The Philadelphia Eagles entered the 2012 season as darkhorse Super Bowl contenders, wholly contingent upon the play of quarterback Michael Vick. Through two games, the numbers don’t lie — things are looking grim for Michael. He’s leading the league in interceptions, and a patchwork offensive line hasn’t been able to protect his fragile frame. Vick’s been assaulted from all sides, hit 14 times behind the line of scrimmage already, and there seems to be a 100 percent chance that a rib-shattering blindside hit marks the beginning of the Nick Foles era in Philadelphia before the season is over.
But the Eagles are 2-0, and they just knocked off an AFC title favorite despite turning the ball over four times. But that doesn’t make sense. You must be lying. How is that possible?
Simply put: Michael Vick.
It’s been a season of anomalies for Vick and the Eagles, who despite winning two games by a single point, give the impression of a potentially dominant team. Or a disastrously disappointing team that will likely cost Andy Reid his job and may be hazardous to his health. One or the other, and it’s too early to tell.
In week 1, the Eagles coughed up the ball five times (including four Vick interceptions) and committed 12 penalties for a total of 110 yards, yet somehow won. Granted, the defense got some help from Brandon Weeden, but Vick redeemed himself with a game-winning fourth quarter drive to steal the game from the Browns.
The Eagles took the ball at their own 9 yard line with 6:25 remaining, and Vick engineered a sloppy (he was 6-for-12 through the air and had a fumble recovered), yet effective (47 passing yards, including a touchdown toss to Clay Harbor) march down the field. Vick’s final tallies: 29-for-56, 317 yards and four interceptions. He joined Gus Frerotte and Boomer Esiason as the only quarterbacks to attempt 55 or more passes, throw four picks and still win.
In the week 2 battle of birds against the much tougher Baltimore Ravens, the Eagles were laughable at times. On the opening drive of the game, Vick led the Eagles comfortably down the field, but was picked off in the endzone by Bernard Pollard. The Eagles would fumble and lose possession twice more in the red zone in the first half alone, and a botched punt with seconds left in the second quarter would allow a 56-yard Justin Tucker field goal that extended Baltimore’s lead to 17-7 by halftime.
The majority of the second half was a slog for both teams, but deep into the fourth quarter Vick summoned another go-ahead drive in a game the Eagles had no business winning. With under five minutes to play, Vick found DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek in succession to get across midfield, then turned a broken play into an 8-yard gain on the ground. Two more completions to tight ends and a roughing the passer penalty gave Philadelphia first-and-goal at the 3, and Vick punched it in three plays later with a 1-yard dive across the goal line.
Two absurd games, two fourth quarter comebacks, and Philadelphia is somehow undefeated and leading the NFC East. The Eagles are the third team in the Super Bowl era — and the first since the 1983 Los Angeles Rams — to turn the ball over nine times and start 2-0. They’re the second most penalized team in the league behind the Redskins.
Michael Vick is second in the league in passing yards, first in interceptions. Vick is on pace to throw 24 touchdowns and 48 interceptions this season, yet he’s the one indispensable player on Philadelphia’s roster, and his Eagles are averaging a stratospheric 471 yards of total offense a game.
The numbers are simultaneously incredible and frustrating, but are there two better words to describe Michael Vick?
The good news for Eagles fans is that Vick’s performances over the first two games stray from his historical averages. The four interception game against the Browns was just the third time in his career Vick threw more than two picks in a game, so it’s rational to believe the frequency of interceptions will return to normal (less than one per game). On the other hand, Vick doesn’t usually throw for the insane yardage he is this year. Prior to 2012, Vick had just eight 300-yard games in his 10-year career, so we can also rationally expect that he’ll stop slicing defenses apart through the air. If the first two weeks of the season have proven anything, though, it’s that Eagles are anything but rational.