Extra Points: Eagles' Vick fumbling for answers

You have to admit there is a problem before you can go about fixing it.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has yet to be convinced he has a dilemma. This despite the fact he has turned the ball over 11 times in five games this season, including two key fumbles in Sunday's loss 16-14 loss at Pittsburgh.

Vick actually lost the football three times in the Steel City, first coughing it up at the end of a 9-yard run to the Steelers' 42 in the first quarter. Eagles coach Andy Reid challenged that call and it was overturned because his quarterback was ruled down by contact.

Later on the same drive, however, Vick gave up the football inside the 1-yard line as he was approaching the end zone, a miscue which turned out to be more than pivotal in what ended up being a two-point setback.

Vick's final fumble of the day came at the end of the first quarter on a run to the Eagles' 34 but didn't cost Philadelphia as the defense stiffened.

Vick now has six interceptions and five lost fumbles in 2012. To make matters worse, four of his mistakes have come at the absolute worst time, in the red zone, and two have been inside the 3-yard line. In total, Vick has fumbled the ball eight times this year, and has lost more fumbles than six NFL teams have total turnovers.

"I wish I could tell you, but I don't have any explanation," Vick said after being asked about his issues. "I've never had a problem with fumbling before. It was one of those things. Everything happens for a reason, and if it was meant to be, I wouldn't have fumbled at the goal line."

As you can imagine, that explanation didn't go over too well with the Philly faithful and had Reid scrambling to add damage control to his to-do list.

"Obviously, you can't have the turnovers that we had in the first half," Reid said after the Steelers loss. "It's hindering our ability to score. It's keeping us down.

"(We're) the second-lowest scoring team in the National Football League right now." Reid continued. "We've got to make sure that we fix that. Turnovers are something that you have to focus in on at practice. You have to make sure that you are aware of that during the game, that your ball security is right."

As for Vick, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts, and reality is in stark contrast to his warped view of the situation.

He is currently the NFL's active leader in fumbles for a quarterback with 84 (losing 39) over 116 games, and once fumbled 27 times over 30 games while with Atlanta in 2004-05. And remember, Vick missed two full seasons while in prison and most of a third while he was working his way back with the Eagles.

Others stars have struggled with fumbling and corrected the issue, most recently Tiki Barber and Adrian Peterson, running backs who embraced the high- and-tight philosophy once it became obvious that NFL defenders are pretty adept at stripping the football these days.

Vick's refusal to acknowledge the problem has to be the most worrisome aspect of the issue to Reid and the Eagles.

If Vick truly thinks it's all up to some all-encompassing football deity, what's the point in changing anything about his game?

"You wish you could have some things back and there are plenty of things I wish I could have back through the course of the season, but you can't get them," the former Pro Bowler said.

Reid, who many think is coaching for his job this season, still has faith in his quarterback, at least outwardly.

"Listen, there's nobody more competitive than this guy and he knows that he can't fumble. Understand that," Reid said when talking about Vick on Monday. "He knows that he can't have turnovers and he can't fumble. Nobody knows it better than the player. But we've got to go back and we've got to work on ball security.

"He understands that and we'll do that and we'll get that right. He's going to continue to carry the football and he's just got to secure it away, keep it high-and-tight and, when he's in traffic, get that thing covered up with the off hand."

To be fair, all of Vick's issues aren't due to carelessness. He's already lost two of his best offensive lineman for the season, All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters and ascending center Jason Kelce. And if just about any NFL linebacker puts his helmet square on the football, it's coming loose.

But that's not the kind of thing Vick is getting heat over. It's abundantly clear on film that the Eagles' signal-caller doesn't secure the ball at times, especially when he is making the transition from thrower to runner.

Despite the mounting turnovers and setback in the Steel City, the Eagles are deadlocked atop the NFC East with the New York Giants and have already beaten "Big Blue" once.

The problem can be fixed, but only if Vick recognizes what it is and takes the steps needed.

Otherwise those football gods who made him fumble at the one in Pittsburgh will point directly at Nick Foles.

After all, everything happens for a reason.


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THE GAMES (All Times Eastern)

Pittsburgh (2-2) at Tennessee (1-4), Thursday, 8:20 p.m.

LINE: Steelers by 5 1/2

THE SKINNY: A banged-up Pittsburgh team reached the .500 mark with a 16-14 Keystone State win over Philadelphia last Sunday when Shaun Suisham booted a 34-yard field goal as time expired to give the Steelers the victory. The Steelers got a big boost from the return of running back Rashard Mendenhall, who rushed for 81 yards and a TD in his season debut. With Mendenhall back, the Steelers gained 136 yards on the ground after amassing a total of 195 yards in their three previous games.

"It felt great to be back," Mendenhall said. "But there is a lot more work to be done."

That work continues in Music City against the Titans, who are off to a dismal 1-4 start and are coming off a 30-7 rout at the hands of Minnesota. Veteran Matt Hasselbeck will be under center for another week, replacing promising second-year starter Jake Locker (shoulder).

"We have a game on Thursday night against a very good football team," said Titans head coach Mike Munchak. "Playing in four days against a good team might be the best thing for us. We can play much, much better. This is the group we have and with this group, we have to play much better, and we have to do it quickly."

PREDICTION: Steelers 20, Titans 10

Oakland (1-3) at Atlanta (5-0), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Falcons by 8 1/2

THE SKINNY: The Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history and Matt Ryan is flying high. The Boston College product threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons' 24-17 win over Washington last Sunday and led them to 17 fourth-quarter points. That's Ryan's 18th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, the most by any quarterback during his first five NFL seasons in the Super Bowl era. The Raiders look like they're behind the eight-ball in this one but can hang their hat on the fact that Darren McFadden has had three consecutive games of 100 rushing yards or more against NFC foes.

PREDICTION: Falcons 34, Raiders 20

Dallas (2-2) at Baltimore (4-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Ravens by 3 1/2

THE SKINNY: The Ravens have never lost in three meetings with the Cowboys and have won 13 consecutive regular-season home games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco is 8-0 at home versus NFC teams and is an imposing 30-5 overall as a starter in the Charm City. Dallas returns from a bye hoping to forget an embarrassing performance in North Texas against Chicago back on Oct. 1, a game in which Tony Romo threw five interceptions.

PREDICTION: Ravens 24, Cowboys 13

Cincinnati (3-2) at Cleveland (0-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Bengals by 2 1/2

THE SKINNY: The Bengals are coming off a disappointing performance at home resulting in a 17-13 loss to Miami, while the winless Browns will get one of the best cover corners in football back when Joe Haden returns from a four- game suspension for taking the prescription drug Adderall. Cincinnati has won three of its past four in Cleveland and is at its best when Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are on the same page. The Bengals have averaged 33 points a game in their three wins in 2012 and just 13 in their two setbacks.

PREDICTION: Bengals 30, Browns 17

St. Louis (3-2) at Miami (2-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Dolphins by 3 1/2

THE SKINNY: Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has passed for 1,269 yards, and is the first rookie in NFL history to pass for 1,250-plus yards and record two or more wins in his team's first five games. Things could continue to go well this weekend for the freshman since Miami is 4-1 all-time against the Rams in South Florida and St. Louis will be without the services of star receiver Danny Amendola, who is sidelined with a sternoclavicular joint separation.

PREDICTION: Dolphins 24, Rams 17

Indianapolis (2-2) at New York Jets (2-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Jets by 3

THE SKINNY: Team Chuckstrong presses on without its head coach and while it may be too soon to compare Luck to Wayne versus Manning to Wayne, the Stanford rookie is the first rookie in NFL history to pass for 1,200-plus yards (1,208) and win two of his first four starts, and his affinity for Wayne is a big part of that success. Wayne is averaging a league-best 126.5 receiving yards per game in 2012 and posted a career-high 212 yards in last Sunday's thrilling upset over Green Bay. The Jets, meanwhile, typically aren't about moral victories, but Monday's setback to Houston certainly felt like one since New York played the undefeated Texans tough despite being without Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes.

PREDICTION: Colts 20, Jets 17

Detroit (1-3) at Philadelphia (3-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Eagles by 4 1/2

THE SKINNY: Vick's inability to hold onto the football has cost the Eagles mightily this season (see above). The Lions come off a bye hoping to have solved their running and special teams woes.

PREDICTION: Eagles 24, Lions 21

Kansas City (1-4) at Tampa Bay (1-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Buccaneers by 3 1/2

THE SKINNY: Kansas City fans will likely get their wish on Sunday. It's looking like quarterback Matt Cassel will not play after sustaining a concussion in a Week 5 loss to Baltimore. Next up for the Chiefs is former Notre Dame signal-caller Brady Quinn, who made his first NFL appearance since Dec. 20, 2009 in relief of Cassel last Sunday. Expect a heavy dose of running back Jamaal Charles for Kansas City. Charles is averaging an NFL-best 133.8 yards from scrimmage this season. The Bucs are hoping the once-ascending Josh Freeman gets it going after a bye. Freeman is completing just 54.6 percent of his passes and has amassed a pedestrian 75.3 passer rating.

PREDICTION: Buccaneers 17, Chiefs 14

Buffalo (2-3) at Arizona (4-1), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

LINE: Cardinals by 4 1/2

THE SKINNY: The Bills have fallen off a cliff over their last six quarters, getting outscored 90-17 over that span. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have a lot of holes all of a sudden after a 4-0 start. Quarterback Kevin Kolb has been sacked 17 times over the past two games and the team, which was already without Beanie Wells, lost running back Ryan Williams with a fractured coracoid process.

PREDICTION: Cardinals 24, Bills 21

New England (3-2) at Seattle (3-2), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

LINE: Patriots by 3 1/2

THE SKINNY: Pete Carroll coaches against the franchise he once mentored from 1997 to '99 in a game that will see the NFL's No. 1 offense (New England) and defense (Seattle) hook up. For the Seahawks, the biggest question remains how long they will stick with uneven rookie quarterback Russell Wilson since prized free agent acquisition Matt Flynn is waiting in the wings. Flynn, who spent four seasons backing up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, made his first career start against the Patriots when Rodgers was recuperating from a concussion back in 2010 and was impressive, albeit in a 31-27 defeat. New England is averaging an NFL-best 33 points per game and the franchise is 38-11 against NFC teams under head coach Bill Belichick.

PREDICTION: Patriots 24, Seahawks 23

New York Giants (3-2) at San Francisco (4-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

LINE: 49ers by 5

THE SKINNY: The Giants will return to San Francisco for a rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game, which was won by New York, 20-17, in overtime en route to a victory in Super Bowl XLVI.

Last Sunday, the Giants defeated Cleveland, 41-27, as running back Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 200 yards and wide receiver Victor Cruz had three touchdown catches. It marked the first time since 1960 that a team had a 200-yard rusher and a player with at least three TD catches in a game. New York's offense currently ranks second in the NFL and leads the NFC, averaging 429.2 yards per game and the Giants have gained 1,877 yards in their past four games, the highest total over any four-game span in franchise history.

"The Giants are an outstanding team," said Niners coach Jim Harbaugh. "They've got an explosive offense. They're very balanced. They're just an all-around top team in the league."

The 49ers, meanwhile, recorded a franchise-record 621 yards last Sunday in a 45-3 win over Buffalo. In the victory, San Francisco became the first team in NFL history to gain at least 300 yards rushing (311) and 300 yards passing (310) in a game. The 49ers have won each of their past two games by 30-plus points, the first time the team has accomplished that since 1961.

"San Francisco is a very good team," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "We'll have to be at our best."

PREDICTION: 49ers 31, Giants 21

Minnesota (4-1) at Washington (2-3), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

LINE: Pick'em

THE SKINNY: All eyes will be on Robert Griffin III this weekend. The dynamic rookie quarterback was knocked out in the third quarter against undefeated Atlanta this past Sunday with what was called a mild concussion. Whether the Baylor product can go will be imperative against a much-improved Vikings defense which features a strong front four backed up by playmakers like Chad Greenway, Harrison Smith and Antoine Winfield. If RG3 can't play the 'Skins could go with fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, who replaced him last Sunday, or veteran Rex Grossman. For the Vikings, Christian Ponder is second in the league with a 69.0 completion percentage (behind Griffin) and will be shooting for his fourth consecutive win as a starter.

PREDICTION: Vikings 23, Redskins 20

Green Bay (2-3) at Houston (5-0), Sunday, 8:25 p.m.

LINE: Texans by 3 1/2

THE SKINNY: Houston, one of the two remaining undefeated teams in 2012, will host the Packers, last year's final unbeaten team which has fallen on hard times this season.

Two of the premier defensive players in the NFL will be in the spotlight on Sunday night: Green Bay's Clay Matthews and Houston's J.J. Watt. Watt leads the NFL with 8 1/2 sacks and Matthews is on his heels with eight. Who is missing might be the bigger story, however. The Texans improved to 5-0 with a 23-17 win at the New York Jets on Monday night but lost leading tackler Brian Cushing, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

"It's what we thought. He tore his ACL and we lost him for the year," said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. "He's going to have surgery, probably in about two or three weeks, when the swelling goes down. It's a big blow to our team. You feel bad for Brian because he works so hard. He's going to be missed."

The Packers, meanwhile, are aiming to get back to .500 after dropping to 2-3 with a 30-27 loss at Indianapolis.

"We're not quite where we need to be," said Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. "We're 2-3 and that was a tough loss. I'm focused on the specifics of our football team and that we're not where we need to be."

PREDICTION: Texans 27, Packers 21

Denver (2-3) at San Diego (3-2), Monday, 8:35 p.m.

LINE: Chargers by 2

THE SKINNY: San Diego will host Denver on Monday night as the top two teams in the AFC West clash in prime time. The Chargers enter Week 6 in first place in the division, one game ahead of the Broncos. Both teams are looking to bounce back from a loss in Week 5.

In his career, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has won 11 of his 15 Monday starts and has a 96.3 passer rating in those contests. Last weekend, Manning registered his 66th 300-yard passing game of his career, the most in NFL history.

"It's important that we improve throughout the season in some areas," Manning said. "We're not quite where we want to be. Obviously, we'd like to be 5-0 and have a winning record. We're 2-3 and have a pivotal division game, so the key is that we keep making progress."

San Diego's Philip Rivers also has been solid on Monday night, compiling a 7-3 mark with 17 touchdowns and a gaudy 105.2 passer rating in those games. Rivers' teams are 40-8 when he cracks that century mark.

"This team is close, believe me," said Rivers after losing to New Orleans in Week 5. "I hate losing, but the way we fought (against the Saints), that's something good."

PREDICTION: Chargers 27, Broncos 24