Protection Plagues Eagles

Even with his unparalleled ability to escape pressure, Michael Vick and the Eagles took 50 sacks this year. That's a major cause for concern against a Packers defense that ranks second in sacks.

Despite Michael Vick's elusiveness, the Philadelphia Eagles gave up 50 sacks this season. Only the Chicago Bears allowed more (56). It's the most the Eagles have given up in the Andy Reid era.

Now, they are about to go up against one of the league's best pass rushes on Sunday when they face NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers in an NFC wild card game in Philadelphia.

Matthews is second in the NFC in sacks with 13.5, including two in the Packers' 27-20 Week 1 win over the Eagles. As a team, the Packers' 47 sacks trailed only Pittsburgh's 48 in the final rankings. Cullen Jenkins, who expects to play after missing the last four games with a calf strain, has seven sacks in 11 games. Rampaging B.J. Raji added 6.5.

"Sacks encompass a lot of things, whether it's coaching, play-calling, individual protection, the quarterback (not getting the ball out quick enough). Everybody's got a piece of it," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "But the bottom line is we've got to do better there."

Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have been stressing to quarterback Michael Vick the importance of getting the ball out. He was sacked six times in his last start against Minnesota, as the Vikings continually pelted him with slot blitzes.

"That's one phase of it," Reid said. "But there are other things we can do to help him with that. We've gone back and looked at it and analyzed it, and we'll get that fixed."

It will help that Reid gave Vick and most of the Eagles' starters a "bye" week in a meaningless regular-season finale against Dallas. Vick had suffered a quad bruise against Minnesota in Week 16.

"It's not an issue, it's just things we need to work on," Vick said of unloading the ball quicker. "A couple games I didn't get the ball out as quick as I wanted to, waiting on the downfield throws. That's why you play the game – you play the game to get better and that's what I'm doing."

Vick looked like a MVP candidate for much of the season, starting with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his first seven games (missing three due to injury). In his last five games, though, he threw 10 touchdowns but six interceptions with all three of his lost fumbles.

"I don't have to do nothing. I'm still going to be me," Vick said. "I'm still going to play my game. Still play with confidence, still try to rally the guys around me and make sure they are in tune with what we are trying to do and what we are trying to accomplish. That's what's important: You can't change your game this time in the season. … You just go out and play your best football now that it's the playoffs.

"Win or go home, and that should motivate everybody. Do your job or you won't be playing next week."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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