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The New Orleans Saints’ defense did everything right. The front four pressured well, the linebackers blanketed the tight end and running back and the secondary neutralized the receivers.
The problem: The opposing quarterback was Michael Vick.
On Sunday, Vick’s Atlanta Falcons had a first-and-10 from their own 39-yard line. By design, Vick rolled a few steps to his right. When the protection broke down, he broke down the Saints’ defense.
Charles Grant dived and missed six yards behind the line of scrimmage. … Willie Whitehead reached and whiffed at the 43. … Rodney Leisle came up empty at midfield. … Ditto for Scott Shanle at the Saints 40. … Same for a Saints defensive back at the 30. … Finally, after a 51-yard gain, Jason Craft brought Vick down.
The Saints’ problem last week — when Vick rushed for 166 yards in a 31-13 loss to New Orleans — is the Washington Redskins’ dilemma this week. Should they make Vick pass or run to win?
Vick has been wildly inconsistent as a passer. While the Redskins acknowledge his ability to make plays throwing downfield, they appear to be most concerned — and rightly so — about his ability to make something out of nothing via scrambles and designed keepers.
“He drives you crazy,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “Anything in this league that is different and doesn’t normally have a chance of taking place, it complicates things. He’s a guy that can dominate a game, and that’s hard to find.”
Vick isn’t a normal quarterback, and as a result, the Redskins’ practices haven’t been normal this week. Rock Cartwright and Antwaan Randle El have taken turns as the scout-team quarterback.
But nobody can emulate Vick’s receiver-like speed and running back-like moves.
“You have a quarterback that has the skill set of a receiver and a running back — like a Reggie Bush or a Brian Westbrook,” safety Troy Vincent said. “He can beat you in all different facets.”
Said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: “He reminds me of a lot of the great returners because once he gets into space, he can break you down and turn a very minimal gain into a long gain.”
Each layer of the defense has to be aware of No. 7.
The ends have to keep containment and make sure Vick is moving east-west instead of north-south.
“You have to be conscious about everything he does, but at the same time, you can’t play timid,” defensive end Phillip Daniels said. “You’re not going to keep him in there all day long, but if we do for the most part, we’ll be having a good day.”
The linebackers have to account for tight end Alge Crumpler — the Falcons’ leading receiver and Vick’s longtime favorite target — and also keep an eye on the backfield because if he turns the corner, the chances of a defensive lineman catching him diminish.
By Emily Miller
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