washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > NFL > Index > Eagles

Policy of Containment Neutralizes Vick

Eagles' Defense Gives Falcons Nowhere to Run

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 24, 2005; Page D10

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 23 -- Atlanta Falcons Coach Jim Mora was only a few questions into his postgame news conference Sunday when a reporter asked him about quarterback Michael Vick's performance in his team's 27-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game at Lincoln Financial Field.

"You're making too much about Michael Vick," Mora said. "This is a team game. If we were out there playing basketball, you'd say they neutralized Allen Iverson. It's not like that. This is a team sport. It's about 11 players."


"You do what you have to do to get him down and get him out of his rhythm," Burgess (56) said. (Bill Kostroun -- AP)

____ The Road to Jacksonville ____
 NFL Playoffs
Bill Belichick learned football from his father, longtime Navy assistant.
The Eagles still think Terrell Owens has a chance to play.
A trip to the Super Bowl fits perfectly into Eagles Coach Andy Reid's master plan.
Tony Kornheiser: The pagentry, the tradition, the smell? A Jacksonville Super Bowl.
Flexibilty builds success for the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick.

_____ What's Next? _____
Super Bowl XXXIX
When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 6
Where: Alltell Stad., Jacksonville
TV: Fox
Latest Line: Patriots by 7

Eagles
 

_____ Conference Results _____
NFC Championship
Eagles 27, Falcons 10  |  Box
AFC Championship
Patriots 41, Steelers 27  |  Box

_____ Audio _____
Jerome Bettis cites key turnovers that doomed the Steelers.
Brady says the Patriots have taken nothing for granted.
Brian Dawkins talks about the goals of the defensive unit.
Vick credits the Eagles' defense.

_____ On Our Site _____
 NFL gallery
Photos
Bracket
Talk about the playoffs.
Graphic: The Patriots can beat teams on both sides of the ball.

_____ Divisional Results _____
Saturday
Steelers 20, Jets 17 (OT)  |  Box
Falcons 47, Rams 17  |  Box
Sunday
Eagles 27, Vikings 14  |  Box
Patriots 20, Colts 3  |  Box

_____ First-Round Results _____
NFC
Vikings 31, Packers 17  |  Box
Rams 27, Seahawks 20  |  Box
AFC
Colts 49, Broncos 24  |  Box
Jets 20, Chargers 17 (OT)  |  Box


_____Eagles Basics_____
Eagles page
Roster
Schedule
Player stats
Opponent comparison
_____NFL Basics_____
Scoreboard
Standings
Statistics
Team index
NFL Section
_____Mark Maske's NFL Insider_____
Philly Fans Fail to Faze Atlanta's Mora (washingtonpost.com, Jan 21, 2005)
Offensive Coordinators Take the Blame (washingtonpost.com, Jan 20, 2005)
Cowher Set to Roll With Bettis (washingtonpost.com, Jan 19, 2005)
_____Falcons Basics_____
Falcons page
Roster
Schedule
Player stats
Opponent comparison
_____Rams Basics_____
Rams page
Roster
Schedule
Player stats
Opponent comparison

But in containing Vick, the Eagles' defense took the kind of approach opponents use against Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers' all-star guard. The Eagles made sure Vick didn't beat them.

When Vick ran to the outside, defensive ends Jevon Kearse and Derrick Burgess were waiting. When Vick tried to cut back and run up the middle, defensive tackles Corey Simon, Hollis Thomas and Darwin Walker were plugging the holes. The Eagles' cornerbacks jammed the Falcons' receivers at the line of scrimmage, so when Vick had to scramble, he had nowhere to run.

"There are a lot of gray areas when you're scouting him," Burgess said. "You can contain him, but if he goes inside, you've got to go back inside. If he runs outside, you've got to make sure you're back outside. Basically, you do what you have to do to get him down and get him out of his rhythm. It's like basketball, you've got to watch the guy's hips."

The Eagles contained Vick, holding him to only 26 rushing yards on four attempts and 136 yards on 11-for-24 passing. Vick, a former Virginia Tech star, was sacked four times, twice by Burgess and once each by Kearse and Thomas.

In a 47-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams in an NFC semifinal Jan. 15, Vick ran eight times for 119 yards, the most by a quarterback in an NFL playoff game, and completed 12 of 16 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's never a surprise when Vick makes a play, he has that ability," Simon said. "We wanted to minimize his big plays. We had to be disciplined. I think the defensive tackles did a good job of forcing the pocket up in his face, and then Jevon and the guys wouldn't let him get outside. He had nowhere to go."

The Eagles also bottled up Falcons tailbacks Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett, who combined to run for 73 yards on 22 carries. Against the Rams, they had 32 carries for 208 yards and three touchdowns.

"They had Jevon Kearse on one end and another good defensive lineman on the other end keeping good containment and making sure that I didn't get outside of the pocket," Vick said. "I think that was their first priority. They did a great job doing it and with the coverage they played in the secondary, they didn't allow our receivers to get off blocks and get downfield."

The Eagles did their best against Vick when the Falcons were close to the goal line. Trailing 7-0 early in the second quarter, the Falcons moved inside the Eagles 25. On third and five, the Falcons used Vick as a decoy, lining him up in the slot and sending him in motion to the right. Dunn took a direct snap from center Todd McClure, ran left and gained seven yards and a first down.

Two plays later, the Falcons had first and goal at the 2, but Duckett was pulled down for a one-yard loss. On second and goal, safety Michael Lewis jumped and batted down Vick's pass, which was going to the left flat for fullback Fred McCrary. On third down, Vick faced pressure in the pocket, didn't see tight end Alge Crumpler open in the back of the end zone, and was sacked by Thomas for a two-yard loss. The Falcons settled for Jay Feely's 23-yard field goal.

Containing Vick "was probably 80 percent of our run defense," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "We wanted to be aggressive. I told the guys, 'I don't want you standing around watching Michael Vick.' We were going to be aggressive, but we were going to play smart."

Vick struggled with passing again, as he continues to adapt to the West Coast offense that Mora and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp brought from the San Francisco 49ers. It was the eighth time in 16 games (he sat out one of the Falcons' last two regular season games and played sparingly in the other) that he threw for 150 or fewer yards.

"I think Vick is extremely close" to becoming a complete quarterback, Mora said. "He's already knocking on the door. Michael Vick accomplished some tremendous things being only 24 years old and in his first year in a system. We've got a lot of things to improve on as a team, not just Michael Vick."

Vick said he is looking forward to another offseason of study.

"This was our first year together," he said. "We're a new football team and we're still learning the system. It's going to take time, but I promise we're going to do better next year, and I'm looking forward to it."


© 2005 The Washington Post Company