MICHAEL VICK COMPILED four 100-plus passer ratings in his first six games this season, culminating in that awe-inspiring Monday-night game at Washington, in which Vick tossed a 150.7 at the Redskins, with four TDs.
Since then, things have been different. Teams are blitzing from everywhere, stunting, flying in late, after the blocking decisions have been made, as Antoine Winfield did so effectively Tuesday. Vick's passer rating has reached triple digits exactly once since Washington, and that was against the no-defense Texans. All six of Vick's 2010 interceptions have come in the last five games. He was extremely lucky to throw just one pick against the Vikings; at least two other balls were thrown straight into the hands of defenders.
It seemed Vick was making better decisions under pressure earlier in the year, before he had taken so many big hits. But it also seemed, for a while there, that the offensive line, the tight ends and the backs were sorting things out, picking up the blitzes, not making Vick play under constant siege. Lately, that progress has vanished. Blitz pickup was a rumor against the Vikings, who sacked Vick a season-high six times; right tackle Winston Justice said afterward that the Vikings hadn't blitzed much on tape, so the Eagles weren't prepared, didn't make the right line calls.
Memo to the o-line: Every team you play from now through the Super Bowl, should you be so fortunate, is going to blitz every able body it has. Doesn't matter what they've shown on tape. What matters is what you've shown on tape, which is that you can't handle it. And what your quarterback has shown on tape, which is that he is the most dangerous, multifaceted weapon in the NFL. The season is in your hands.
"We just have to be more aware of where and if they bring an extra man," Andy Reid said yesterday. Well, no kidding. Yeah. A decent running commitment might help keep defenses honest, as well. "There are going to be certain games where teams are going to bring extra guys, and it's just a matter of getting [the ball] out of your hands and not taking the hits that he's taking right now."
It seemed fair to ponder, after the details of the quad injury were revealed, whether Reid might have been wise to sit a hobbled Vick in favor of Kevin Kolb. Kolb hasn't played since October, but he has been NFC Offensive Player of the Week twice in six career starts; it's not like Reid has Koy Detmer standing there beside him.
"He didn't look like he was hindered at all when he ran," Reid said, when asked if he'd thought of getting Vick out.
Also, one of the reasons Reid made the switch to Vick early in the season was that he thought Vick's elusiveness gave him a better chance to succeed behind a wifty o-line. Kolb coming in cold against the Vikings' blitz probably would not have produced a turnaround. Even if it might have spared Vick a few bumps.
DEVELOPING STORY LINES
* After Tuesday, maybe Jamar Chaney isn't headed straight to Canton after all. Got a little confused in pass coverage, more than once. It's good, though, that the Eagles are getting so much out of their later-round rookies, because the first- and second-round picks, Brandon Graham and Nate Allen, are out for the year and the third-rounder, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, can't get on the field.
* Chad Hall. Hmm. Kickoff returns have really been a struggle this year, haven't they?
* Earlier in the season, I thought the offensive line would be the top draft priority for the Eagles in April. Now I'm pretty sure it's cornerback.
* The Eagles' defense has to lead the league in blitzes that don't get there. Does anybody keep that stat?
* A key play that was easy to overlook Tuesday - though Andy Reid didn't overlook it, making a point to mention it in his postgame remarks - was David Akers kicking off out of bounds after the Birds scored to cut the Vikings' lead to 17-14 with 10:17 left. That gave Minnesota the ball on its 40. The Vikings needed just eight plays to restore a 10-point cushion. The Eagles' defense didn't need that. And along those lines, did any of the Eagles' five Pro Bowlers play well?
* Michael Vick's longest run Tuesday was his first, the 14-yarder on which he suffered the bruised quad, off the initial snap of the game. Vick gained 63 yards on eight carries but paid an enormous price in hits.
* Have the Eagles played a real solid, 60-minute game, with consistent defensive effort, since they beat the Giants the first time, back on Nov. 21?
That Joe Webb wasn't the old "Dragnet" guy?
Trent Cole now has 10 sacks, making him the first Eagle to post back-to-back seasons of double-digit totals since William Fuller in 1995-96.
DeSean Jackson is playing on a bad foot, which is commendable. But as Michael Vick noted after bruising a quad on the first play of the game, if you decide to put yourself out there, there are no excuses. ("I didn't come out of the game, so I guess it wasn't that severe," Vick said.)
If Jackson was mainly a decoy - which seemed to be the attitude he was taking toward route-running Tuesday - nobody bothered to tell Vick, who targeted Jackson 12 times, netting two catches for 32 yards. Vick missed Jackson on a first-series bomb that should have been a TD, and after that, No. 10 just didn't seem that into the proceedings. He was outmuscled for position by defenders on some shorter routes.
If I'm Vick, limping around and getting blitzed to death, I am less than thrilled with my Pro Bowl wideout. Jackson wants top-echelon money in a reworked deal. How many times have Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald been targeted 12 times and caught two balls for 32?
Asked about Jackson's effort at his day-after news conference, Andy Reid said: "Well listen, again, it's not a one-man show here. Teams are going to roll coverages; they're going to do certain things to try to take him away, and as coaches, it's our responsibility to find ways of creating it where teams can't do that, and then, when he's given an opportunity, for him to do the right thing and the quarterback to do the right thing."