Keys to a Philly vick-tory over the Pack…

I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m predicting a scrambling mess of a win for the Eagles over the Packers this Sunday, with the final score reflecting contributions from not just Mike Vick, but every phase of the Eagles amoeba-like defense and special teams, too… Eagles 27, Packers 17.

I’m out on a limb because of Tony Dungy.  Yes, the same Tony Dungy who is Vick’s mentor and patron saint these days. Dungy likes the Packers to prevail on Sunday. And I get his reasoning…but respectfully I need to disagree.

“The team I really like is Green Bay,” Dungy said in an NBC press conference call yesterday. “They are playing very good defense. They are a tough defense to figure out. When you shut teams down – they held Chicago to three points the other day, I know that it was at home – when you are able to shut teams down like that you can win anywhere. That’s a team I’d keep my eye on.”

My response to Mr. Dungy is: “Nuts”…

The only team that can beat the Eagles in this one is themselves. There will be no defensive shutdown by the Packers. The stars and the heavens are aligned for the NFL world to find out the genuine talent level of the youngest team in the league. The Eagles are only beginning to understand what home field advantage means in the playoffs. And about 5 minutes into the game, they will realize: they’ve got it…

Vick may be our not-so-secret weapon. Of course the Pack defense will have Starship 7 in their sights and logically key on his every move. But the Eagles can win on the offensive side of the ball by following this easy-bake recipe:

Get the ball to this man:
And once in a while have him follow this man:
That’s running back LeSean McCoy (#25) above, and that’s All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters (#71) below… each is healthy, and both are solid offensive keys to an Eagles win…Peters is having his best season after coming off ankle surgery last year, and has emerged as possibly the best road-grading run-blocker in the NFL…

LeSean McCoy has turned himself into the best  dual-threat running back in the NFC.  Apparently he took GK Brizer’s advice and lifted weights for the first time in his life over the offseason…and the results have been sensational.  He has displayed amazing receiving ability, elusiveness, agility and new tackle-busting power. When push comes to shove, McCoy has shown that he is as clutch as any running back this season. With good blocking ahead of him, McCoy can steal this game. 

McCoy’s showcase could be the surprise of the best match of the NFC Wild Card games…Green Bay returns to the Linc in Philadelphia at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday to reprise their season-opening appearance last September.  In reviewing that Week One 27-20 Packers victory, the teams on film are a lot different than the two teams that now head to the playoffs…and both sides are better now than they were then.

The biggest difference is at the quarterback position for the Eagles. After Packers linebacker Clay Matthews knocked Kevin Kolb out of the game in the first half of that Week One game, Michael Vick took the reins of the Eagles offense and led an impressive comeback. This time, Vick will be under center from the start. Vick should be well-rested after suffering a thigh contusion two games ago. Vick has had to face more and more safety blitzes, zone blitzes and corner blitzes as the season has worn on…and frankly, Vick was wearing out.

The main offensive key for the Eagles is to keep Vick upright and clean and prevent big hits on their QB… and it’s incumbent upon Vick to get quicker reads on the Green Bay blitz and to make quick decisions to unload the ball to his running backs on screens and his tight ends on slants.  Easier said than done, of course, since Green Bay will be bringing a fierce defensive rush…led by Clay Matthews, who’s leading the Pack with 13.5 sacks, and cornerback Charles Woodson on the blitz..  Vick has to avoid getting tracked down by Matthews, and when he can get a clean pocket to throw from, he must hit his talented receivers (Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant) downfield and in stride.  McCoy becomes as valuable here with his improved pass-protection reading and blocking assignments as anything he will do with the ball in his hands.
Eagles outside linebacker Moise Fokou didn’t start in that first game, either, but he’ll be manning the strongside this time around to limit Green Bay’s running game and slow down their talented pass-catching tight ends. “We’re a different team from last time,” said Fokou, who became the starter as part of a move to reinforce the run defense. In Week One, the Packers ran for 132 yards and 4.0 yards per carry, while the Eagles held Aaron Rodgers to less than 200 yards passing and a 73.1 quarterback rating, his third lowest of the season. “We’re going to see if we can stop their run, make them one-dimensional and attack their quarterback.”
That’s the defensive key for the Eagles… try to limit the run while getting pressure on Rodgers. And when Rodgers does throw to his outstanding receivers, the Eagles defensive backfield (which has seen several Game One starters lost to injury)  needs to prove it can cover and adjust under pressure.

“At the beginning of the season, we were young, but I think a lot of guys have grown up,” said Eagles cornerback Joselio Hanson. “The Packers are a very good team, and I feel like when we played them the first game of the year, we had a chance to win that game, especially at the end. We did some things defensively on coverage that we’re trying  to do better around here. We definitely want to get another shot at them and play better.”

Eagles strong safety Quintin Mikell added that it’s important for locker room leaders like himself to deliver the message to some of the younger players how much different the playoffs are from the regular season. “All we can do is explain to the guys that it’s a different speed,” Mikell said. “It’s faster. It’s more intense. Every mistake is magnified and there’s not any room for error. I think we can tell the guys all day, but you really just have to experience it.”

Other key personnel matchups the Eagles must try to win: Eagles CB Asante Samuel vs. Packers star WR Greg Jennings Eagles DT Antonio Dixon vs. Packers C Scott Wells…Eagles Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg vs. Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers… Eagles WR DeSean Jackson vs. Packers FS Nick Collins… Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin vs. Packers CB Tramon Williams… Eagles TE Brent Celek vs. Packers DE Cullen Jenkins…   more matchup previews to come.

In conclusion, I look for a wild, rock’em sock’em drama on Sunday, with the best blocking, tackling and running team prevailing… and that team will win by playing with what Brian Billick calls “disciplined abandon”… with maybe not the biggest individual names in the league, but with the “amoeba-flow-to-the-ball” mentality…and the speed to back it up.  And that team, in the moment of this game, is the Philadelphia Eagles.

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.