Packer defense puts boundaries on Vick
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews knocked Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Kevin Kolb out of the season opener, allowing Vick to be Vick again. Green Bay kept Vick from being Vick most of the game Sunday, which is why the Packers beat the Eagles, 21-16, to advance to Atlanta for a divisional-round game Saturday.
“We needed to keep him contained, and that’s what we did for the majority of the night,” Matthews said. “We kept his big play-making ability under wraps, and I think that’s why we won this game.” In the season-opening, 27-20 loss to the Packers, Vick passed for 175 yards and a touchdown and ran for another 103 yards. He did all of that in the second half, and said afterward “the outcome might have been different if I played the full four quarters.”
Vick took every offensive snap Sunday—even after he rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter—but the outcome was the same kind of different.
“That’s Vick,” Packers safety Nick Collins said. “He feels like if the ball is in his hands, he can get the job done. But the best team is moving on. That’s the bottom line.”
Vick passed for 292 yards and a touchdown this time, but he ran for only 33 yards and threw the game-ending interception in the end zone on an ill-advised pass intended for Riley Cooper. With DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant as options, Vick threw to a rookie receiver with seven career catches who was locked in man-to-man coverage against the Packers’ best cornerback. Tramon Williams, who had allowed only 40 catches for 533 yards and three touchdowns all season, ended Vick’s comeback season short of another rally.
“We had four verticals, and I just took a shot at the end zone,” Vick said. “I could have checked it down to the back, and I feel like I got greedy.”
… and didn’t throw the right ball I wanted to throw, and then it got picked off. It’s a bad way to go out, but, hey, I went out swinging.”
The Eagles should have seen this coming. It had been a long time, more than a month, since Philadelphia last played a complete game. That came Dec. 2 in a 34-24 victory over Houston. The Eagles finished 3-3 in their last six games, choosing to sit Vick and all but three of their starters in the regular-season finale against the Cowboys.
In the final three regular-season games he played, Vick threw four interceptions and was sacked 11 times. The Eagles didn’t exactly enter the playoffs on a roll.
“I think in every game we played since the New York game, we did good things, we just set ourselves back,” Vick said. “We had a lot of penalties, a lot of plays we didn’t make.”
The Eagles, who tied for second in the regular season with 61 completions of 20-plus yards, had only four plays of more than 20 yards against the Packers. Those big plays led to 10 of their points.
They didn’t get enough big plays, and thus needed more help from their defense and their special teams.
The Eagles couldn’t get the Packers off the field on third down, allowing Green Bay to convert 8 of 13 third downs. They also couldn’t stop a no-name back named James Starks, who, despite having only 101 career yards before Sunday, set a team record for most postseason rushing yards by a rookie with 123. And Eagles kicker David Akers, the NFC’s Pro Bowler at his position, missed field-goal attempts of 41 and 34 yards.
“I guess the good thing about it is that there’s always next year,” Vick said. “You get another opportunity, but it’s going to hurt right now.”
But the NFL offers no guarantees about the future, as the Eagles can attest as perennial owners of the “next year’s champions” tag. Vick is a free agent, and though Philadelphia is expected to throw however many millions it takes to keep him, it is a long road to get back here.