After suffering a 29-16 loss at home to the New York Giants, Eagles QB Michael Vick was knocked out of his second consecutive game in as many weeks. Afterwards, Vick was critical of the referees, complaining that he was not being treated like other QB's around the NFL when it comes to protecting the quarterback. I think that Vick is partially right. I think some referees treat Vick like a running back, because of his style of play. Vick's greatness is his ability to extend plays with his legs, and he often scrambles around outside of the pocket looking to run, or for an opportunity to complete a pass deep downfield. Vick isn't one who always slides when running like most other QB's, as he is always trying to gain every yard possible. I think that Vick's style of play leads to him taking more punishment, and he certainly has taken his fair share of shots to the head early this season. Some of those hits have appeared to be a defensive player "targeting" his head, which should result in a roughing the passer penalty.
On the other hand, statistics show that Vick is being treated just like every other quarterback around the league. Since the start of the 2010 season, the Philadelphia Eagles have been the benefactors of more roughing the passer penalties than any other team in the NFC East. This season through three games, Vick has benefited from one roughing the passer call on 33 dropbacks under duress and four sacks, roughly three percent of the time. Through the first two weeks of the season, 13 roughing the passer penalties have been called around the league on 594 plays where the QB was under duress, roughly two percent of the snaps.
So as you can see, Vick has technically benefited more than the average pivot when it comes to personal fouls on the defence for illegal hits on the QB. While Vick's style of play is what makes him one of the most exciting players in the NFL, it also leads to potential injury, and with Vick suffering his second injury in as many games, it appears he will have to miss some action with a bruise to his non-throwing hand. This is bad news for a 1-2 Eagles team that must now turn to second-year QB Mike Kafka while both Vick and backup Vince Young recover from injuries.
Rebirth in Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills haven't been to the playoffs in 12 years, but all that could change very soon. After trailing by 21 points to division rival New England on Sunday, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick led yet another come-from-behind victory as the Bills stunned Tom Brady and the Pats at home, becoming the only AFC team left undefeated (first time that's happened since 1991). The Bills have a certain magic about them. Head coach Chan Gailey's squad never seems to quit, and they demonstrated their mental toughness and resiliency again on Sunday. In fact, the Bills are the first team in NFL history to win back-to-back games in which they trailed by at least 18 points!
On paper the Bills don't look like much. Take a look at their starting playmakers on offence, and with the exception of running back Fred Jackson, there isn't a name that would strike fear into the heart of an opposing defensive co-ordinator. Players like wide receivers Stevie Johnson and David Nelson, and tight end Scott Chandler aren't necessarily household names (just yet), and yet this offence has become the most explosive unit in the NFL through three games, averaging 38 points per game.
Fitzpatrick spoke a lot this past off-season about team chemistry, and how experience would benefit this team in Gailey's second season. In Year 2 under Gailey, this team now understands what's expected of them, and they all share a common mentality. Players have been in their respective systems on offence and defence for over a year, and have a better idea of what each is trying to accomplish conceptually. If the Bills didn't have anyone's attention heading into the weekend, they certainly do now. One can only wonder: just how long can this magic last in Buffalo? It's very early this season, but Bills fans are hoping it lasts into the month of January and beyond.
Misery in Minnesota
The Minnesota Vikings need some answers after blowing their third consecutive halftime lead on Sunday in overtime versus division rival Detroit. The Vikings have become the fifth team in NFL history to blow halftime leads in their first three games of the season.
I think the biggest problem has been consistency on offence. While the Vikings have been able to set the tone in the first half, and keep defences on their heels, they have struggled to maintain their focus and intensity in the second half of games. The numbers don't lie. QB Donovan McNabb is completing 66 percent of his passes during the first half of games this season, but only 49 percent in the second half. Running back Adrian Peterson has rushed for 230 yards in the first half of games in 2011, but only 66 in the second half.
The NFL is a league in which you must always be making adjustments throughout games, and I think opposing defences this year have done a much better job of tweaking their gameplan at halftime when playing Minnesota. This is a crucial juncture in the season for McNabb and his teammates. After losing three games the way they have this season, there is a lot of finger pointing going on inside the Vikings locker room. I don't think the Vikings can afford to lose their identity this early in the season, they simply must go back to the drawing board and tweak a few things. It is important that this team understands that the season is only three weeks old, and they must focus on the positives. They've been leading three good teams (Chargers, Buccaneers, Lions) for 30 minutes of play, now they must find a way to finish those games.
The Play That Wasn't
It didn't count, but the play of the weekend came on special teams during the Green Bay Packers clash with division-rival Chicago at Soldier Field on Sunday. Trailing by 14 points late in the game, Green Bay punted the ball back to Chicago, and what unfolded was truly incredible.
With dangerous return man Devin Hester back fielding the punt, every player on the Packers cover unit knew what they had to do: get down field quickly and coral the record setting return threat. With the ball in the air, Hester began drifting to his left, all the way over to the sideline, preparing to make a running catch with virtually every Packers defender bearing down on him. There was only one problem: the ball was actually kicked down the opposite sideline, away from Hester. Hester's acting job took the attention away from the cover unit, and WR Johnny Knox made a remarkable over the shoulder catch on the opposite sideline to field the punt. Once he turned around, he realized that he had nothing but green in front of him!
With 10 Packer players focused on Hester, all Knox had to do was outrun the punter, and promptly returned the punt 89 yards for what appeared to be a walk-in touchdown. Unfortunately for Chicago, the play was called back due to a holding penalty against the receiving team, wiping out the most improbable play of Sunday's games. It's a play that I have never witnessed in 26 years of playing and covering football.