It wasn't until quarterback Michael Vick threw for a four-yard touchdown to third-year tight end Clay Harbor with just over a minute to play that the Eagles finally re-took the lead for good. The Eagles may have gotten the eventual W, but in the end the Browns may have gotten more out of this one.
Cleveland's rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden struggled all the way through, completing just 12 of his 35 pass attempts for 118 yards and four interceptions. But considering it was his first NFL start and he received little support from the running game, led by fellow rookie RB Trent Richardson, this was expected.
Philadelphia's offense controlled the game clock, running for 150 yards on 30 attempts and possessing the ball for nearly 36 minutes of play. Despite his 317 yards and 2 TD passes, Vick had one of the worst passing games of his career. Setting a career-high in attempts, with 56, Vick completed just 52% of his passes and tossed four interceptions to Cleveland defenders, including one of which went for a touchdown.
What's most confusing about the game is the fact that Vick threw so many passes while All Pro running back LeSean McCoy carried the ball just 20 times throughout the game. Last season's fifth-ranked rushing offense was extremely effective with its 30 total carries, averaging five yards per carry. Vick's career yards per pass attempt sits at just over seven yards, while he managed just around 5.5 Y/A Sunday against Cleveland's 24th ranked pass defense.
So what went wrong for Philadelphia's offense, and why did they manage just 17 points against a team that ranked third-to-last in scoring offense last season and threw four picks? Simple. The Eagles used too much of Vick, and not enough McCoy.
There are numbers that prove my theory.
Last season, McCoy ran the ball more than 20 times in a game on five separate occasions. He ran for 100 or more yards in four of those games and scored six touchdowns on the ground as the Eagles posted a 4-1 record. In the remaining of McCoy's 15 games last season, he ran the ball under 20 times and recorded just two 100-yard games but, more importantly, Philadelphia managed just a 3-7 record over that span.
Sure, McCoy scored more times on the ground (11) in games in which he received less touches, but overall he was much more productive when comparing yards/game and TDs/game.
>20 carries: 118 yards, 1.2 TDs per game
<20 1.1="1.1" 71.9="71.9" carries:="carries:" game="game" i="i" per="per" tds="tds" yards="yards">20>
How Andy Reid and his coaching staff has yet to realize this and put this into effect, A.K.A. give McCoy more carries, is beyond me. I'm sure they have realized it and maybe are just too stubborn to take the ball out of Vick's hands and into the 24-year old back's hands.
But I will not stop here. No, I have just a bit more findings to share with you concerning Vick's poor passing day against the Browns. From what I've seen, Vick is actually the opposite of McCoy. He's most effective in smaller doses.
In his eight seasons with Atlanta and Philadelphia, Vick has never thrown more than 50 passes in a single game, which is exactly why this puzzles me so much. Over his career he has passed 40+ times just eight times (including Sunday) and has posted a record of 1-6-1 in those games. Another interesting stat of Vick's is that Sunday was also just his second career 4 interception game, the other coming last October against the Bills, a game in which he attempted 40 passes.
His TD/INT ratio in those eight games sits at 12/14 with a completion percentage of a mere 55. Clearly he has proved ineffective and the results haven't been in his favor when receiving a considerable amount of attempts per game. Other quarterbacks in pass-heavy offenses such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and even Ben Roethlisberger can handle a large workload (in terms of pass attempts/game) and still be effective. But that's just not Vick's style.
His career record as starter, when you take away those eight games, is 54-31. Since taking over the starting role for Philly at the beginning of the 2010 regular season, Vick's record is 16-9. Taking away any games in which he threw for 40+ passes and his record as the Eagles' starter stands at 15-5.
He's 2-4 in the postseason during his career, but 2-0 in postseason games in which he doesn't throw an interception. As quarterback, mistake-free football is vital. And, though it isn't quite evident in his postseason history (hasn't thrown 40+ in a postseason game before), Vick's team, whether it was in his Falcon days or his current Philly days, has the best shot of victory when he's passing between 20 and 30 times.
And McCoy is most effective when he receiving more than 20 carries a game. So why, exactly, has Reid and Co. chosen to ignore this interesting finding? Well, that's beyond me. Does anyone really know what goes on inside of his head?
McCoy's career-high in attempts per game is 30, and that number has been reached just one time. But I'd expect him to see 30+ on numerous occasions this season. He should've reached that feat this past Sunday actually, considering the Eagles held a lead for nearly the entire third quarter of play.
McCoy ran the ball just five times in the third while Vick attempted 12 passes, two of which were intercepted by Joe Haden and L.J. Fort. Reid should have come out of the halftime break pounding the ball with McCoy to run down some clock. With a 7-point lead, why wouldn't you?
Anyways, maybe Reid will get it right eventually. If he wants to improve to 2-0 this weekend he will absolutely need to find the right mixture (30+ touches for McCoy; >40 attempts for Vick). Baltimore's defense––two turnovers forced, four sacks in 44-13 victory over Cincinnati Sunday night––will not be taking it easy on Vick and this offense. And why should they?
McCoy will need to see the ball early and often in order to be successful against a team such as Baltimore.
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