveals three very important facts.
1. The Eagles don’t run the ball enough
2. The Eagles can really run the ball effectively, they just don’t
3. The quarterback has too much responsibility in the Eagles’ offense
This season the Eagles passed the ball 388 times and ran it 285 times. These numbers show a 103 play disparity, but those numbers lie. 75 of those rushing attempts were by Vick and Kolb which means they were not running plays at all, just pass plays gone bad.
LeSean McCoy and Jerome Harrison average 5.0 and 8.2 yards per carry respectively. So the Eagles can run the ball when they want to. As usual, despite prevailing wisdom of nearly every expert and analyst, Andy Reid simply refuses to run the ball. There are teams, starting with the 3 time champion Patriots, who would sell their collective souls for averages like that.
There were football analysts who said that Donovan McNabb was not durable. Donovan McNabb played in an offense that passed the ball 70% of the time and insisted on holding the ball to force it deep on many of those plays. If I were going to play quarterback for Andy Reid, I’d get the guaranteed money up front.