9 completions in 20 attempts, 109 passing yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. Even if you add in his rushing yards and subtract his sack yardage, Vick accounted for 5.25 yards per play today against a team that objectively quit last week at home against Pittsburgh.
(Incidentally, I wanted to have a nice, pithy cap figure for Vick, but his deal is too damned convoluted for words. I think his cap number this year is $5.1M, but that understates his expense because he has received $37M in bonus money in the past two seasons and he has a ten-year contract, so if the Falcons ever try to get rid of him, they'll be hit with a massive cap hit as all that bonus money that's supposed to be spread out ovre ten years comes due at once.)
Today was a perfect illustration of all the limitations of Mike Vick's game, such as it is at this stage in his career. He was indecisive when dropping back to pass, leading to a number of instances when he had time to throw, but couldn't pull the trigger. The most obvious instance was on the team's penultimate drive, when he rolled right, found nothing, broke away from a rusher and came back left, only to run around left end for five yards. You can't tell me that none of the Falcons' receivers were able to break open when Vick came back to his left and the play was already about five seconds old. We've made excuses for Vick for the past several years because he's saddled with a mediocre receiving corps, but what about the reverse proposition? Isn't being a receiver for Mike Vick like playing pick-up basketball with a lead guard who never passes? At a certain stage, you just stop moving without the ball, right?
Then, on the final possession, the Falcons had a manageable third and four with 90 seconds to go and Vick simply threw wildly on a basic sideline route, overshooting an open Michael Jenkins. Vick then followed that up by having a pass batted by a defensive lineman several yards away from him on the final meaningful offensive snap of the season for Atlanta. Thus, Vick illustrated the inaccuracy that blends so nicely with his slow decisionmaking process. Yeah, I'm sure that the offensive suckitude is all the fault of Greg Knapp.
But hell, since this is one of the last times I'll get to mock Knapp, let's spend a moment on the Falcons' calls on short yardage plays. On at least two occasions today, the Falcons had 3rd and one plays on which they lined up in the I formation and predictably ploughed the ball into the middle, despite the fact that their undersized offensive line absolutely sucks at the basic running plays that are necessary in short yardage when a stretch play isn't going to work. Riddle me this: if the Falcons couldn't stop the Panthers from converting a number of third downs when they lined DeAngelo Williams, a running back with no discerable ability to throw a ball from point A to point B, at quarterback, then why can't the Falcons convert a third down when they are blessed with a quarterback who is at least as good a runner as Williams and can ostensibly complete passes? How uncreative can an offense be when it has Mike Vick and Warrick Dunn, yet it cannot convert in short yardage situations?
Of course, I'm not the only one knocking Knapp. Here's the Falcons' quarterback, showing his ability to take responsibility for a bad performance:
You just can't come out there and just try to wing it. I'm not saying that we did that, but either we've got to come out and throw the football or come out and try to establish the run.
Think about the stupidity of that statement for a second. For an offense to succeed, it needs to either throw or run, but it apparently can't do both. You sure about that, professor? And then, not content to simply blame his offensive coordinator, Vick then went on to blame the defense for allowing one long drive in the first quarter:
We kind of had a rhythm going, and to be over there for that length of time wasn't good for our offense.
Yes, it must be the defense's fault that the offense was held to three points. That damned defense that allowed 194 yards all game, including a whopping 11 yards passing. That's the reason we lost! Obviously. Well, that and your attempt to complete a pass to Laurie on third down with 90 seconds to go.
Gratuitous cheesecake shot so something positive comes out of this post.
And while I'm piling on Vick, how about the stat flashed yesterday that he hasn't thrown a fourth quarter touchdown pass in 18 games. I thought this guy was supposed to be clutch? What happened to the Vick who played the game of his life in the Sugar Bowl against Florida State? Now, when the Falcons fall behind, they're as dead as doornails. If that isn't a reflection on the quarterback, I don't know what is. The fact that Vince Young, as a rookie, already seems to be ahead of Vick is going to be an awfully touchy comparison for Michael this offseason.
Here's the worst part of yesterday: after their first drive, the Panthers basically gave up trying to score. Their offense looked like the Jeff Bowden offense with a little more commitment to the ground game; it was nothing more than runs and fly patterns. (See what you missed, Mr. Weinke?) The only innovative aspect was the direct snap formation to DeAngelo Williams and that would have been snuffed out by a good defense. So, with the Panthers doing the NFL equivalent of ten behind the ball after scoring an early goal, the Falcons could not manage any offense. How much do you suck when you lose when the opponent stops trying to score after taking a 7-3 lead at the outset of the second quarter?
And finally, a word about the Falcons' special teams, which were truly wretched yesterday. Despite the fact that Carolina could not cross the midfield stripe in the second half, the Falcons never had very good field position because the punt return unit was dreadful. There was one roughing the punter call on Demorrio Williams (seriously, does anyone in the NFL ever block a punt?) and then a series of weak returns that allowed Carolina to punt themselves out of trouble time and again. The one time the Falcons did manage a good return, it was called back because of an obvious clip on Michael Jenkins, who put his Ohio State education to good use by whacking a Carolina defender in the back. My memory of the play is a little fuzzy, but I think the clip had nothing to do with Allen Rossum breaking the return, so well done, Mr. Jenkins. It was fitting that the Falcons' season would end as the result of a screw-up by a wide receiver.