Perhaps the popular story line is true. Vick was changed by what befell him and returned to the game as a man finally dedicated to his profession, finally mature enough to really lead a football team. It is a story of redemption for the player, sure, but when does the city of Atlanta get the same deal?
The fans are happy enough with Matt Ryan, but they remember what it was like here during The Michael Vick Thrill Ride when Vick brought the city together and then ripped it apart. The Falcons haven't won a playoff game since Vick left, and now he has the nerve to come back with a team good enough to keep Atlanta from a Super Bowl again. When does Atlanta get paroled?
So, yeah, Vick was booed and then the fans sat back and commenced to hold their breath for most of a very nasty football game. It was entertaining and Vick gave everybody a little of what they came for - whether it was the good or the bad. Before he had to come out of the game near the end of the third quarter with what was later deemed a concussion - the result of being spun around by a defender and crashing head on into Todd Herremans - Vick threw for two touchdowns and ran effectively, but also threw an interception and fumbled twice.
There was plenty to cheer for those so inclined, and plenty that made the rest not regret that Vick was no longer theirs. He juked away from trouble, but ran himself into it as well. He put the ball on target and then threw badly behind a receiver. Touchdowns and interceptions. Elusive runs and fumbles. It was as if Vick had assembled his own personal highlight and lowlight package and was offering a retrospective to the town that carried him before the fall.
It was almost all good near the start of the game as Vick took the Eagles on a 12-play drive for the first score of the game, a 6-minute, 50-second march that actually featured two touchdown passes, one that DeSean Jackson dropped and one that Jeremy Maclin caught.
When they got the touchdown, Vick turned and leaped into the arms of Herremans. It was a moment of release that Vick might have been waiting for in this stadium since Dec. 24, 2006, his previous game as a starter in the Georgia Dome.
The Eagles trailed 14-10 at the half, as Vick fumbled on consecutive possessions to stunt the offense, and an interception to start the second half helped set up another Atlanta touchdown that made it a 21-10 game.
But Vick took them to touchdowns and a 24-21 lead on their next two drives and had them in range of another when he was manhandled in the backfield and went helmet to helmet with Herremans, apparently wrenching his neck in the process.
And just like that Michael Vick was gone. Atlanta knows the feeling.
He was gone and the game was left to Ryan and Eagles backup Mike Kafka.
The Eagles, who had built a 10-point lead only to see it disappear, were trailing 35-31 when Kafka started them on the drive that would probably decide the outcome. He started them at their own 9-yard line, tossed a long completion to Maclin, kept the chains moving and kept giving the Eagles a chance to pull out the win. It was impressive, even though it fell short.
But there is little question - all right, no question - the Eagles would have preferred to have a healthy Michael Vick out there.
The funny thing is, after all this time and after all that happened, the same might still go for the Falcons.
Contact columnist Bob Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his columns at www.philly.com/bobford and his blog at http://www.philly.com/postpatterns.