Vick playing tired

Posted: September 20, 2013

THE EAGLES retired No. 5 last night.

They won't be retiring No. 7 any time soon.

Maybe Michael Vick tried too hard on the night of his mentor's immortalization.

Maybe he wanted to impress Andy Reid, the best coach he ever had, the man who afforded Vick redemption.

Maybe he was just tired, playing his third game in 11 days at the most frenetic offensive pace in NFL history.

Maybe he was just due for a vintage Vick implosion.

On the night the Birds welcomed back Reid, now with the Chiefs, and retired Donovan McNabb's number, Vick threw two atrocious interceptions in the first half and sped the Eagles to their 26-16 loss.

Vick finished 13-for-30 for 201 yards with a touchdown, but those numbers were a bit deceptive.

He was worse.

He exited with 1 minute, 7 seconds to play, limping badly, his left leg apparently injured after absorbing a fifth sack. He fumbled on the play, his third turnover of the occasion.

He will have plenty of time to heal, and to learn. The Eagles played three times in 11 days. Now, they get 9 days off before traveling to Denver.

McNabb's greatest strength as a quarterback was not his crazy legs, nor his strong arm, nor his early mastery of a complex offensive scheme. McNabb's strength was his reluctance to throw into coverage; his abhorrence of turning the ball over. His interception percentage ranks fourth all-time.

Vick's greatest weakness always has been his polar-opposite bent. Vick will launch a sizzling missile at anyone, any time. Last night was his 19th multiple-interception game in 105 starts. The fumble happened on the Eagles' final play, and because Vick carried the ball carelessly; another bugaboo in his career.

The first interception sapped his team's spirit: He stared down tight end Brent Celek, which allowed linebacker (and former teammate) Akeem Jordan to jump the route and deflect the pass so teammate Eric Berry could snag it and run 38 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead less than 4 minutes into the game.

The second again helped the Chiefs make it a 10-point lead. Vick came off covered DeSean Jackson and threw, flatfooted, at Riley Cooper, but behind him. Sean Smith picked that one off at the Chiefs' 39, and it led to a field goal and a 16-6 lead late in the second quarter.

There would have been a third pick, in the third quarter, but for a blown illegal contact call (Celek collided downfield with an unsuspecting defender).

Vick repeatedly opted for lumbering Cooper deep, when better options existed underneath. He threw short, he threw flatfooted, he threw lazy balls.

He ran five times for 95 yards, twice thrillingly. The first, for 61 yards, led to the Eagles' first-quarter touchdown, Vick to Jason Avant. The second, for 24 yards, flipped the field at the end of the quarter.

But he played tired.

So did his line; especially the tackles.

Center Jason Kelce snapped one into his own derriere, the Eagles' third of four turnovers in the first half.

Really, both teams played a fatigued, sloppy brand of football. Chip Kelly went for two in the first quarter. Reid had formation and clock-management issues. Vick's mistakes were just the most noticeable; because, always, he is the most noticeable, for better or worse.

Vick had four passes that never reached the line of scrimmage, either batted or deflected.

Usually, Vick has the footwork of Muhammad Ali. Last night, he channeled Gerry Cooney. He was sacked five times.

Never has anyone questioned Vick's heart. He kept firing, and he kept running.

His 14-yard third-down scramble in the fourth quarter set up LeSean McCoy's 41-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 23-16, but, again, the key pass - 20 yards to Avant - was all Avant, one-handed and diving.

Fittingly, Vick's last significant play - a shot over the middle - was behind Avant, and nearly was intercepted.

He entered the game having not thrown an interception all season; but then, he entered the game having not faced a defense of the Chiefs' caliber.

He entered with the third-best passer rating in the NFL. He compiled a 49.4 rating last night.

It was his worst game since the catastrophic 2011 loss in Arizona.

With apologies to Kelly, his new coach, Vick, an icon for a generation, was the third biggest deal at Lincoln Financial Field last night.

McNabb was eloquent and sincere.

Reid was bumbling, if effective.

Vick?

His No. 7 remains safe for posterity.


On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

hayesm@phillynews.com

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