By Kevin Gibson
How can the Green Bay Packers stop Michael Vick this coming Sunday when they square off with Vick’s Philadelphia Eagles in a first-round NFC playoff game? Here’s how: Personnel and scheme.
As we all know, Vick can beat you with his legs just as easily as with his arm and field awareness. In fact, in most cases, stopping him isn’t even a true option; containment is the goal.
No Packers fan will forget how Vick shredded the Green Bay defense during a furious Week 1 comeback attempt, to the tune of 175 yards passing with a score and 103 yards rushing. Granted, the Packers had game-planned for Kevin Kolb, but the defense looked bewildered at times while holding on for a 27-20 win.But that was then, and this is now. The 3-4 defense installed by Dom Capers last season continues to improve, giving up an average of just 15 points per game during the regular season, and that has a lot to do with the way Green Bay’s personnel has grown into the scheme.
B.J. Raji is getting tremendous push up front, which will challenge Vick’s time in the pocket. Vick is obviously dangerous once flushed, but Desmond Bishop and Clay Matthews can seal and pursue more effectively when the middle is clogged. And has anyone noticed how solidly A.J. Hawk has been playing lately? He’s a tackle machine right now, and posted the second most tackles of his career for the season with 111.
And with athletic newcomers like Erik Walden, who can move inside and out, and from end to linebacker, it only helps Green Bay’s chance at pursuing and corralling the dangerous Vick.
Downfield, it is then up to the much-improved secondary, led by Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Sam Shields, to maintain coverage and to properly react when Vick scrambles. When Vick buys time by running around like a scared cat, that’s when the secondary is most under pressure, because holding coverage on guys like DeSean Jackson isn’t an easy task.
I think the offense will show more against the quick but beatable Eagles defense than it did in the ugly Week 17 Bears game (kind of has to, doesn’t it?). So if the Packers’ defense can hold Vick and the Philly offense under 20 points (which is more doable than ever with Tim Masthay humming along in the kicking game), it’s a winnable contest.
Get your Cheesehead hats ready.