The Philadelphia Eagles dropped four of their previous five games before a 16-point win in Miami on Sunday. A common thought was that the struggles could be attributed to the absence of starting quarterback Michael Vick. He returns, they win a game and everything is fixed, right? Not exactly.
First, remember that the first two games of that terrible five-game stretch came on Vick’s watch? He completed just a shade over half of his passes in those games and threw three interceptions with zero touchdown passes. He came back to Philadelphia with a win this week, but it should not be taken as a sign of things to come.
In Miami, Vick had one stretch of four successive possessions where the Eagles scored three touchdowns and a field goal. It all came in the second quarter. It turned out that those 24 points were enough, but against a better team, the Eagles need better quarterback play.
Over the course of the four scoring drives, Vick completed eight of his 10 pass attempts for 135 yards and a touchdown. He completed just 7-of-20 the rest of the game for 73 yards and an interception.
One of those possessions started at the Miami 1-yard line. Another at the Miami 34, where he only moved the team 12 yards and had to settle for a field goal. On their first three scoring drives, the Eagles offense only moved the ball 67 yards.
Some observers would point to the fact that it was his first game back, and Vick was shaking off some expected rust. That is fair, but compare Sunday’s game to Vince Young’s first start in a full year against the Giants in New York.
Is Michael Vick as effective as people perceive him to be?
Single games are generally an unfair basis for making arguments or comparisons, but there are similarities. Both quarterbacks were coming off of lengthy layoffs, both were road games and in both games the Eagles defense decided to show up and play. An added bonus, both players had one good half and one atrocious one.
On Sunday, Vick led the Eagles offense on 15 possessions, totaling 239 yards of offense on 66 plays from scrimmage. On the 36 called pass plays, the team gained 197 yards, accounting for passing yards, yards gained on Vick's scrambles and yards lost to sacks. That is an average of 5.47 yards per play.
Vick did throw a touchdown pass and an interception. The passing game accounted for nine first downs. On third downs, the Eagles converted 4-of-15, just 2-of-11 when they passed. Vick was just 3-for-11 with 23 yards on third down passes.
The Eagles’ average starting field position on Sunday was their own 35.5-yard line. Running the ball, the Eagles gained just 42 yards on 30 called running plays. The running game added two touchdowns and converted 2-of-4 on third down attempts.
In the first half, Vick was fairly productive. On eight meaningful possessions the Eagles managed at least one first down or a touchdown on six. The passing game produced 152 yards on 24 plays, an average of 6.33 yards per play. Vick was 11-of-19 for 167 yards and a touchdown.
The passing game accounted for seven first downs and a touchdown. The running game accumulated 30 yards on 13 plays, two touchdowns and two first downs. They scored on each of their last four possessions of the half, totaling 24 points.
In the second half, things got ugly for Vick. The offense failed to score on seven possessions and only mustered 56 total yards on 29 plays. They only had three first downs, and didn’t string together more than 34 yards on any possession.
On passing plays, the Eagles garnered 44 yards on 12 plays for a 3.67 average. Vick was 4-of-11 for just 41 yards and an interception. There was never any flow or rhythm offensively and they never even threatened to put more points on the board. It was eerily similar to the blown 20-point lead against San Francisco in October.
In the Meadowlands, Vince Young made his first start since last November. He was facing a divisional opponent on the road. He led the Eagles on a stunning 18-play, 80-yard fourth quarter touchdown drive to give them a 17-10 win.
Young took the field 13 times and piled up 395 yards from scrimmage on 67 plays. Thirty-nine of those played were called passes, and the Eagles totaled 266 yards for a 6.82 average per pass play. Young was 23-of-36 for 258 yards. He also added two touchdown passes, but threw three interceptions.
The Eagles accrued 10 first downs through the air. They converted nine third downs on 16 attempts, including 7-of-13 passing. On third down, Young was 9-of-12 for 107 yards.
Average starting field position for the Eagles was their own 27.7-yard line. The Eagles had 28 called running plays which gained 132 yards for a 5.9 average. Eagles runners had five first downs, and converted 2-of-3 on third downs.
Looking at those totals will make some think that Young was aided by a running attack that Vick didn’t have the luxury of. But in reality, more than half of those yards came on two runs in the game’s final minute.
In Young’s abysmal first half, the Eagles had the ball eight times. They ran 32 plays for 141 total yards and scored 10 points. On 19 called passes, they managed just 94 yards, a 4.95 average per play. Young was 8-of-18 for 89 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
The running game added 47 yards on 13 plays, with two first downs. They converted just 2-of-7 third down opportunities in the first half, and had a total of just five first downs.
The second half, especially the fourth quarter, was a different story. Eliminating three knees taken by Young to run out the clock, the Eagles ran 35 plays over five possessions for a total of 254 yards.
On 20 called passes, Young and his receivers put up 169 yards with a touchdown and seven first downs. They managed at least one first down on every second half possession. Young completed 15-of-18 passes for 169 yards with a touchdown and another interception.
The offense converted seven third downs on nine attempts, including 6-of-6 on the game-winning drive. On third down in the second half Young was 9-of-12 for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Before LeSean McCoy’s 60-yard run late in the game, the Eagles only managed 18 yards on 13 plays. Despite putting up seven less points, Young did lead two important drives from inside his own 5-yard line to flip field position in the Eagles' favor.
Leading 3-0 with just over six minutes left in the second quarter, the Eagles were pinned at their own 2-yard line. Young led the Eagles to 35 yards on seven plays before a punt gave the Giants the ball at their own 13.
Late in the third quarter, the Eagles were clinging to a 10-3 lead and were backed up at their own 5-yard line. Six plays later, Young had them on the 29, and a punt gave the Giants the ball at their 27.
Young is clearly not in the same class as Vick as an NFL quarterback, but has Vick really been much more effective? Just looking at those two games he has not. Young put up seven fewer offensive points, but provided more consistent offense.
If one game isn’t enough to judge, compare Young’s three starts with Vick’s previous 16. Young has a 1-2 record, while Vick’s is just 7-9 including his last six starts of 2010.
Young completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 866 yards with five touchdowns and an unbelievable nine interceptions. He rushed for 77 yards on 17 attempts and had one fumble. He averaged 7.66 yards per pass attempt. Accounting for sacks and rushes, Young accounted for 923 yards, 6.84 yards per play and 307.7 yards per game.
Vick compiled 4,103 passing yards with 23 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He completed 60.1 percent of his passes with a 7.5 yard average per attempt. He added 877 rushing yards, five touchdowns and eight fumbles on 120 attempts.
His total output including sacks was 4,752 yards for a 6.74 average per play and 297.0 yards per game. Vick's rushing totals and interceptions are all that really stand above Young’s performance, and he makes up for the interceptions with the fumbles. He also hasn’t had a rushing touchdown this season.
Again, Vick is clearly the superior player and the better passer. There is a reason Vick garnered a huge multi-year contract and Young settled for a one-year deal. But the truth is, over his last 16 starts, which coincidentally is a full season, Vick has been wildly inconsistent and careless with the ball.
With that being said, will a healthy Michael Vick be the difference between this season’s disappointment and next year’s possible success? It certainly doesn’t look like it.
Whether Vick stays healthy, this team is what it is, and there is no reason to believe it’s about to be any different.