Mike Vick took the shot flush in the ribs. St. Louis linebacker Ben Leber hit the Eagles quarterback just as he released the ball and sent him tumbling to the artificial turf.
How many times did they say Vick got hit in this game? asked NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger.
Eleven, I replied.
He got hit a lot more than that, Baldinger said. Tom Brady might not get hit this many times all season. If the Eagles are watching this film, they have to be saying, We cant let this go on.
We kept coming back to that point as we watched the tape of the Eagles 31-13 win over the Rams. On paper, it looks like an easy win. On tape, it looks far different.
Vick made some spectacular plays plays only he can make, plays that look amazing on the highlight shows but there were other plays that made you cringe. He took some hits that made you wonder if he would still be around in Week 16.
If Vick is going to make it through the season, everyone has to get smarter. That includes Vick and also the coaches.
Vick has to get better with his pre-snap reads. He has to recognize if the blitz is on and where it is coming from. The coaches worked with him at training camp, but there is no way to simulate it on the practice field. He has to be able to do it consistently in games when things are moving faster and defenses are changing from one snap to the next.
In that regard, Vick is still a work a progress. Against the Rams, he saw some things, but missed others. Every time he missed one, he got whacked.
Lets take it from the top
On the very first play from scrimmage, the Eagles lined up in the shotgun. At the snap, Jason Avant was open for a nice, safe six- or seven-yard gain. Vick looked right at him, but instead of throwing the ball, he tucked it away and ran.
Vick made a nice gain, but instead of cutting to the sideline he turned inside where three defenders were converging on him. Linebacker Jim Laurinaitis got there first and took Vick down with a forearm around the throat.
First play of the season and (Vick) is taking chances like that, Baldinger said, shaking his head. Look how open Avant is. Thats where (Vick) is supposed to go. I have no idea why he doesnt (throw). Now he starts to run and, OK, hes got his seven or eight yards, just head for the sideline. Instead, he goes inside.
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo kept sending five, six and seven men at the quarterback. Early in the game, the Eagles newly-formed O-line had trouble picking up the blitzers. Sometimes the design was bad tackle Jason Peters blocking down and leaving the back, either LeSean McCoy or Ronnie Brown to pick up the defensive end and other times it was an overload. The Rams just sent more rushers than the Eagles had blockers.
Sometimes Vick was able to get away, but not always.
This is the play that bugs me, Baldinger said, cueing the tape to Quintin Mikells sack of Vick that killed an Eagles drive in the red zone. Look at DeSean (Jackson) on this play
Jackson was lined up in the slot, one-on-one with a Rams defender. At the snap, Jackson beat his man to the inside.
The ball has to be gone right now, Baldinger said. Thats an easy throw and an easy six (points).
Instead, Vick held the ball. He never saw Mikell coming from his blindside. He took a big hit, the ball popped loose and Laurinaitis recovered the fumble.
Thats the same blitz Minnesota and Green Bay used against him last year, Baldinger said. That tells me hes still not seeing it.
Thats the area where Vick has to be sharper: throwing the ball on time (the first play) and seeing the blitz, then beating it with the quick pass (the last play). If he makes those throws, he will take fewer hits and make more big plays.
One thing Vick wont be doing is what everyone is screaming for him to do and thats slide to save himself. The way he runs makes it almost impossible.
He doesnt run like other quarterbacks, Baldinger said, cueing up a play from the second quarter. Vick sliced through the St. Louis defense for a 19-yard run.
Look at that forward lean, Baldinger said. Hes going full speed. Hes running like a running back. Another quarterback is slowing down. Hes looking to go down. Mikes eyes are up. He sees the safety (Craig Dahl) and hes thinking, I beat this guy and its a touchdown. Dahl makes a heck of a tackle or else it probably is a touchdown.
But thats the point. To slide, you have to think about stopping. Mikes thinking about scoring. I dont know how you change that. Once late in the game, he got to the sideline and kind of went into a slide, but it was awkward for him. Most of the time, hell do whats instinctive and thats run fast and try to beat people.
On the coaches
Why were Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg still calling pass plays with 6:04 left and a 31-13 lead? On that garbage time series, Vick ran the ball once (a 14-yard scramble) and threw it twice, including a fourth-and-11 play that ended with him getting slammed to the ground one last time.
It was a stupid call and Spagnuolo almost made them pay for it big-time.
Its fourth down, the games in the bag and (the Eagles) line up in the shotgun to throw another pass? Baldinger said. Spags is saying, OK, you want to do that? Im going to take out your quarterback. He sends a full blitz. They are going for the knockout (on Vick) and they almost got it.
Three guys hit (Vick) and land on top of him, his head whiplashes off the turf. That might be the hardest hit he took all day and it was totally unnecessary.
You would hope when the Eagles coaches look at the tape, they will see the same thing and say, Lets not do that again.
E-mail Ray Didinger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ray Didinger and NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger break down each Eagles game on Under Review Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays on SportsNite and SportsRise on Comcast SportsNet.