Michael Vick Poses a Unique Problem, Philadelphia's Big Play Ability and Pat McAfee
'HE IS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT ENTITY'
As the Colts begin to focus in on Sunday's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell this week said his team will face many obstacles. Among them, the short break between games and fatigue.
But Caldwell also mentioned another: Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
"He is a totally different entity than anybody we've seen play the position at this point," Caldwell said. "There are quarterbacks that can run. (Donovan) McNabb is a guy that can run. He can extend plays. He does it with power. You hit him, he bounces off of you. He's a big guy. In this particular case, Michael Vick can extend plays, but he does it with speed and not only that, much like McNabb, he can hurt you down the field. Once he gets out in the open field, he's a handful, difficult to handle. So, yes, preparation for him is a lot different than anybody we've faced."
Despite playing in only four games this season, Vick leads all NFL quarterbacks in rushing with 187 yards on 26 attempts, a 7.2-yard average. His long run of the year covered 31 yards.
In the most important quarter of any game, the fourth, he leads the NFC and is fourth in the NFL with a passer rating of 97.7.
Philadelphia's offense is ranked fifth in the NFL with a good balance of rushing and passing where it holds the eighth and ninth spots, respectively.
Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb started Philadelphia's last game two weeks ago, a 37-19 loss to the Tennessee Titans, as Vick has been sidelined with a rib injury suffered against Washington in Week 4. But with an extra week to rest during the bye, Caldwell said the Colts expect Vick to play.
"We have to look at who is going to play, who we anticipate is going to play the most," Caldwell said. "It appears through everything that we are seeing, reading, etc., that Michael Vick is going to be the starter, and that is the guy who we will prepare for. Certainly, we will have a little package in there (for Kevin Kolb) just in case. You always look at all the alternatives, and you consider everything. This is no different. But the great majority of our game plan will be based on playing against Michael Vick."
Indianapolis is used to seeing mobile quarterbacks, having already played McNabb and Jaguars quarterback David Garrard this season. The Colts also will play Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans twice.
"(Vick) is a real problem," Colts Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea said. "He's very fast, very elusive and the strength of his arm and the receivers that he has can stretch the field. He gives that extra dimension of breaking the pocket and taking it to the house. We, as a defense, have to control all of that on our side of the ball."
Vick is not the Eagles' only dual-threat player. Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy not only leads the team with 105 rushes for 477 yards and five touchdowns, he also leads the Eagles with 38 receptions.
"I don't think there will be a week that we're not going to walk into a ballgame where there is not going to be a very skilled running back on the other side," said Caldwell. "This is no different. McCoy is one of those guys. He does have speed, balance, power, vision, all of the things that can hurt you."
Then there are Philadelphia's receivers.
Third-year wideout DeSean Jackson has 19 receptions for 395 yards and three touchdowns. He is tied for fifth in the NFL with a 20.8-yard average per catch, and all of his touchdowns have been more than 20 yards. His eight receptions of 20 or more yards rank in the Top 10 in the NFL.
"Every week we face a guy like that, that just absolutely has speed to burn, can catch the ball extremely well and is usually one of the guys that will stretch the field for you," Caldwell said. "I think he is averaging about 20 yards a catch. We have to look closely at how to defend him, and it's going to be a real tough job."
Jackson is not only a threat in the receiving game, but he also has six rushes for 67 yards and a touchdown and 10 punt returns for 76 yards. In 2009, Jackson became the first NFL player to earn a Pro Bowl spot at two positions in the same year.
Second-year receiver Jeremy Maclin has 30 receptions and leads the Eagles with 458 yards and six touchdowns. Those six scores tie him for third-most in the NFC.
"They are very good and are guys that have an amazing ability to create opportunities for themselves in space," Caldwell said. "They catch the balls in open areas and they can run. They can run away from you. They've got wiggle. Running after the catch is something that you see them do constantly. They catch short passes and turn them into huge gains. They are a very, very dangerous crew. They are going to catch some balls, there is no question about that, but we have to be able to keep them contained."
'THAT'S WHAT I'M HERE TO DO'
Colts punter Pat McAfee returned to practice this week and addressed the media Wednesday afternoon:
"I have apologized to everybody that I have had the opportunity to, including my parents, the team, my family, all of my friends, personnel in the Colts organization, and this was a very embarrassing and humbling experience for me. I messed up, put myself in a horrible situation, but there is one group of people I have not had a chance to apologize to because I've been kind of laying low for the past couple of weeks, and I'll continue to do so, and that's really the fans of Indianapolis, in particular the fans that have children who look up to me as they should. I have always said that if you are a professional athlete you have the opportunity to be on a pedestal, whether you like it or not. You can use it the right way or the wrong way. In this particular situation I was a complete letdown to a lot of people and a lot of fans and, most importantly, to the kids that look up to me. I'm going to continue to do the good things I do in this community and continue to do good things for this city because I really do love this city, love this team and I love our fans more so than anything. I got a lot of messages on Facebook and Twitter from people around this state and around the country who are devout Indianapolis Colts fans, and to be completely honest, I don't know if I would have made it through this completely embarrassing situation without them. I really appreciate them for everything they have done. I apologize publicly because I feel that I should. I want to apologize to the Indianapolis Colts for really embarrassing and making a bad name for them when we are an elite group of men who pride ourselves on being good citizens. In this situation, I put myself in a horrible situation. I did a really dumb thing and I messed up. I've paid my price and I will continue to do so, and now it is my time to earn trust back from my teammates, my family and, most importantly, the city of Indianapolis and the Colts organization in particular. That's what I'm here to do."