Phil Sheridan: Eagles' Vick delivers under pressure

Posted: September 17, 2012

For the Eagles, it was a win without asterisks. For their quarterback, it was a comeback victory in more than one sense of the word.

Michael Vick went into Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens with much more than pads on his shoulders. Coming off a four-interception debacle in Cleveland last week, which was stacked on top of a season of frustration last year, Vick needed to reassert himself as the Eagles' offensive leader. A jury of 69,144 was empanelled to weigh the evidence.

Vick started off making a strong case. His first pass was a strike to tight end Brent Celek for 23 yards, his second a 17-yarder for DeSean Jackson. A couple throws to Jason Avant and Celek and the Eagles were in the red zone before the F-16s from the pregame flyover had landed.

Then Vick was pressured and took off to his right. As he approached the sideline, he spotted tight end Clay Harbor in the back of the end zone. He failed to spot Bernard Pollard, however. The Ravens safety stepped in front of Vick's wobbly, side-armed, here-we-go-again misfire.

"I really can't explain how I feel in those situations," Vick said. "To come out and get off to such a great start, then to have it all negated by a turnover when you know there are better decisions that could have been made."

Five quarters, five interceptions. It seemed impossible, after a week of swearing he wouldn't make the same mistakes, but Vick made exactly the same kind of mistake. It also seemed impossible that the Eagles could survive that way against the Ravens, a much better team than the Browns.

Funny, what is and isn't impossible. Several hours later, Vick was leading the Eagles toward the very same end zone. Just like last week, he got the ball needing a touchdown to turn a dispiriting loss into a comeback win.

"Obviously," Vick said, "I'm saying to myself, 'Here we go again.'"

This time, Vick was going against a superior defense - with three offensive starters on the sideline with injuries. On this drive, he hit Jackson first, for 14 yards, then Celek for 24. After an 8-yard scramble, he found Celek again for 13 and then Harbor for 14. Thanks to a roughing-the-passer call, that last play created a first down at the Baltimore 3.

Last week, from the Cleveland 4, he got away with a poor throw that was dropped by linebacker L.J. Fort. This time, he unloaded the ball as he was buried by Haloti Ngata. It could have been called intentional grounding. The replacement officials, who were sublimely terrible all game, called it a fumble. Upon video review, they changed the call to an incomplete pass.

"It's extra stress when you have to sit there and wait," Vick said. "You don't want to put the game in the officials' hands. I tried to make a good decision in the moment and I just threw the ball away."

"Things like that happen," Eagles coach Andy Reid said.

Again, given another crack at it, Vick put the winning touchdown on the board. This time, he ran the ball in from the 1-yard line.

"In the moment," Vick said, "you just have to be at your best. It's got to be by any means necessary. . . . It's just encouraging, and I think all the guys feel that."

It was the final play of a really remarkable afternoon for Vick. He did throw one more interception, but it was a ball off Celek's hands - not a bad decision or throw. He completed 23 of 32 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was 94.7, nearly twice as high as last week's.

"I told him to just keep playing," Reid said. "He'll work through this. He has enough history to know what a great player he is, and that part hasn't changed. He has to keep battling and that's what he did."

Faced with legitimate doubt, Vick delivered a clutch performance. That was the dominant storyline in a game rife with fascinating subplots: Reid vs. former assistant John Harbaugh, Juan Castillo's defense against a legit quarterback, the replacement officials vs. competence. The Eagles came up on the right side in every case.

They have committed nine turnovers in two weeks. They have been called for 19 penalties.

Oh, and they are 2-0.

"It just goes to show how good we can be," Vick said. "It definitely shows how good our defense is. . . . We know how good we can be."

They believed themselves a good team after escaping Cleveland with a 17-16 victory. They gave everyone else reason to believe by beating a much better Baltimore team. There were mistakes and turnovers and penalties, but asterisks? Not this time around.


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan

 

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