Monday, December 19, 2005
"Don't Criticize Me When We're Winning."
No, Michael? How about now? How about after a night on which you averaged a robust 3.8 yards per pass attempt and threw two interceptions (although one of them was not an interception, but was rather a dreadful call that made your coach enter the Bobby Knight ballistic zone)? How about after a game in which you led your offense to three points, despite the facts that (1) your starting running back averaged 4.8 yards per carry and (2) your first three possessions started on your own 44, your own 43, and the Bears 35?
Somehow, I knew that Vick was not going to play well last night when the ESPN broadcast opened with a shot of him on the sidelines, sitting on the bench, cowering in a giant parka and looking reluctant to come out and play. The fact that that parka reappeared every time he came over to the bench, usually brought by some flunky whose job it was to make sure that the franchise's star player was warm, added to the comedy of the evening. That was a perfect metaphor for the way the Falcons coddle Vick. From his giant contract extension to Arthur Blank wheeling him around when he had a broken ankle to the team protecting him from the media at every turn to Jim Mora making excuse after excuse for his average play, the Falcons have done everything in their power to make Vick totally unaccountable. Now, they're in a position where they have the highest paid player in the league, he is not playing at an average level, let alone a level commensurate with his salary, and the one factor that justified his sloppy play - the fact that the team generally won when he was under center and generally lost when he wasn't - has ceased to exist. Good luck reaching Mike now.
Meanwhile, let's not blame everything related to the fact that this team is 8-6 on the guy under center. The defense simply is not very good. Maybe Rex Grossman is the second coming of...er...I can't think of a good Bears quarterback from my lifetime. Anyway, the point is that the Falcons made Grossman look like an absolute star last night when he came into the game, with one notable exception: Keion Carpenter's diving interception. Keion being Keion, he followed up a great play with a killing play - a fumble on the team's own one-yard line - and he managed to do so one second after making the interception. Carpenter, Vick, DeAngelo Hall, they're all Hokies and since we're on a metaphorical kick, they represent that program beautifully. One second, they're doing something great and the next second, they can't get out of their own way.
In Vick's defense, this game was always going to be a bad match-up for the Falcons because their offensive line isn't very good and the Bears' defensive line is awesome. Vick rarely had time to throw because his blockers (and I use that term loosely) were getting pushed back into his face on a regular basis. It reminded me of those games against the Bucs back when Tampa had a very good defensive line and Vick was forced to scramble into Derrick Brooks' loving arms on just about every play. Last night, the Falcons needed a quarterback who would take five steps and then fire, because they couldn't protect the pocket for any longer than that. Shockingly enough, Mike Vick is not that guy.
The end of the story is that I turned the TV off after the T.J. Duckett fumble and started reading Richard Evans' "The Coming of the Third Reich" because I thought that might be more uplifting than watching this sorry-ass team. At least the Hawks are cute and lovable when they're losing.