Vick: "A complete quarterback now"

Posted: December 18, 2011

MICHAEL VICK doesn't do this a year ago.

He doesn't play this elegantly when the game starts to unravel.

Rex Ryan knows it.

Vick and his offensive coordinator/personal handler Marty Mornhinweg know it, too. They will not say it - cannot, perhaps; Vick because of pride, Mornhinweg because of the backhandedness of the compliment - but they know, too.

Vick, his ribs still aching and his season on the line, dismantled a Jets defense that routinely befuddles uber-QB Tom Brady. He led a game-sealing touchdown drive early in the third quarter that left Ryan stunned.

"Michael Vick showed us something," said Ryan after the Eagles' 45-19 win.

Ryan knows Vick. Ryan helped coach defenses in Baltimore that twice stifled Vick as a Falcon, in 2002 and 2006. Vick was a very different player then. Vick was a pretty different player even a year ago, and Ryan has seen all of that tape, too.

"I've gone against Vick a few times. He's never had that kind of a day," Ryan said. "Not even close. Against our kind of defense.

"Well, he had it today. They've done a great job with Vick. He's a complete quarterback now."

In just over three quarters Vick completed 15 of 22 passes for 274 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, meaningless, at the end of the first half. He also ran five times for 32 yards and a score.

None of those numbers comes close equaling his best days . . . on the face of it.

Consider, though, that Vick slaughtered the No. 4 passing defense in the NFL, a defense constructed by Ryan, one of the game's more respected defensive minds.

"That's an awesome compliment coming from a coach that a really have a lot of respect for," Vick said. "We know we're going to see a lot of different looks from the Jets defense."

The Jets had no idea that they would see this sort of aplomb from the man who once defined the word "frenetic."

With the Jets on a 13-0 run, having cut the lead to 28-13, the Vick from a year ago would have tried to scramble, and hustle, and break ankles. He would try to razzle the dazzle off the Jets.

A step from his goal line, the old Vick doesn't keep his heart rate at just above somnambulism. On second-and-11, Vick doesn't coolly shrug off a defensive lineman and glide to his left. He doesn't reset his feet and fire a 16-yard laser to backup tight end Clay Harbor.

That simple foot reset, that squaring of the shoulders . . . that is 3 years' worth of offseason work, 3 years' worth of after-practice drills, 3 years' worth of steady, bad-habit erosion.

"That work will pay off," Mornhinweg said. "Tonight, it did pay off."

It paid off to Harbor. It paid bigger to Brent Celek.

On the next play, maybe the biggest play of the game, Vick sold misdirection to the left as deftly as Favre or Brady or Montana ever did. A year ago, Vick doesn't sell it nearly as well.

Certainly, not well enough to spring Celek for a 73-yard gain - a beautifully designed play, kind of tricky, a Marty and Andy specialty.

They look brilliant if it works, silly if it doesn't. The fake makes it.

This is progress.

To Harbor, on second-and-11 from the Eagles' 10 - resetting the feet, keeping his eyes downfield, declining to tuck and run - all counterintuitive for Vick, the greatest running passer ever.

This is what Michael Vick can be with head coach Andy Reid and Mornhinweg pulling his strings.

"Last year, Michael was a great quarterback," Mornhinweg said of Vick's Pro Bowl 2010. "He can be a great, great quarterback."

The sweetener: The Harbor and Celek catches came with lethal receiver DeSean Jackson sidelined, briefly, with an elbow injury.

Jackson is Vick's security blanket. Predictably, Jackson disappeared to Revis Island yesterday, the object of super-corner Darrelle Revis' lockdown attentions.

Vick didn't need Jackson yesterday.

Vick's toss to Celek gave the Eagles the ball at the Jets' 1 and essentially iced with game; LeSean McCoy punched it in two plays later for a 35-13 lead.

Vick returned last week from a three-game absence and played spottily. He took unnecessary hits.

He was hesitant. Inefficient.

Understandable.

"It looked like he knocked some of the rust off last week," Reid said. "He came back and had some beautiful throws today."

Beautiful, even though his ribs creaked like a hod full of kindling twigs. One particularly vicious lick, on the first play of the fourth quarter, nearly knocked him from the game.

"It was constantly hitting the ground," Vick said. "It's just one of those injuries where it continues to bother you."

He handed off on the next play, a touchdown, and that was it for Vick.

It was his third truly fine game of the season.

He quietly eviscerated the Redskins on Oct. 16, then demolished the Cowboys the next week.

The rest of the season has been inconsistent. He suffered a concussion in the second game of the season and struggled the next 3 weeks.

On Nov. 13 against the Cardinals, he suffered fractured ribs early in the game - a game that, with the kind of grit from which legends grow, he finished. Then, the 3-week layoff. Last week, the one-game reboot.

This week - the excellence.

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