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No matter what it tries, Redskins defense can't solve Vick

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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LANDOVER, Md. -- On the first play of the game, Michael Vick rolled to the left and conned the Redskins into thinking one thing was coming.

It was, in fact, another.

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And it went for 88 yards, a touchdown, and it let Washington know immediately this game would be different.

In the first meeting between these teams, the Eagles managed only one play for more than 20 yards. In its 59-28 thumping Monday night at Washington, Philadelphia had eight plays for 20 yards or more. Of their first 15 plays, 10 went for at least 11 yards.

Of course, it helped that Vick played this entire game unlike the Oct. 3 meeting, when he was knocked out late in the first quarter. Vick had only 66 total yards at the time.

On Monday, he accounted for 207 yards and 28 points in the opening 15 minutes.

Quite a change, indeed.

"I don't think they did anything we weren't prepared for," Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said, "but you can't prepare for Michael Vick."

The Eagles know it and forced the Redskins to overcommit, at times, to whatever side of the field he was running. They did that on the first play when Vick ran left. Safety LaRon Landry, the backside safety, didn't think receiver DeSean Jackson would be involved in the play. Jackson, he said, wasn't running as fast as normal. But then he did, racing past Landry en route to a catch at the 35-yard line and a sprint to the end zone.

"We knew Landry and the type of player he is," Jackson said. "When they play us, we are always aware that they play so far back. The biggest thing is: we took shots and made it happen."

The Eagles struggled to get downfield in the first meeting because they positioned the receivers in tighter alignments. That enabled linebackers to jam them before corners got their hands on them. It led to slow-developing routes and no timing in the passing game.

This time, they opted for a different tactic. They spread the field more with the receivers, and often they lined up off the ball. So even if the linebackers wanted to jam them, as they sometimes tried, the receiver could avoid them and quickly get into their routes.

It's one big reason they were open all night.

"This time, they didn't allow us to double jam," Redskins corner Carlos Rogers said. "It was us jamming them one on one and then turning them over to the safety."

Then there was the Vick effect.

It's one that teams have struggled to deal with in every game he has played this season. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns, finishing with a 150.3 passer rating.

But it's not just about his numbers, it's how he cons a defense and toys with them. That's what he did to the Redskins. Not wanting to create huge lanes, they didn't blitz that much.

Other times, they rushed four and got up the field too far, leaving more lanes for Vick to find. When they rushed three and tried to spy him, Vick still got outside and juked linebacker Lorenzo Alexander at the 5-yard line for an easy score.

"That's the hardest tackle I've ever had to try and make," Alexander said.

The three-man rush still leaves openings in coverage.

"When they rush three," Eagles coach Andy Reid said, "that allows you to work those intermediate throws. Michael did a good job of that."

No doubt. And the other problem is that when the Redskins tried to rush while trying to contain, it gave Vick so much time in the pocket that he once had nearly eight seconds to scan the field. Yes, it resulted in another touchdown pass.

And there was one more: On a 21-yard scramble, Vick started to his left, drawing the defense that way. He noticed a huge opening back to the right and scooted around the end. Yes, more burn marks on the Redskins defense.

"It's tough to account for a quarterback not only throwing the ball, but running the ball," Hall said. "That's what made him so tough years and years ago and it's what makes him tough now."

It's hard to disagree.

"The guy is awesome," Eagles corner Asante Samuel said. "He is amazing and I just love to watch him play. Anytime you can get your quarterback to play like that, it's hard to deal with. I do not think there is anything you can do to stop him. You just have to hope he plays a bad game."

Maybe the wrong quarterback received a contract extension Monday.

"All the 31 other teams need to save their money and go for Michael Vick," Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth said, "because he was awesome."

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