Debacle in the Desert: Plenty of Blame to Go Around in Loss to Arizona

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick could be on the verge of losing his starting job if turnovers persist. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Watching the Arizona Cardinals beat down of Michael Vick and the Eagles offense, I kept thinking of that old definition of insanity cliché that says something about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

But I have written that column before and have probably used those exact words over the last eight years when it comes to the play-calling of head coach Andy Reid and his offensive coordinators. Yes, I am one of many who overuse the whole insanity definition, but in the case of your Eagles, it has been the bloody truth.

When you’re working with a patch-work offensive line that has struggled protecting its injury-prone quarterback, being too pass-happy is definitely not the answer.

In Sunday’s game against a hard-charging Cardinals defense, you saw Vick getting hit with the football version of a stinging left jab that former world heavyweight champion Larry Holmes used to put on his opponents in his prime. Vick was sacked five times and hit 13 times during the course of the game. Like’s Holmes’ left jab, it’s the accumulation of the blows that ultimately knock you out.

The actual knockout blow in that game was delivered by Cards free safety Kerry Rhodes near the end of the first half when he hit Vick with a vicious tackle from the quarterback’s blindside enabling his teammate safety James Sanders to scoop the ball up and run for a 93-yard touchdown to basically end the competitive portion of the game because it gave the Cardinals a 24-0 lead going into the intermission.

My postgame transmission on Facebook and Twitter after the game asked fans the question who’s at fault for Sunday’s 27-6 debacle in the desert.

If you’re blaming Vick, that probably would have been the No. 1 or No. 2 answer on the survey board if we were playing the Family Feud. Yes, the quarterback deserves his share of blame because his decision-making was just plain terrible at times. Vick needs to throw the ball away if it’s not there. One of those sacks he took in the first quarter was because he held onto the ball too long.  He needs to just throw it away.

If he’s going to run, Vick needs to secure the football or just slide because one of his fumbles came when he failed to hang onto the ball as he was going down.

When teams are blitzing from the outside (which they’ve doing for the last two years), Vick has to do a better job of recognizing it at the line and figure out a way to find the hot receiver and making teams pay. Until he does that on a consistent basis, teams are going to keep doing it and he’s not going to be on the field as a starter because he’s going to get badly hurt or benched.

After Reid’s Monday press conference, folks are speculating on the possibility of Vick getting benched if keep’s committing turnovers. The Birds head coach in a subtle way left that door open to that possibility when he said Vick was his quarterback “for right now.”  Stay tuned.

In Vick’s defense, Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg did not put him in a good situation at all. If you know that you are a working with a makeshift offensive line where you have a new starting left tackle, an inexperienced center and an All-Pro running back in LeSean McCoy at your disposal, why are you passing on virtually every down in the first half?

McCoy had just four carries for 15 yards in the first half. Really? Last week against a better Baltimore Ravens defense, the Eagles ran the ball more than they passed it with McCoy and slowed that defense down enough that they had to pick their spots to blitz the quarterback.

When the Eagles running game is employed and working, Vick is a lot more comfortable in that pass pocket and moves the offense down field with a lot less drama. When you run it more than a few times, defenses aren’t pinning their ears back to get easy shots at your quarterback. This was evident on the last two drives in the win over Cleveland and throughout the game in the win over Baltimore even with subs replacing injured players.

This is not the first time that myself and others have pointed out Reid’s stubbornness to have a more balanced attack. When this team shows the ability to employ the running game even if it’s a 60-40 pass-to-run ratio, they usually win or at the very least the quarterback has far less bumps and bruises.

Here’s another thing to consider in terms of coaching. Two plays before Vick’s game-changing fumble near the end of the first half, he had misfired on two passes from the one-yard line with the game clock showing six seconds.

With the way they were struggling on offense, don’t you think Reid should have sent the kicking unit out on the field to salvage three points and keep the game within reach?

Ooops, I forgot about Reid and the whole clock management thing.

The issues the Eagles have with run-pass ratio and lack of clock management are nothing new for Reid because this was basic complaint from fans when Donovan McNabb was leading the team. Trying to get Reid to understand this is like trying to bring logic to a situation that steadfastly resists it.

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