Vick thrives in Eagles' win over Browns, despite shaky offensive line

Michael Vick celebrates his 13-yard touchdown run against the Browns on Thursday. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Michael Vick celebrates his 13-yard touchdown run against the Browns on Thursday. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 26, 2011

WHAT COULD BE more interesting than to be Michael Vick these days?

Last week, Vick played against the Steelers with a controversy swirling over a GQ article in which Vick seemed to be saying NFL commissioner Roger Goodell steered him to the Eagles, and that he felt his punishment for his involvement in dogfighting was excessive.

Yesterday was game day once more, so of course, Vick was the man of the hour, long before he took the field for a preseason contest against the visiting Cleveland Browns, which ended with the Eagles winning, 24-14.

This time, ESPN the Magazine hit the stands, the mailboxes and the browsers with an entire issue devoted to him, including an essay pondering "What if Michael Vick Were White?" Complete with a really unsettling photo illustration.

That question might not be answerable, but we did find out, as Vick ran for his life while guiding the Birds to a 17-0 halftime lead against the Browns, what would happen if Vick had no offensive line. Or at least, extremely confused-looking rookies at center (Jason Kelce) and right guard (Danny Watkins), along with a work in progress at right tackle (King Dunlap).

"Whether I'm learning, or Danny's learning, or the offensive line in general is trying to be together, mistakes aren't acceptable, especially with the first team," said Kelce, who had a holding penalty and figured in a fumbled snap and a sack in his first two series.

Vick proved he could take a hit, and that he could find Shady McCoy on the checkdowns (seven first-half catches for 69 yards; Vick threw for 98 yards). Neither question was one that really needed answering last night.

Vick did not give in to the impatience that led to three first-half interceptions last week in Pittsburgh, so there was that. But solid Cleveland coverage and the o-line follies kept him to one completion to a wide receiver, a 14-yarder to Jason Avant, the play before Vick rolled right and kept rolling, 8 yards to the end zone for the 17-0 lead.

"The minute you start to get down on a player, or down-talk 'em, then that's when they lose confidence," Vick said afterward, under pointed questioning about the blocking.

When his questioners persisted, Vick said: "Regardless of who it is, I'm going to give defenses fits anyway. Just plain and simple, saying that out of confidence, not arrogance."

Vick specifically stood up for Kelce, a sixth-round draft pick from Cincinnati.

"You can't expect a guy to come in and be a Pro Bowl player in two games. That's just not the way this thing works," he said.

Whether it was the hits or the on-and-off pelting rain, Andy Reid did not stick with his plan to play Vick and the starters three quarters. They donned the visors (and rain gear) at halftime. Vick completed 10 of 18 passes for those 98 yards, was sacked once, didn't have an interception or a touchdown throw, compiled a 71.1 passer rating, with a longest completion of 15 yards, to McCoy.

"We started out a little shaky, but we got it together," Vick said. "You have to take what the defense gives you . . . You've just got to let it develop."

Reid said he "thought our guys played a little bit better this week," though, "we've still got to clean up some things on both sides of the ball."

Reid said the Browns' man coverage dictated that Vick look underneath for completions.

The Eagles' first drive ended with a sack and fumble, Phil Taylor rampaging past Kelce and Taylor's friend and former Baylor teammate, Watkins.

But defensive tackle Mike Patterson, in his return to action after suffering a training-camp seizure, sacked Colt McCoy, linebackers Casey Matthews and Jamar Chaney stopped a run and broke up a pass, then Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie blocked a field-goal attempt.

"I was a little nervous at first, I had to get that feeling back," Patterson said. "But it felt pretty good, and I felt pretty happy to get a hit on him."

Patterson said he didn't reflect on his medical journey since being diagnosed with a brain AVM, a tangle of abnormal blood vessels that he will have treated after the season.

"I've been practicing for the last week, so any questions are so far off my mind right now," he said.

The Eagles got a huge break when former Birds corner Sheldon Brown accidentally clipped another ex-Bird, punt returner Jordan Norwood, causing a fumble recovered by long snapper Jon Dorenbos, whose celebration reflected a surprising amount of thought given to something a long snapper isn't often going to have a chance to do. Two plays later, Ronnie Brown zipped down the sideline behind the much-more-stable left side of the Eagles' line for a 13-yard touchdown.

Reid said the offense "started slow but started picking up," adding that "there was a little confusion in a lot of areas" with the offensive line, relating to the blocking scheme and the quarterback's setup point.

He said he would have to look at the tape to evaluate Kelce's play.

An Asante Samuel interception, aided by Cullen Jenkins' pass-rush pressure, led to a 37-yard Alex Henery field goal. Then Vick led another TD drive, helped considerably by a roughing-the-passer penalty that negated an interception.

Matthews and the first-team defense rebounded well from the Pittsburgh loss.

"It felt a lot better," said Matthews, a fourth-round rookie. "Again, Pittsbugh, that was my first real action. I used it as a measuring tool, knowing what I needed to get better at . . . I felt a lot more comfortable out there."

Matthews said his focus, after Pittsburgh, was "just getting off blocks, making tackles. I have all my assignments down, I'd be in my gap, but to play in this league, you can't just go one for one, you've got to get off the block and make tackles. Running backs in this league are going to break tackles [at the line], it's just a matter of guys running to the ball and making plays."

Birdseed

Vince Young completed nine of 12 passes for 58 yards, and ran 10 yards for a TD . . . Dion Lewis ran nine times for 44 yards . . . Ronnie Brown's six carries netted 41 yards . . . The Eagles are 2-1 in the preseason. They visit the Jets next Thursday in the preaseason finale, assuming New York and North Jersey don't wash away this weekend . . . In response to a question about free-agent linebacker Lofa Tatupu, Andy Reid indicated he has not contacted Tatupu . . . Asked at the end of his news conference about the question ESPN the Magazine asks ("What if Michael Vick Were White?"), Vick said, "I'm outta here," smiled and left the room . . . The Eagles sacked Browns QBs five times.


For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

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http://twitter.com/LesBowen.

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