If the Detroit Lions are going to snap their three-game losing streak, the defense has to find a way to control Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on Sunday.
While Vick has six interceptions and six touchdowns in the Eagles’ first five games, those interceptions came in the first two games. He is still dealing fumble-itis with eight fumbles — five lost — in the first five games.
Still, Vick is Vick.
“Well, you know, I’ve coached a few years in this league. Just a couple. Michael Vick I would never trust him. No, I would never trust him,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. “You know, Michael Vick is a great athlete and I remember when (Michael) Jordan sat out a couple years in basketball. He first started playing and people said, ‘Well, he’s lost it.’ About two weeks later he was scoring 45 a game.
“So, you know, these guys like Michael Vick, they don’t just suddenly drop off the edge. I watch him, his arm is great. I think he’s just trying to play more in the system. His scrambles are cut down a little bit, but he’s still moving well. He’s a fine athlete with a great arm.”
The last time the Lions saw Vick was in September 2010 when he started for the first time since 2006 filling in for Kevin Kolb who was out with a concussion. Vick threw for 284 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 35-32 win over the Lions that day.
Cunningham said he noticed one thing when watching film from that game and comparing it to this season.
“To a stat everything is exactly the same except one thing, the turnovers. So they’re on the right track,’’ Cunningham said. “We need to just take care of business and be aware of the big plays and stay hot.”
Defensive end Cliff Avril was injured that game, but has watched plenty of film on Vick this week.
“You’ve got to be disciplined, especially as a pass rusher, you have to be disciplined you’ve got to see where he’s at,’’ Avril said. “Some quarterbacks you know they’re going to sit in the pocket, you know they’re going to be in the pocket when you beat your guy. This guy is different he’ll find those holes and run the ball.’’
So far this season Vick has engineered three fourth-quarter comebacks for the Eagles (3-2) who have won three games by a total of four points. He’s passed for 1,321 yards and run for 146 yards in the first five games.
Detroit’s defense, which is ranked ninth in the NFL giving up 315.8 yards per game, should get a boost from the return of safety Louis Delmas who is expected to play in his first game this season.
“I think you have to know defensively that he can extend the play. Defensive backs, pass rushers, they get used to having a clock in the NFL, how long they have to cover or how low they have to pass rush and (Vick is) obviously different,’’ Schwartz said.
“You're going to have to stay after the quarterback. You may think you're out of the rush and he reverses the field and comes back to you,’’ Schwartz said. “... They run West Coast stuff and he throws quick. He does a good job of throwing his slants and his stick routes and things like that. He can get rid of the ball quick, but I think his ability to extend the play definitely changes the clock on defense.”
Detroit’s defensive line must step up and play consistent which they haven’t done so far this season. The only way to stop Vick is to put pressure on him.
“You never look past him he’s a guy who can move his feet as well as his arms, he’s been doing it for a long time,’’ Suh said.
Vick makes the offense go, but he get help from wide receiver DeSean Jackson who averages 16.3 yards per catch and running back LeSean McCoy who averages 87 rushing yards per game.
“We need to just take care of business and be aware of the big plays and stay hot,’’ Cunningham said.
If the Lions can shut down Vick, Jackson and McCoy they have a chance of snapping two streaks — the current three-game losing streak and the six-game losing streak to the Eagles dating back to the 1995 playoff debacle.
The Lions are coming off a bye week, healthier than they have been, and with a seemingly new resolve to take care of business.
“There’s 12 games left in the season, so much can change in the next 12 games for us especially,’’ Avril said. “We feel like we have a great team, we feel like we can go do some things. It’s just proving to the league and everybody else that thinks negative of us, proving them wrong.’’
(Paula Pasche covers the Lions. Follow her on Twitter @PaulaPasche. Read her Lions Lowdown blog at oplions.blogspot.com.)