By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ. –After the first four games of this season, the Eagles are 1-3, but are leading the NFL in the yards per play, rushing yards per game and rushing yards per attempt. They are second in total offense averaging over 400 yards per game.
The Eagles will come into Sunday’s game against the winless New York Giants at MetLife Stadium looking to transform those gaudy numbers into more points. They will have ample opportunity against a Giants defense that hasn’t been able to stop anybody.
In the last two weeks, the Eagles have racked up at least 400 yards of total offense, but haven’t been able to score more than 20 points. They can move the ball between the 20s, but scoring has been the problem—(which seems to be a constant problem for the teams that play along Broad and Pattison)
And so who do you blame for that?
Of course, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick seems to be the guy front and center that folks in this town would like to point out as the main cause of the Birds inability to get in the red zone. There’s got to be something he’s doing wrong, right?
Never mind that Vick has a quarterback rating 93.2 and he’s averaging 9.1 yards per pass play. He’s thrown five touchdown passes against two interceptions. The only real bad game he had was the game against Kansas City where he threw two interceptions including a pick-six.
It has to be Vick’s fault, right? But Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said earlier this week that the offensive line has to do a better job of protecting the quarterback. He’s right. So far this season, Vick has been sacked 14 times.
In the 52-20 loss to Denver, Vick was 14-of-27 for 248 yards with no touchdowns and three sacks. In that game, the Eagles shot themselves in the foot with penalties poor protection and dropped passes.
“So when we get in the red zone we talk about no sacks, no turnovers, no penalties and no drops and those are the things that are hurting us, right now it’s been the penalties and it’s been the drops,” Kelly said.
Of course, there were the questions of whether or not he was holding the ball too long was the culprit of the sacks or when he ran eight times for 41 yards was he not going through his progressions.
During Thursday’s confab with the media at the Eagles Nova Care practice facility, Vick bristled at the suggestion that he’s holding the ball too long.
“I’m not holding the ball too long, don’t try to make that an issue,” Vick said. “Listen whoever is saying that I’m holding the ball too long, they don’t know anything about football. They need to go watch the film. I’m going to pull some film out for y’all and I’m gonna have the clicker right so I can break it down verbatim play for play for y’all.”
Truth be told, Vick is right. Out of all the things that you didn’t see in the loss to the Broncos was Vick trying to force the ball when his receivers were well covered. So what did he do? He ran when it was there and he threw the ball away.
At this time last year, we were complaining about Vick’s turnovers. He had thrown six interceptions because he was forcing passes and he wasn’t taking care of the football by the time we got to week five in 2012. He also had five fumbles lost in the first five games of the 2012 season.
In addition to protecting the quarterback, receivers have to get open. Jackson, Riley Cooper, and Jason Avant have to win their matchups, something that didn’t happen that too often last week. To help those guys, Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur need to include the tight ends like Zack Ertz and Brent Celek to give Vick even more targets.
“We’ve got to do a better job, at times, separating,” Kelly said.
As much as fans and even few media folks like to always point the finger at the quarterback position, there are times that we often forget that this is still a team game. It’s easy to say the quarterback is holding the ball too long or taking off and running without going through his progressions.
At the end of the day, Vick can’t block for himself or get open for his receivers. As a unit, the Eagles offense is seemingly one good game of putting it all together. They just have to get of the way of themselves.