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Cardinals Vs. Eagles: Dealing With Michael Vick

Breaking down some of the sometimes spectacular, sometimes controversial Eagles quarterback, who has led his team to an undefeated start.

September 16, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) throws the ball against Baltimore Ravens during fourth quarter action at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey G. Pittenger-US PRESSWIRE
September 16, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) throws the ball against Baltimore Ravens during fourth quarter action at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey G. Pittenger-US PRESSWIRE

On Sunday the Arizona Cardinals' quest to become 3-0 runs through one of the most polarizing teams in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philly is also 2-0, winning two straight games by one point apiece on drives late in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles are a polarizing team led by a polarizing player in quarterback Michael Vick. As pointed out by Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, Vick is currently is on pace to surpass the passing yards record Drew Brees broke in 2011.

The former Falcons QB through two games has completed 52-88 passes (59.1% completion - tied for 2nd best of his career), thrown for 688 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions.

Vick is throwing an interception every 14.7 passes compared to the 35.7 passes the rest of his career.

ProFootballFocus.com (numbers once again used throughout the rest of the story) charts pass directions for every quarterback into 12 different sections - outside the numbers left, middle, outside the numbers right from minus yards, 0-9 yards, 10-19 yards and 20 yards or longer.

This season five of Vick's six interceptions have come between 0-19 yards in the middle of the field.

With the Eagles only playing two games this season this was a small sample size to examine, but the pattern isn't just this season. In 2011 seven of his 18 INTs came in the same two sections along with two of the six he threw in 2010.

Through two games the Cardinals have showed two completely different defensive game plans. Against the Seahawks they blitzed rookie quarterback Russell Wilson 24 times, while when facing veteran signal caller Tom Brady they dialed it back only sending blitzes eight times.

What should the strategy be against Vick?

In 2012 Vick has a quarterback rating of 81.6 when facing blitzes. That number dropped significantly to 65.5 in 2010, but in 2009 he was more like the 2012 QB posting a rating of 88.7

The Cards did have success containing Vick last season when they defeated the Eagles 21-17. It was one of his worst games of the season. Vick threw two interceptions and only completed 47% of his passes for a measly 3.77 yards per pass.

In that game Vick dropped back to pass 43 times and Cards defensive coordinator Ray Horton only dialed up blitzes on 11 of those plays, which is an average of 26%. In 2011 Arizona blitzed on 42% of all drop backs.

I would expect the Cardinals to rely on the front four of their many versatile formations they like to show instead of the game plan we saw against Seattle. The key to forcing Vick into mistakes is keeping him in the pocket.

I went back and watched all 20 Vick's interceptions from the last two seasons, a total of 15 games, and 13 of those picks came from within the pocket, two were rolling right and four were rolling to the left. I discounted one of the interceptions because it came on a halfback screen.

The Cardinals have the personnel to give Vick fits especially with the Eagles banged up offensive line.

Playing smart, disciplined football is always important, but against a unique individual like Vick it takes on even greater importance. One defensive lineman leaving his correct lane could lead to a 50 yard touchdown run.

The Redbirds were able to control Tom Brady last week.

Now they have a new challenge in Michael Vick and the Cardinals hope to come away with the same type of results.