Sunday, November 19, 2006
I'm Sick of You
Oddly enough, I was not especially bothered by my alma mater losing the GAME OF THE CENTURY!!! yesterday because it seemed acceptable to lose by three on the road to a wire-to-wire #1. The defense was disappointing, especially the safeties who were unable to execute their assignments on Ohio State's two long runs or their second and short bomb that should have surprised no one. On the other hand, the offense performed beautifully, lighting up a team that was leading the nation in scoring defense. If there's a rematch, then that's fine, but if USC, Arkansas, or Florida win out and get the nod, then Michigan shouldn't have too many complaints.
I was far more bothered by the Falcons game today, even though I don't exactly love the Falcons. Also, as my wife points out, I'm often happier being right than anything else and I said before the year that the Falcons were an average team. That said, it was really annoying watching the game today. Maybe I was bothered because my in-laws are all Ravens fans and now they have bragging rights over me. And maybe I was bothered to see the defense make Jamal Lewis look like a functional running back for the first time in years. (Douglass High School's finest had two touchdowns through nine games this year and then managed three in the second half.) Maybe it's the fact that there are few fates in life worse than shots of a celebrating Brian Billick. Maybe I'm feeling anti-Raven these days after reading the cover story on Ray Lewis and deciding that Ray is defensive, self-aggrandizing, and sanctimonious even by athlete standards.
But predominantly, I have just had it with Michael Vick. I know that the receivers drop a lot of passes, but Vick makes their lives more difficult because he never throws very accurately or with much touch. I know that the offensive line is terrible at pass blocking, but Vick makes their lives more difficult because he does not drop back in a straight line and he dances in the pocket, with the end result being that the offensive line doesn't know where he is and where they can direct opposing pass rushers. I know that the defense has been hit with injuries and that they are ill-positioned to get opposing offenses off the field. Vick should not get the blame for that.
All that said, Vick, unlike the rest of the team, got a $22.5M signing bonus last year and is the highest paid player on the team. A team's star player is supposed to be able to overcome the shortcomings of his less talented compatriots. A team's star player is supposed to at least perform at a high level so if the team loses, he can legitimately say that he did his best to compensate for injuries or ineffectiveness of other players. A team's star player isn't supposed to fumble untouched with the game on the line because he;s obviously fatigued. A team's star quarterback should average more than 5.23 yards per pass attempt over a three-week stretch. A team's star quarterback is supposed to break 200 yards passing every now and again. In short, Michael Vick is not responsible for all of the Falcons' shortcomings, but he's paid to be a star and he's playing like a below-average quarterback. If you would like specifics, here are the conclusions of the Falcons final three possessions:
On the Falcons' second-to-last possession, Vick missed an open Alge Crumpler in the end zone on second down and then managed to throw into triple coverage on third down, never reading the defense and moving off of his primary target.
On the Falcons' next-to-last possession, Vick took a 17-yard sack on third down that pushed the team out of field goal range.
On the Falcons' final possession, Vick basically threw the ball away...on fourth and eight.
I will add in that Vick is not helped in any way by the playcalling. For instance, on the sack that took the Falcons out of field goal range, the Falcons were trying to set up a screen and Baltimore was completely prepared for the play, so Vick couldn't make his throw and ended up getting sacked. Likewise, the third down throw to the back-up tight end on the right side of the end zone was so surprising that the Ravens blanketed the play. That said, for the third straight week, Vick was inaccurate and made poor decisions, which is like a surgeon who has a shaky hand and doesn't know anatomy very well.
The most frustrating thing is that he'll occasionally show glimpses of fantastic play. On a macro level, he looked great against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. On a micro level, he made a beautiful throw to Roddy White in the third quarter today to set up the Falcons' field goal. He does just enough to remind you what he's capable of, and then follows it up with a couple plays that just drive his fans crazy. From now on, I've given my wife instructions to kick me in the groin every time I let Vick get my hopes up. I'm hoping that some Pavlovian training will cure me of my optimism.