The math is simple, but the solution is not. Michael Vick's offense had 71 snaps on Tuesday night, and he dropped back to pass more than 50 times (43 pass attempts, 6 sacks, another 8 Vick runs, at least half of which were caused from pressure in the pocket). You can debate the wisdom of such a pass-heavy offense -- we will save that for another day -- but what is not under debate is the attacking defensive scheme put forth by the Vikings.
What remains to be seen is what the Eagles learn from the lesson.
Minnesota blitzed approximately 40 of those 50-plus snaps, and the Vikings disguised their pressure extremely well. They showed potential blitzes from both edges, they danced linebackers and defensive backs to the line of scrimmage and they came after Vick relentlessly. It was a blitz clinic executed by a fast, veteran defense.
So, as the Eagles move forward, the blueprint is very well established. New York played it well in two meetings against the Eagles, but Vick and the coaching staff figured it out. That didn't happen on Tuesday night. Minnesota kept coming and coming, and hitting Vick way too many times along the way, to ground the high-flying Eagles offense for the first time in months.
"We have to be better and we know that. Mike is our guy. He got hit too much. He's a tough guy and all that, but he's human," said running back LeSean McCoy. "If teams want to do that to us, we'll be ready. We have adjustments to make."
It isn't as simple as tightening the formation and calling draws and throwing screens and quick slants, but there is some logic to tighter formations, varied cadences and a draw run here and there. I'm not smart enough to make a suggestion that would work. I respect this coaching staff and these players too much to say that a way to beat the pressure is to A) run more; B) have more quick throws or C) call more screen passes.
The coaches are going to figure it out. And when the playoffs begin and when the Packers -- or the Giants or Tampa Bay -- line up and show pressure, the Eagles are going to have an answer.
They have to. Or else.
"We get a big play or two on a defense and they're going to back off," said McCoy. "That's the way it is. That's what we have to do. We have a big-play offense and teams want to take that away. The best way to do that is to get after Mike."
Giveaways were a problem on Tuesday, as they were in New York (three turnovers) and even in Dallas (two Vick interceptions). When the Eagles offense has struggled, it has been because of ball security. When Vick and the offense was spot on earlier in the season, the turnovers were minimal. At times this year, when the offense was really humming, the turnovers were nothing. In wins over Detroit and Jacksonville and Indianapolis and at Washington, the Eagles had no giveaways. In the first win over New York, Vick lost the ball twice on fumbles.
At Chicago, of course, the interception in the red zone toward the end of the first half changed the momentum of the game. In a similar turn of events, the lost fumble and return for a touchdown with 55 seconds remaining in the first half against Minnesota halted an Eagles drive, robbed them of momentum and turned the game in Minnesota's favor.
One of the key statistics when the playoffs begin, of course, will be the giveaway/takeaway number. The Eagles have to be on top.
"Of course that's important," said wide receiver Jason Avant. "You can't give away opportunities to score."
It begins in the classroom as the Eagles study what has worked against them. Defenses are not going to sit back against Vick. They're going to keep a safety deep, maybe have some soft coverage in the intermediate area, and go after the Eagles' backfield with a variety of blitzes. The Eagles, every one of them, have to be on the same page with what they see and how they react.
I understand that Dallas is next and that the players have to show up and win a game against a division rival. Exactly how many of the usual starters will play remains a question for Andy Reid to answer on Friday. The big picture is that the success of the Eagles' offense moving forward will be determined by lessons the Eagles have learned from the blitzes they have seen these last few weeks.
Giving Vick time and keeping him clean leads to success. Helping him up off the ground is the worst-case scenario, and it has happened too much of late.