For the first half of the 2010 season, quarterback Michael Vick was as untouchable as any professional football player in the league.
In his first six games, which includes two partial games, Vick tossed 11 touchdown passes without an interception. He completed 96 of 153 passes for 1350 yards. His passer rating was an astonishing 115.1. He also rushed 44 times for 341 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, he didn’t commit a single turnover.
Expectations that Vick could continue to perform at such a high level would be unrealistic. But it wasn’t necessarily practical to expect one team to single handedly change the way opposing defenses attacked Vick.
Yet that’s what happened, as the New York Giants, led by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, blitzed Vick repeatedly from the defensive backfield.
Vick still completed 24 of 38 passes for 283 yards without an interception. He didn’t throw an interception, but he did have two passes dropped in the end zone. And although he ran 11 times for just 34 yards, he did score a touchdown.
The Eagles won, 27-17, as Vick led a fourth quarter comeback.
But the magic Vick showed in the game the previous week against the Washington Redskins–or even against the Detroit Lions or Indianapolis Colts–was gone.
Vick still made plays, but the Giants prevented Vick from rolling out to his left and firing on the run. They also contained him by blitzing safety Antrel Rolle on nearly 40 percent of the defensive snaps. And they made sure to hit him repeatedly.
The following week, the Chicago Bears used a similar tactic to contain the elusive Eagles’ quarterback. Again, it slowed Vick down, but didn’t stop him. It was enough for the Bears to hand Vick and the Eagles their third loss of the season.
For the remainder of the season, Michael Vick took an extreme amount of hits, usually more than 10 per game.
He took enough hits in the game against the Houston Texans that head coach Andy Reid complained to the league officials after the game about the non-calls. He took a hit from the Minnesota Vikings on the first play of the game that bruised his quad, slowed him down for the remainder of the game (which led to a Vikings’ upset victory), and knocked Vick out of the season finale (which he actually wouldn’t have started anyway due to the fact that the Eagles had clinched the third seed in the postseason).
And in the wild-card loss against the Packers, he was sacked by cornerback Charles Woodson on the game’s first play, which not only set the precedent for the entire game, but seemed to sum up the aggressive defensive strategies teams employed on Vick in the final two months of the season.
By the time the season concluded, Michael Vick was a beaten man. He probably took twice as many hits in the second part of the season as the first half. He fumbled nine times in the last six games, losing four of them. He threw six interceptions in the final six games, after throwing zero in the first six games. And his inability to recognize the blitz was greatly exposed, notably in the games against the Vikings and the Packers.
The defensive strategies of Perry Fewell, as well as the other defensive coordinators who mimicked Fewell’s approach when they faced the Eagles, slowed down Vick enough to allow their team to have a chance to win the game. And Fewell’s strategy will likely be copied by every team to face Michael Vick for the remainder of his time with the Eagles.