Under Review: Too much punishment for Vick


Under Review: Too much punishment for Vick

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 viewfromthehall@comcast.net.

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.

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards


Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg (9-0) won his 12th consecutive decision dating to last season, pitching six innings of one-run ball as Washington salvaged a four-game split.

Strasburg improved to 12-0 in 15 starts since losing to the Mets on Sept. 9, and the Nationals have won all 15 of those games. The 12 consecutive winning decisions is a franchise record for a starter, breaking a mark shared by Livan Hernandez (2005) and Dennis Martinez (1989).

Jayson Werth connected for a pinch-hit grand slam. Wilson Ramos had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs. Bryce Harper hit an RBI single during a three-run fourth off Michael Wacha (2-6), who lost his sixth straight decision (see full recap).

Dodgers score twice in 9th to top Mets
NEW YORK -- Adrian Gonzalez snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run single off suddenly struggling closer Jeurys Familia, and Los Angeles beat New York.

Curtis Granderson hit a tying triple for the Mets immediately after Clayton Kershaw was lifted with two outs in the eighth. But the Dodgers quickly regrouped for their sixth victory in seven games since losing four straight.

Kershaw struck out 10, walked none and capped a magnificent May with another sublime performance.

Adam Liberatore (1-0) got the win. Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Familia (2-1) allowed two runs on two hits and two walks (see full recap).

Castro's homer Yanks' only hit in victory
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Starlin Castro's two-run, seventh-inning homer off Jake Odorizzi was the Yankees' only hit of the game, enough to give New York a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

According to Baseball Reference data going back to 1913, the Yankees' only other one-hit win was when Charlie Mullen had an RBI single to beat Cleveland in six innings in a doubleheader nightcap on July 10, 1914.

Nathan Eovaldi (6-2) gave up one run and six hits in six innings to win his career-best fifth consecutive start and beat Odorizzi (2-3).

Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman each pitched a perfect inning and combined for seven strikeouts. Chapman got his seventh save (see full recap).

Deitrich hurt on odd play in Marlins' win over Braves
ATLANTA -- Derek Dietrich hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer and drove in four runs before getting hurt on a foul ball hit into Miami's dugout.

Dietrich's homer landed deep in the lower section of the right-field seats in the sixth, giving Miami a 3-1 lead. A former Georgia Tech star, Dietrich added a two-run double off Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh inning, then was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Christian Yelich in the ninth.

The team said X-rays were negative and Dietrich was to remain in Atlanta on Sunday night for further evaluations.

Tom Koehler (3-5) allowed three runs -- two earned -- three hits and five walks in seven-plus innings. Julio Teheran (1-5) gave up three runs, five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings (see full recap).

Correa's home run lifts Astros over Angels in 13
ANAHEIM, Calif.  -- Pinch-hitter Carlos Correa had a three-run homer off Mike Morin (1-1) in the 13th inning.

Correa got a run-scoring hit in the 13th inning for the second time in six games, following up his game-ending single against Baltimore on Tuesday.

Albert Pujols had three hits for the Angels, who blew an eighth-inning lead and stranded 14 runners while losing for the fourth time in five games.

Michael Feliz (3-1) pitched the 12th for Houston (see full recap).

Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff


Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

It doesn't sound like the Sixers' replacement for Mike D'Antoni will be the most rumored name for the position.

NBA coaching veteran P.J. Carlesimo has decided to not join Brett Brown's staff as associate head coach and instead will remain a television analyst, according to tweets Sunday night by ESPN's Mark Stein.

Stein added that despite "strong mutual interest," Carlesimo made the decision for family reasons.

The 67-year-old Carlesimo has spent parts of nine seasons as a head coach in the league and five more as an assistant. He was last on a NBA bench when he took over as the Brooklyn Nets' interim head coach in 2012-13.

So the Sixers still have a vacancy on their bench after D'Antoni, who joined the Sixers in the middle of last season after Jerry Colangelo joined the organization, signed on to become head coach of the Houston Rockets last week. Who the team's next choice for the role is remains to be seen.

Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins


Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't supposed to take the San Jose Sharks this long to reach their first Stanley Cup Final. It wasn't supposed to take this long for Sidney Crosby to guide the Pittsburgh Penguins back to a destination many figured they'd become a fixture at after winning it all in 2009.

Not that either side is complaining.

Certainly not the Sharks, whose nearly quarter-century wait to play on the NHL's biggest stage will finally end Monday night when the puck drops for Game 1. Certainly not Crosby, who raised the Cup after beating Detroit seven years ago but has spent a significant portion of the interim dealing with concussions that threatened to derail his career and fending off criticism as the thoughtful captain of a team whose explosiveness during the regular season too often failed to translate into regular mid-June parade through the heart of the city.

Maybe the Penguins should have returned to the Cup Final before now. The fact they didn't makes the bumpy path the franchise and its superstar captain took to get here seem worth it.

"I think I appreciated it prior to going through some of those things," Crosby said. "I think now having gone through those things I definitely appreciate it more. I think I realize how tough it is to get to this point."

It's a sentiment not lost on the Sharks, who became one of the NHL's most consistent winners shortly after coming into the league in 1991. Yet spring after spring, optimism would morph into disappointment. The nadir came in 2014, when a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles in the first round somehow turned into a 4-3 loss. The collapse sent the Sharks into a spiral that took a full year to recover from, one that in some ways sowed the seeds for a breakthrough more than two decades in the making.

General manager Doug Wilson tweaked the roster around fixtures Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who remained hopeful San Jose's window for success hadn't shut completely even as the postseason meltdowns piled up.

"I always believed that next year was going to be the year, I really did," Thornton said. "I always thought we were a couple pieces away. Even last year not making the playoffs, I honestly thought we were a couple pieces away, and here we are."

The Penguins, like the Sharks, are a study in near instant alchemy. General manager Jim Rutherford rebuilt the team on the fly after taking over in June, 2014 and with the team sleepwalking last December, fired respected-but-hardly-charismatic Mike Johnston and replaced him with the decidedly harder-edged Mike Sullivan. The results were nearly instantaneous.

Freed to play to its strengths instead of guarding against its weaknesses, Pittsburgh rocketed through the second half of the season and showed the resilience it has sometimes lacked during Crosby's tenure by rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals, dominating Games 6 and 7 to finally earn a shot at bookending the Cup that was supposed to give birth to a dynasty but instead led to years of frustration.

True catharsis for one side is four wins away. Some things to look for over the next two weeks of what promises to be an entertaining final.

Fresh faces
When the season began, Matt Murray was in the minor leagues. Now the 22-year-old who was supposed to be Pittsburgh's goalie of the future is now very much the goalie of the present. Pressed into action when veteran Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion on March 31, Murray held onto the job even after Fleury returned by playing with the steady hand of a guy in his 10th postseason, not his first. San Jose counterpart Martin Jones served as Jonathan Quick's backup when the Kings won it all in 2014 and has thrived while playing behind a defense that sometimes doesn't give him much to do. Jones has faced over 30 shots just four times during the playoffs.

"HBK" is H-O-T:
Pittsburgh's best line during the playoffs isn't the one centered by Crosby or Malkin but Nick Bonino, who has teamed with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin to produce 17 goals and 28 assists in 18 games. Put together when Malkin missed six weeks with an elbow injury, the trio has given the Penguins the balance they desperately needed after years of being too reliant on their stars for production.

Powerful Sharks
San Jose's brilliant run to the Finals has been spearheaded by a power play that is converting on 27 percent (17 of 63) of its chances during the playoffs. The Sharks are 9-2 when they score with the man advantage and just 3-4 when it does not.

Old men and the C(up)
Both teams have relied heavily on players who began their NHL careers in another millennium. Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen, who turns 40 in November, has four goals during the playoffs. Thornton and Marleau, both 36, were taken with the top two picks in the 1997 draft that was held in Pittsburgh while 37-year-old Dainius Zubrus draws stares from younger teammates when he tells them he used to play against Hall of Famer (and current Penguins owner) Mario Lemieux.

"When I say 'Twenty years ago I was playing against Lemieux, they say 'I was 2-years-old,'" Zubrus said.