- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2011

Michael Vick knew he was in trouble. The snap flew over his head and he was scrambling back into the end zone. This was just Philadelphia’s second drive, and Washington Redskins linebackers Brian Orakpo and Rocky McIntosh already were converging on him.

“It started out as a disaster,” the Eagles’ quarterback said. “When you have Orakpo coming down your barrel, you know you’re about to take one.”

Vick took one after he sent the ball soaring out of bounds. The problem for the Redskins is that a flag came in - not for intentional grounding but for roughing the passer. The penalty called on McIntosh for a late hit (that also could have been on Orakpo for hitting Vick in the helmet) gave the Eagles a first down at their 31-yard line.

“I didn’t think it would turn out to be a 15-yard penalty on them,” Vick admitted. “I think the ref made the call because he knew I was trying to get the ball out of my hands and out of bounds.”

The Redskins weren’t big fans of the call, and nose tackle Barry Cofield said that it was the turning point of the game.

“I think it was. It was tough,” Cofield said. “We had a lot of other opportunities later on in the game. But when you lose that type of field position on that kind of penalty, it hurts.”

Orakpo said it didn’t matter whether the call was on him or McIntosh but insisted it didn’t change the way he played the rest of the game.

“You just got to stay aggressive,” he said. “You know they’re going to protect the quarterbacks.”

In this case, protecting Vick proved costly for the Redskins, who forced Philadelphia into a three-and-out on the first drive of the game.

But after the Redskins couldn’t take advantage of a frazzled Vick and took the penalty, he, LeSean McCoy and the Eagles marched down the field to take a 7-0 lead.

“He just kept dinking and dunking down the field. That’s what kind of negated us trying to get to him and make big plays,” Orakpo said. “He just stepped out, kept throwing quick plays, quick plays. We had to settle down. We had to settle down, and we had to rally to wherever he was throwing the ball.”

That certainly didn’t happen on that drive, or the Eagles’ next one, which made it 14-0 very early in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Rex Grossman was in the process of throwing four interceptions, and the offense managed just six points until a late effort by John Beck.

The Redskins‘ defense did settle down in the second half, something Cofield attributed to halftime adjustments by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

“We just made less mistakes. We were opportunistic. And that’s what you have to do against this offense,” he said. “They’ve got big-play capabilities. But then they’ve got to line up and snap it again, and hopefully they’ll make a mistake. And if you don’t capitalize, it’s going to be a long day for you.”

It was a long day, however, that started getting long with the roughing the passer call. Orakpo didn’t want to comment on the validity of the penalty, and McIntosh simply walked away from reporters in the locker room.

This was an especially difficult situation with Vick, as Cofield likened hitting the quarterback’s small frame to a pitcher getting squeezed by a small strike zone. And as much as the veteran nose tackle wasn’t a fan of the call, he recognizes that if referees are going to provide quarterbacks with that kind of protection, he and his teammates must adjust.

“I think they’re watching his back now, because of all the hits he’s taken all season,” Cofield said. “The only thing we can do is correct it. If they’re going to make that call, we’ve got to come low, we’ve got to hit him low or we’ve got to pull off.”

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