Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles have been living out a harsh reality rather than a "dream" in the first three weeks of the NFL season. Nonetheless, Sunday's Week 4 matchup versus the San Francisco 49ers will see Vick lead the Eagles to a victory.
The Eagles quarterback did not exactly get off to the ideal start for a season ramped up with uncontrollable hyperbole from the national media. Vick goes out of the game in successive weeks while Philadelphia had a lead and the team fell apart from the seams.
San Francisco rolls into The City of Brotherly Love with a 2-1 record and the lead in their division. Philadelphia currently sits in the cellar of the NFC East with their 1-2 record.
However, Andy Reid's teams notoriously come out of the gates slowly. Sunday's game will see Michael Vick and Co. return to winning ways versus the 49ers.
One of the most explosive players on the Philadelphia Eagles—and in the NFL for that matter—has been relatively irrelevant. The big-play wide receiver has a caught four balls for 51 yards in the past two games.
That kind of production has killed a team built upon a big-play mentality. Jackson's silence will end this week versus the San Fransisco 49ers. Although the 49ers have a rigid front seven—including a monstrous linebacker corps—their secondary offers an area to exploit.
Jackson has an unblemished record versus the 49ers in his career going 3-0 and is 7-0 versus all NFC West opponents. He's caught 14 balls for 262 yards during those three games.
Marty Mornhinweg stated during his weekly press conference,"There are times I try and get him the ball, absolutely." Expect Jackson's silence to end this week as the Eagles and Michael Vick try to get their home run hitter the ball.
A big key to Vick getting back on track and in sync with his offense is No. 10. I fully expect the Eagles to try and stretch the field with Jackson this week versus a secondary he can take advantage of.
Play-calling hasn't been a real big issue—up until the last two weeks—with this team in their recent history. Some will disagree with that but the film says otherwise.
The 4th-and-1 call versus the New York Giants on Sunday was the right call. If they convert the yardage into a 1st down, more than likely the Philadelphia Eagles drive down the field killing the clock and the game is over.
However, LeSean McCoy made a terrible decision to bounce out away from his blockers when the left side of the line manhandled their assignments, which created a sizable hole. If McCoy hits the hole on the left side, he certainly picks up the 1st down and at least another 10 yards.
I expect the Eagles to have a better game plan this week enabling Michael Vick and the offense to succeed. Part of that refers back to the previous slide about getting DeSean Jackson involved.
This offense still has three or four more gears it could hit before you see it running at an optimum rate. Getting all the pieces in the puzzle involved takes a well-designed game plan and execution on the behalf of the players.
The Eagles will make up for their hair-brained play selection from the past couple weeks versus the San Francisco 49ers, allowing Michael Vick to flourish.
For whatever reason, Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg fell in love with Owen Schmitt last week. I guess you could say they suffered from a severe case of schoolgirl syndrome. Schmitt hurdles a New York Giants defender on a safety-valve dump-off and miraculously they fall in love as he turns into the go-to guy on the goal line.
Schmitt didn't receive a single carry during the 2010 season. Last Sunday he received two inside the 5-yard line to no avail. Baffling and senseless play-calling in the red zone for such a crucial point in the game.
It's almost as if they forgot LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown are on their team.
Play-calling in the red zone has been the Achilles heel for the Philadelphia Eagles in the last two weeks. The bonehead fake handoff inside the 5-yard line versus the Atlanta Falcons gave away an opportunity to put that game out of reach. Instead of scoring, the play allowed a Falcons rusher to come untouched into the backfield and jarred the ball loose for a fumble.
This past Sunday the Eagles were an abhorrent 1-for-5 in the red zone. That includes two different occasions where they had a 1st-and-goal inside the 3-yard line that they did not punch in for a touchdown.
Red-zone efficiency this week will help the Eagles get the "W" they've been searching for.
For all the talk about his reckless style of play and him being susceptible to injury, the facts are Michael Vick fell victim to two different freak injuries over the past couple weeks. Things happens like that sometimes in football.
Vick will finish out Week 4. Unlike the previous two games, Vick will come away from this Sunday's game unscathed by any other abnormal injuries.
The concussion suffered by the Philadelphia Eagles' $100 million man versus the Atlanta Falcons had nothing to do with his style of play. Heck, I would go as far as saying it really didn't have to do with any other player either.
Todd Herremans unluckily happened to be in the path of Vick going to the ground, breaking Vick's fall with his shoulder. A routine play turned into an unfortunate injury for the quarterback.
Turn the clock to Week 3 and the New York Giants defender took a shot at Vick—which was blatantly late—and Vick put his right hand out to brace himself for the impact. He saved himself from getting a helmet in the sternum but ended up severely bruising his non-throwing hand.
Do not expect anything of that nature to happen this week. The inopportune timing of both injuries and the way in which they happened will not happen three weeks in a row. It goes against the law of averages.
Vick will finish out this game and that will help the Eagles get their second win in 2011.
Just in case you didn't know already, the Philadelphia faithful are not exactly a patient bunch. They let their teams know when they disapprove of their performance on the field.
Last week's performance in the home opener versus the New York Giants did not exactly provide too much to cheer for aside from LeSean McCoy's performance. If the Philadelphia Eagles go out this week and perform as haphazardly as they did this past Sunday, the boos would rain down like a monsoon.
However, Michael Vick knows the fanbase is starting to get riled up. A big performance by No. 7 will put the natural pessimist that exists in every Philadelphia sports fan away for a few days—well, maybe.
The fans want something to cheer about. Vick will give them plenty of things to yell about. None of which will be obscenities directed towards the Eagles bench.
All talk and no walk is what the Philadelphia Eagles defense has been through three weeks. Sure, the defensive line has played pretty well but everyone else has not.
Nnamdi Asomugha has given Eagles fans a flashback to Dimitri Patterson with his play in the past couple weeks. The prized acquisition let Victor Cruz out-jump him and run free down the sideline after a comical attempt at a tackle for two touchdowns on Sunday.
It's not just Asomugha though; it's the entire defense in the fourth quarter. I don't know if it's a lack of conditioning from not having a full offseason or if seeing their leader go to the locker room messed with their psyche.
Seeing Michael Vick walk down the tunnel in the last two weeks has clearly affected this defense. Each of the last two weeks the Eagles carried a lead into the final quarter. Each of those games the Eagles defense could not hold off the opposition.
As much as everyone makes of play-calling and personnel on the defense, I think the impact of knowing Vick will be leading the offense down the field has a profound effect on the defense. Vick's the team leader on both offense and defense.
The defense will show up in the fourth quarter on Sunday knowing that they have a security blanket with Vick still in the game.
Michael Vick has already retracted from his postgame comments after the disappointing loss to the New York Giants. Claiming he stated the comments out of pure "frustration," Vick has apologized to the league and the officials several times since Sunday.
However, the damage has been done. The league, the referees and the national media have all been forced to examine the complaints by No. 7.
It may be the most astute thing Vick could have ever done for his career—and his health. The NFL has been designed to protect the quarterback, which is the star player for most franchises.
Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles had some of the highest ratings for regular-season games in years in 2010 thanks to their explosive offense led by the dynamic quarterback. If you think the NFL isn't going to pay more attention to details in the coming weeks with Vick, you're delusional. They're already missing Peyton Manning, they don't want to lose another attention-grabber in Vick.
The refs have now been put in a catch-22 situation due to Vick's comments. Former head of officiating Mike Pereira commented on that very subject this week.
"I think what he did was basically throw the 17 referees in the National Football League under the bus and put them in a very difficult position. A referee now based on what Mike said, as far as I’m concerned, is in a lose-lose situation. If he calls roughing the passer on a hit against Michael Vick, then everybody is going to say that they taunted him into the foul. If he doesn’t, then they more heap criticism on him based on what Mike said."
Pereira hit it on the head. Vick will benefit this week from being in the witness protection program whilst in the pocket.
Michael Vick stated this week that he must protect the ball better.
"I was thinking in my meeting today that the most important thing this week will be to protect the ball. The good thing is I don’t put the ball in my right hand and I’m predominantly left handed when I’m running the ball. I just have to take care of the football and even if I have two hands that are 100 percent, I still can’t turn the ball over."
Turnovers in the NFL are a direct link to the loss column. The San Francisco defense is built around toughness and you know someone like Patrick Willis would love to jar the ball loose from Vick.
The Philadelphia Eagles have had an unnecessary amount of turnovers—seven to be exact—in the first three weeks of the season. Vick has already thrown for two interceptions and fumbled the ball numerous times.
Maintaining possession will help the Eagles manage the game and keep their offense on the field. This team has been built to play with a lead and protecting the ball allows them to stabilize their lead.
Expect Vick to be more cautious and conscientious when it comes to ball security in Week 4. Limiting the amount of careless turnovers will not win you a game but it could lose you a game very quickly if you don't.
What's the best way to prevent Michael Vick from getting slammed to the ground? Handing the ball off to LeSean McCoy.
The Philadelphia Eagles running back could be on track for a Pro Bowl-type of year if he keeps the production level he currently has been displaying. He's currently averaging 115 yards on the ground through three games with only 19 carries per game on average.
Vick will benefit greatly from a similar performance by McCoy on Sunday. Establishing the run has not exactly been a forte of the Andy Reid era but if last Sunday was any inclination, things might be evening out in the run-pass ratio.
McCoy forces the defense to not only respect the run but be legitimately concerned about the Eagles running game. This allows the wide receivers to get one-on-one coverage and Vick doesn't have to see blitzes as much.
The other big reason McCoy will help Vick lead the Eagles to a victory Sunday is his blocking ability. McCoy is a grossly underrated pass-blocker and takes on all sizes.
You know the San Francisco 49ers will be sending pressure towards Vick, and McCoy will play a huge part in making sure the No. 7 jersey stays clean.
I mentioned it a few slides back but this deserves its own slide. Michael Vick is the unquestioned leader of this football team.
Seeing your leader—especially your starting quarterback—get taken out two games in a row can be demoralizing to a team's psyche. I understand that they're professionals and they should keep playing no matter what the circumstances, but the reality is that it took an effect on this team.
The entire NFL knows that as Michael Vick goes, so do the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick has been accountable for his mistakes over the short course of the season and guys respect that.
What the team also respects is when their leader shows up with his lunch pail ready to go to work. Vick brings out the best from his teammates. That's what leaders do.
When his offensive weapons see him firing on all cylinders they step up their game. When the defense sees Vick leading the offense down the field, they raise their game as well because they do not want to be the reason for a loss.
Having Vick healthy and playing well on Sunday will have a profound effect inside the locker room and on the field for the Eagles. Knowing their leader is back and playing 100 percent will energize a team that desperately needs a spark.