With Game On the Line, Vick Comes Through

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael VickWhen observers discussed the difference in the 2010 and 2011 versions of Michael Vick all offseason, the conversations almost always focused on turnovers.

But there was another difference: his performance in the fourth quarter.

In 2010, Vick threw six touchdowns and no interceptions in the final 15 minutes of games. He led four fourth-quarter comebacks and engineered three game-winning drives. Last season, however, was a different story. Vick threw three touchdowns and three interceptions in the fourth. He led zero fourth-quarter comebacks and zero game-winning drives.

We’re only two games into the 2012 season, but so far, the results from Vick in crunch time are encouraging.

With 4:43 left and the Eagles down, 23-17, Vick and the offense took over at their own 20-yard-line. Two of the five offensive linemen who started the game – Jason Kelce and King Dunlap – were out with injuries. So was wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.

The man snapping the ball to Vick was Dallas Reynolds. In his first NFL action, he was looking up and seeing All-Pro Haloti Ngata looking back at him. Demetress Bell, whom the Eagles didn’t deem good enough to even dress in Week 1, was at left tackle.

It seemed like an unlikely set of circumstances, but somehow, everything clicked. The Eagles went 80 yards on 10 plays. Vick completed 4 of 5 passes for 70 yards and got in the end zone from 1 yard out.

“Going into the fourth quarter, I felt confident,” Vick said. “Obviously I’m saying to myself, here we go again. You never know how it’s going to pan our or what the outcome is going to be. You just look at your teammates. You look at your coaches, the people who depend on you – obviously we’re home and the crowd. You just want to get it done. It’s just another opportunity to be 2-0 and that’s what it all boils down to.”

On the final drive, Vick connected with tight end Brent Celek twice for 37 yards. Celek finished the game with eight catches for 157 yards.

“He was great,” Celek said, when asked to describe Vick’s demeanor in the huddle on the final drive. “He was a leader, just said ‘Let’s go, let’s win this thing. We can do this, and let’s help out our defense.”

It was not a perfect performance, but given the circumstances, and given how he struggled last week, it was pretty good. Vick finished 23-for-32 for 371 yards, a touchdown and a pair of interceptions. His 71.9 completion percentage was his second-highest as the Eagles starting quarterback. And he hit on big plays, a sign that the offense is clicking. Vick’s 11.6 yards per attempt number was his third-highest as the Birds’ starter.

“We all trust and believe in Mike,” Celek said. “What’s out there in the media and how he was perceived this past week, we just try not to think about that because Mike’s our quarterback. It was one game. We’ve got to move on. We had a few turnovers this week. Like I said, one of those was even my fault, so you can’t blame it all on Mike. The good thing is we as a team stuck together and fought it out, and Mike got the last touchdown for us.”

The one play Celek’s referencing is a pass Vick threw his way that bounced up in the air and was picked off. Celek, Vick and the rest of the offense seem to know they won’t be able to get away with turning the ball over for much longer.

“Just thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach as far as how many times we turned the ball over in two games,” Vick said. “We just have to do a better job at holding onto the football. I have to do a better job with my decision-making, and everything will work itself out. I believe in my guys outside. I believe in the guys in front of me. I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again. That’s what I truly believe.”