Commentary

Job 1 for Big Blue: Decode Vick 2.0

With NFC East potentially in the balance, Giants run into vastly improved Eagles QB

Updated: November 17, 2010, 11:14 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

Hours before Michael Vick humiliated Washington with a historic performance, New York Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck talked about the quarterback as if he knew what was going to happen on "Monday Night Football."

"He's playing better than I have ever seen him play," Tuck said. "He is reading defenses and delivering the ball as a pocket quarterback better, which makes him almost impossible to stop."

Tuck was right on in his assessment -- except for using the word "almost." Vick was unstoppable on Monday in the Philadelphia Eagles' 59-28 rout of the Redskins.

Vick threw with surgical precision, passing for 333 yards and four touchdowns. And he ran circles around the Redskins' defense for 80 yards and two more scores.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning and Michael Vick
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesFresh off an embarrassing defeat, Eli Manning's Giants run into red-hot Michael Vick and the Eagles.

Vick is the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 300 yards, rush for 50 yards and have four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.

"It was embarrassing," Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said. "They played like they were racking up BCS points. They should be ranked No. 1 now."

The Eagles certainly looked like the best team in the NFC, something that was being said about the Giants prior to last Sunday.

The Giants and Eagles meet this Sunday night in Philadelphia, and the winner can make a loud argument that it is the NFC's elite team. Vick will attempt to deliver an encore to his masterpiece in a monster showdown that will go a long way in deciding the NFC East.

The Giants and Eagles are tied at 6-3 overall and 1-1 in the division. With the Redskins (4-5, 2-1) fading and the Cowboys in too big of a hole, the division is pretty much a two-team race.

The Giants' hopes of winning the NFC East crown will likely be decided by Perry Fewell's ability to slow Vick.

The Giants had all sorts of problems with Donovan McNabb the past two seasons. Now they will try to stop a four-game losing streak to the Eagles against Vick, the most dangerous player in the NFL -- with apologies to Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson and the rest.

Vick scored a rushing touchdown against the Giants last season as a Wildcat quarterback. However, the last time the Giants faced Vick as a starting quarterback in 2006, they pounded him. The then-Falcons quarterback was sacked seven times and fumbled four times, losing one. He was picked once and held to 154 yards passing and 68 yards rushing with one rushing touchdown in a 27-14 Falcons loss to the Giants.

But Vick is a much more complete quarterback now, with the way he is able to read defenses and pass from the pocket. The players who surround him -- DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy among them -- make Vick even better.

Fewell, whose defense was shredded at times in a 33-20 loss to Dallas, has a week to come up with his "Vick Rules."

The Giants will have to slow down what is perhaps the fastest team in the NFL, evident on the first play of the game on Monday night when Vick completed an 88-yard strike to Jackson for a touchdown.

[+] EnlargeMichael Strahan and Michael Vick
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesThe Giants tormented Vick in 2006 -- but he's a different QB now.

"Not too many guys can throw that ball," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "I don't know how far it went -- 65 yards in the air."

Let's not forget that Jackson destroyed the Giants last season as he returned one punt 72 yards for a touchdown while also scoring on 54- and 60-yard touchdown receptions in two Eagles wins. McCoy is another home run threat who scored on a 66-yard run against the Giants last year.

The Eagles, who amassed 592 yards against the Redskins, are the most explosive offense the Giants will face since Indianapolis in Week 2. That was an epic failure for the Giants as Peyton Manning ate up a defense designed to stop the pass by orchestrating an offense that rushed for 160 yards and accumulated 410 yards in total offense in a 38-14 rout.

But outside of that loss and last Sunday's setback against the rejuvenated Cowboys, who totaled 427 offensive yards, the Giants have done a good job of stopping dynamic offensive players or schemes:

• In the season opener, the Giants held Carolina's powerful running tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to a total of 74 yards rushing in a 31-18 win.

• In Week 3, the Giants limited Tennessee's Chris Johnson to 70 yards on 27 carries until he gained 55 yards on one late drive in a 29-10 loss that was plagued by 11 penalties.

• In Week 5 at Houston, the Giants held the NFL's leading rusher, Arian Foster, to 25 yards.

But as Janet Jackson said, what have you done for me lately?

The Giants are coming off an embarrassing loss in which Jon Kitna threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns. They couldn't cover rookie Dez Bryant and the Cowboys seemed to be a step ahead of every Giants defensive call.

Vick can make a defense look silly in so many ways. The Redskins tried using safety LaRon Landry as a spy and that didn't work too well.

The Giants' pass rush, which has just one sack in the past two games, will have to walk the fine line of generating pressure on Vick but also preventing him from running wild.

Fewell's trio of safeties -- Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips and Deon Grant -- and his corners will have to play much better after Kitna made the Giants' secondary look like Swiss cheese.

Tuck said the Dallas loss could be the wake-up call the Giants need.

If that didn't get their attention, surely Vick did on Monday night.

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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