Michael Vick, Eagles’ offense will give Bears’ defense all it can handle
By Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org November 5, 2011 12:30AM
CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 28: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles turns to avoid a rush by Henry Melton #69 of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on November 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Michael Vick;Henry Melton
Updated: December 7, 2011 8:25AM
Defensive tackle Anthony Adams sat at his locker, staring ahead and replaying some of the highlights he has seen of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
‘‘He’s one of the most athletic threats in football that I’ve seen,’’ Adams said robotically. ‘‘Running, passing, he’s got it all, man.
‘‘He’s like a magician. You go to a gap expecting him to be there, and he’ll get out of it, then turn it into a 40-yard gain.’’
The Eagles are only 3-4, but they will enter the game Monday against the Bears with the NFL’s top-ranked offense and with Vick coming off his best game of the season. Against the Dallas Cowboys, a team that entered that game with the seventh-ranked defense, Vick completed 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
‘‘He’s a threat in running the ball; he’s like a punt returner or something,’’ Adams said. ‘‘But he’s got a cannon, too. It’s like pick your poison with him.’’
Vick, though, is winless in three career starts against the Bears. In those games, he has completed 59 of 104 passes (56.7 percent) for 621 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions for a passer rating of 71.8. He also has fumbled five times, losing one.
Last season, the Eagles came to Soldier Field with a three-game winning streak and were beaten 31-26 after falling behind 14-3 in the first quarter.
But the Bears say this isn’t the same Vick.
‘‘I’m seeing he’s a lot better this year than last year — a lot better,’’ defensive end Julius Peppers said. ‘‘He looks a little faster, a little more accurate with the ball, and he’s running the offense better. So it’s going to be a tougher challenge this time.’’
Part of that is because of the Eagles’ offensive balance. The emergence of LeSean McCoy as one of the best running backs in the NFL has given the Eagles another explosive athlete to torment defenses. McCoy is second in the league with 754 rushing yards and has run for eight touchdowns.
He and Vick, who ranks 19th in the NFL with 422 rushing yards, power the Eagles’ top-ranked run offense.
‘‘You don’t normally say ‘Philadelphia Eagles’ and ‘running team,’ ’’ coach Lovie Smith said, ‘‘but that is what has opened up a lot of things for them offensively.’’
And while he’s not as hot as he was at the start of last season — the Bears intercepted him for the first time in 2010 on Nov. 28 — Vick is still the 10th-ranked passer in the league with a 90.0 rating.
‘‘I mean, they play a nice, tight, sound, disciplined scheme, and it’s something that they’ve always been good at,’’ Vick, who has been intercepted eight times, said of the Bears’ defense. ‘‘It’s a bend-but-don’t-break mentality, and they find ways to get it done.
‘‘I’m definitely confident this time I’ll give ourselves the best chance to win the football game.’’
Adams said one of the keys will be for the defensive line to penetrate and for all the defenders to send a convoy toward Vick.
‘‘Get in his face,’’ Adams said. ‘‘He’s going to make some guys miss, so we’ve got to help each other out by hustling and going after him. Instead of trying to make a huge play, make the smart play.’’
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said Vick is unpredictable and ‘‘there’s no one like him.’’
‘‘When you watch him when he runs, he’s probably faster than McCoy,’’ Urlacher said.
The key, Urlacher said, is for the defense to focus on what it can control.
‘‘As long as we do what we do, if everyone reads their keys and stuff, we should be OK,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s going to make plays, there’s no doubt about that. He’s a great player. But we have to make some plays, too, on him.’’
Smith said he fully expects Vick and the Eagles to try to exploit the Bears’ young safeties, second-year man Major Wright and rookie Chris Conte.
‘‘Chris is planning on being tested,’’ Smith said. ‘‘But the only way to have an opportunity to make plays is if you are tested. That’s just a part of life at the safety position, and I think he’ll be up to the challenge.’’
Although he hasn’t beaten the Bears, Vick said he welcomes the chance to play against them, especially Urlacher.
‘‘I’ve been on the losing end, but just the opportunity to play against him and the great player that he is and what he brings to the table, it’s a pleasure and an honor,’’ Vick said. ‘‘It’s always a challenge. That’s what it’s about: the best going against the best.’’