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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The end of the fourth quarter, game-winning drive is to football as the last-second, game-winning shot is to basketball. Probably over-hyped and less important than we give it credit for, but a defining characteristic none the less.
It did not matter how John Elway played for three and a half quarters, because his career is defined by the times he led the team to a win in the final minutes. It doesn’t matter how many fall away jumpers Kobe Bryant misses in the second quarter, with a hand in his face, while his teammates stand wide open, as long as he makes the one in the final seconds to win the game.
This might not be fair, but this is how we do it. We love the drama. The drama is why we love sports. The numbers tell the truth, but the narrative is far more important in our memories.
Stats are great, but man we love clutch.
Yesterday, like it or not, Michael Vick was clutch.
This type of narrative was never better exhibited than in Tim Tebow’s 2011 season as quarterback for the Broncos. It didn’t matter that his numbers were terrible, it mattered that the kid just “found a way to win in the end.”
Yesterday’s Eagles game sort of reminded me of when you’re playing Madden, against someone you know is inferior so you don’t quite concentrate. It’s near the end of the game, and you’re down, get a little tense, and then find a way to win. You just can’t lose to this guy.
Vick was not going to allow the Eagles to lose that game.
After starting the game 6-6 in yesterday’s ugly, ugly win over the Browns, Michael Vick stunk. Yes, the offensive line didn’t play well, and yes Andy Reid chose to throw the ball far too many times; but Michael Vick stunk. Vick did things that are obvious no-no’s all afternoon long. He threw into triple coverage, across his body into the middle of the field, and held the ball too long. He looked skittish and unsure of himself.
Michael Vick looked horrible yesterday, until the final drive of the game.
With six minutes to go, down six points to quite possibly the worst team in the NFL, Vick led a 91-yard, five minute drive down the field that resulted in a touchdown pass to Clay Harbor, and a sigh of relief for the Eagles. He did throw a ball that was nearly intercepted … nearly.
I can’t help but think that if this happened from afar, like Matt Stafford’s performance for the Lions yesterday, or if it was someone like Ben Roethlisberger, we in Philadelphia would point to the drive and say “we want a guy who will do that. A guy will do whatever it takes to win.”
Vick is probably the most polarizing figure in my life following Philadelphia sports. Just the mere mention of his name brings out the worst in people. So much so that when I post a Vick story on Facebook, I won’t look at the comments. The Michael Vick discussion is like one of those heated political debates that no one likes, but everyone finds a way to comment on. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the thing that we’d notice most if it was someone else, gets buried for Vick. I’m not saying it’s unfair or unexpected, I’m just saying it sort of blurs our view of reality.
Perhaps the final drive will be properly defined when the story of the 2012 Eagles is written. If this year is a success, it becomes the kind of win good teams find a way to get, even when they’re not playing well. If it’s a failure, well, this game will be a shining example of why we should have seen it coming.
Michael Vick was horrible for three quarters of yesterday’s game, and that’s absolutely a concern. But Michael Vick came through in the clutch, and for that we should be thankful.