Let me start off by saying I am a huge Michael Vick fan… This guy is a true football player trapped in a quarterback's body…
The guy loves the game, and loves the contact…and he's gifted with a left arm that could have served Steve Carlton or Sandy Koufax quite well.
Vick's first two games this year were promising, helping Chip Kelly to his first NFL win in Week 1 against Washington before losing a shootout with Philip Rivers in Week 2 at home against San Diego.
Vick hit a snag in a 26-16 home loss to Kansas City last Thursday, completing 13 of 30 attempts for 201 yards and a touchdown with his first two interceptions of the year.
The Broncos' defense, though, showed some holes against a far less proven quarterback in Week 3, yielding 281 yards and a touchdown on 28 attempts by Oakland's Terrelle Pryor.
"We probably played a little bit loose," cornerback Chris Harris said. "I'm not giving excuses. They made plays. A lot of things happened when he scrambled. We have another scrambling quarterback this week. That's something we need to improve on."
Funny how turning points work out in an NFL season… The Eagles are at a crossroads in Denver before a national TV audience, and up against arguably one of the greatest tactical QB's of all time in Peyton Manning…
But Mike Vick's own personal turning point may be the real difference.
At age 33, Vick is running out of time and opportunity to prove he can match up with the so-called "elite quarterback" in a showdown game.
Yes, it's still early, and not exactly a playoff-pressure atmosphere in this one… yet.
But if ever there was the perfect confluence of timing and events for Vick to step up and show he can play great in a game in which most expect Peyton Manning will be the real difference…well, that time is now.
It's a tremendous opportunity for Vick to re-establish his brand.
I think he can do it. I think he thinks he can do it. The key is optimizing his field vision. He's been around the block long enough now that either he improves and develops his field vision— or he doesn't.
He's not that far off from NFL QB excellence. It's just those occasional lapses of vision or feel for what's going on around him. So much responsibility for the offense is thrust upon the QB's shoulders in a Chip Kelly system, it is almost impossible for Vick or anyone else to play an error-free game. However, there are certain errors of omission that can and must be transcended by Vick at this stage in his career.
I don't knock the physical errors— they're a part of the game which are the result of both sides of the ball trying to win and make plays and maybe overextend themselves in an effort to get ahead.
Yet there are "vision" errors or "reading" mistakes which a veteran QB has to eliminate if his team is expected to compete to the end with a talented and motivated opponent like Denver.
A couple of things that Vick did against Kansas City must not happen again in Denver.
Nick Fierro, the Juniata College (Centennial Conference) ex-football player who now writes for the Allentown Morning Call, has been taking video-study lessons from Jimmy Kempski, who had been getting paid by Fierro's newspaper to do video analyses of the Eagles in daily columns for a while, but then jumped to SBNATION and other venues for bigger money.
Well, Fierro picked up right where Kempski left off.
Fierro pinpoints the biggest flaw in Mike Vick's professional field-vision going into this game in Denver:
On this first-quarter play, left guard Evan Mathis winds up one-on-one with nose tackle Dontari (Don't call me Edgar Allan) Poe.
But Poe gets around Mathis' left side, which is key, because it forces Vick to scramble toward the collapsing wall to the right.
And we all know now that when Vick is forced to his right, he's a mere mortal, and prone to awkward mistakes. He actually sacks himself on this play when he trips over the feet of right guard Todd Herremans, but linebacker Justin Houston gets credit for bringing him down. None of this would have happened, though, if Mathis had held the block a little longer or even allowed Poe to come around his right side instead of his left. That would have sent Vick into a sprint toward the left sideline and he could still be running now.
This can be the most dynamic Eagles offense ever. But in tight games, mistakes like these will prove costly every time.
Now you could blame this mis-play on Mathis or on Dontari Poe's great leverage, but the fact is Vick could have seen (or felt) the break-down in time to adjust to his left side and worst-case buy time on the left side or thrown the ball away to the left… Instead, he tempted fate by rushing to the exact spot on the field which Kansas City had designed as his right-side trap.
I know Vick is smart enough to know he can make better decisions under pressure than this example has shown. I also know he is reluctant to give up on a play, and tends to see an open lane or opportunity sometimes when it has long since collapsed on him.
It's a fine line between valor and discretion. The closer Vick comes to consistently seeing that line under the pressure of battle, the bigger and better plays he will make without having to sacrifice his own body for the cause.
It's a game of vision as well as strength and speed. Perhaps nobody sees the game board developing before him like Peyton Manning. This is certainly Mike Vick's chance to prove he can see the game board too.