Philadelphia (CBS)—The quiet force felt it was time to speak up. Michael Vick usually has a soothing, reflective side his younger teammates can lean on, not overly demonstrative in the huddle or on the sideline. Thursday night, however, was different. The superstar quarterback saw things slipping, felt the momentum and shift of the game slowly fading out of the Eagles’ grasp.
It was time he spoke up. It was time he made his feelings known. It was time the Eagles changed the course of a game that was taking a scary spin out of control. It was time for Michael Vick.
Vick rallied the Eagles to two fourth-quarter touchdowns in rebounding to beat the Houston Texans, 34-24, at Lincoln Financial Field. With the victory, the Eagles regain first place in the NFC East, improving to 8-4, while Houston fell to 5-7.
More importantly, it showed the Eagles can respond to adversity, an area that they’ve sorely been lacking in loses to Tennessee and on Sunday against Chicago.
Philadelphia will now have 10 days respite before it plays again before a national TV audience, traveling to Dallas, which beat the Eagles three times last year, on Sunday, Dec. 12. The Eagles find themselves in a nice position heading to Dallas, with four games remaining against teams that have a combined record of 17-27—counting the woeful 3-8 Cowboys twice.
But if not for Vick bringing the Eagles back from a 24-20 early fourth-quarter deficit, scoring on a 2-yard sneak, followed by Vick’s 5-yard scoring pass to Owen Schmitt to seal the win with 4:18 remaining, who knows where the Eagles would be.
“You get down, knowing you should be winning the game,” said Vick, who’s taken a pounding this season. “Instinctively, my job is to motivate and not make this harder than what it is. I think the guys see me get up time after time and they feel responsible. Sometimes when I get hit, that motivates me.
“This win was very satisfying, just putting together the drives after going down by four. I just told the guys that now is the time to put it all together and come out and make plays I know we can make. Let’s be efficient, let’s be smart and win this football game and they did. I wanted the guys to believe in themselves, because I have all the belief in the world in them. I try to encourage them and keep them upbeat and keep them confident.”
The Houston victory arrived a little more difficult than the final score would indicate. For the fifth time this season, the Eagles were penalized 10 times or more. They were flagged 11 times for 85 yards against the Texans, with one penalty, an offsides call against Trevor Laws, which prolonged a Houston drive that resulted in a Texans’ touchdown at the outset of the third quarter.
There were a number of positives, starting with Vick, who finished completing 22 of 33 for 302 yards, a pair of touchdowns and an interception (and a 103.3 quarterback ratings). Vick did a nice job spreading the ball around, going to six different receivers.
Defensively, the Eagles continue to create turnovers. Laws had an interception in the first half that led to an Eagles’ score and Nate Allen forced a fumble that Darryl Tapp recovered, negating any possible Houston comeback.
Though for the second-straight game, the Eagles had their problems in the third quarter. In Sunday’s 31-26 loss to Chicago, the Bears reeled off a 17-play, 10-minute, and 5-second drive to take control of the game. Against Houston, the Texans scored on their two third-quarter possessions and took a 24-20 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Houston dominated the third quarter, grinding up 12:34 off the clock and ran 24 plays (showing great balance in running 13 times and passing 11 times). In the third quarter alone, Houston amassed 165 yards of offense to the Eagles’ 34. The Eagles ran just six plays, with Vick tossing his second interception of the season, leading to Arian Foster’s 3-yard scoring run and Houston’s first—and only—lead of the game, 24-20, with :50 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles needed to refocus. It was a concern coach Andy Reid let his team know about in no uncertain terms after the Chicago loss.
“I think that this was a tough week,” said Eagles’ tailback LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 44 yards on 12 carries, including two first-half touchdowns. “We had a short week and Andy got on us a bit to get our focus back. We came out tonight, got a lead and then went down, but we battled back on both sides of the ball. We held them on defense and then went and put some points in the board. I think our mindset has changed a bit. I think we are confident, but we know we need to prove it. I think that is the message that Coach wanted us to get.”
It seemed the message came through in the first half. But in a first half full of offense, it was a defensive player that made the big play—and it came in an unlikely manner. Eagles’ defensive tackle Laws intercepted a Matt Schaub pass that led to a late second-quarter field goal, giving the Eagles a 20-10 halftime lead.
Vick had an impressive half, completing 15 of 22 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. He was also the victim of a couple of potential touchdown passes dropped by Jason Avant and Brent Celek in the waning second of the first half.
McCoy scored twice in the first half, one receiving, one rushing, and had 34 yards rushing on five carries, averaging over six yards a carry.
The Eagles scored on their first three possessions, leading at one time, 17-3. But the defenses of both teams appeared nonexistent, as the Texans went right up the field after David Akers booted a 36-yard field goal with 9:35 left in the half.
Houston needed eight plays to go 80 yards, the big play of the drive came on a Schaub-to-Andre Johnson 42-yard completion. Johnson was wide open on the play, bringing the ball to the Eagles’ 11. Two plays later, Schaub hit Jacoby Jones with an 8-yard TD.
The Eagles scored on their first two possessions, a pair of 11-play drives that chewed up a combined 12:29 off the clock. The first score came on a 1-yard toss from Vick to McCoy and McCoy’s second TD was a 4-yard dart through the middle.
For the second-straight game, the Eagles played without All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel, who is out with a knee injury, and at times it was glaring in the Eagles’ secondary.
Chicago’s Jay Cutler looked like an all-pro last week, and Johnson, who is an all-pro, caught six passes for 149 yards, averaging 24.9 yards a catch.
“The guys just rallied,” Reid said. “When they normally out their mind to something, as professional athletes, it usually gets done. This is all about us as a team, we win as a team and we lose as a team. We played through some adversity, because we were all a little embarrassed last week. The players, the coaches, everyone.”
A voice that is rarely audible changed that Thursday night. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Michael Vick’s play has been very loud this entire season.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito