January 10, 2011
Philadelphia Eagles star wideout DeSean Jackson(notes) questioned Michael Vick's(notes) decision to run a play rather than spike the ball with Philly driving for a potential game-winning touchdown with 44 seconds remaining in Sunday's NFC wild-card game. Vick ended up throwing an interception into the end zone on the first-down play, sealing a victory for the visiting Green Bay Packers.
Said Jackson of Vick's choice to throw rather than stop the clock (via Philly.com):
"I just felt, the last couple of plays, we just kind of rushed it. We didn't really have to rush it. We had 40 seconds, or whatever. We could have downed the ball and regrouped and just come back and not rushed it."
(In case it wasn't clear, when Jackson says "we" he means "Vick.")
"There was no huddle. After I caught that slant [on the play before], coming back, I thought he was going to spike the ball, stop the clock. But he didn't - not a big deal. He called 'all go' and that's what we ran. What happened, happened. It's over."
Vick wasn't having any part of it. "Clock it for what?" he asked. "[You] take a shot downfield."
I'm solidly on Vick's side on this one. Four downs are better than three. Way too many teams get up to the line with time running out and waste a down by spiking it when they'd be better served calling a play and trying to get a chunk of yardage toward the end zone or the first-down marker. Vick made the right choice to push ahead with the drive. It's simple math: 4 > 3.
The problem wasn't in not spiking, but in throwing the pass to Cooper. Vick shouldn't have forced the ball to the young receiver, not when Cooper was pressed on the sideline in tight coverage by Tramon Williams(notes) and not in a situation that didn't need to be forced. Throwing it was the right move at that point. You took your shot by calling a play, it didn't happen, so cut your losses and move on to second down. It's like a spike, with a few more seconds running off the clock.
Just like the Saints failing to convert a crucial fourth-and-inches in Saturday's wild-card game, the issue was with the execution, not the decision. It's always easy to bash a choice that fails. Sometimes a failed decision is still the correct one.
To his credit, Vick admitted his mistake (via PFT):
"I took a shot at the end zone. I could have checked it down to the back. I got greedy and took a shot at the end zone. I didn't throw the right ball that I wanted to and it got picked out. It was a bad way to go out, but at least I went out swinging ... It's hindsight now. It's something I have to learn from."
What's DeSean Jackson doing complaining anyway? He only had two catches in the game and missed most of the first half after bruising his knee. When he returned, he looked as fresh as ever.
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