Michael Vick has had bigger wins in his career. But perhaps none was more needed than Sunday against the pedestrian Cleveland Browns.
The Eagles were supposed to handle the Browns with ease, and yet, primarily because Vick was awful with four interceptions, Cleveland held a late-game lead. But Vick rebounded before it was too late, engineering an 11th-hour drive that produced a 4-yard touchdown pass to Clay Harbor with 1:18 left, saving the Eagles, 17-16.
Mostly, Vick saved himself from an avalanche of criticism.
”When you throw interceptions,” Vick said, ”it’s one thing. But when you throw an interception for a touchdown and it changes the dynamic of the game, you look up at the scoreboard and now you’re losing, you feel a sense of dissatisfaction.
”I have a responsibility to this team and that’s to lead them, not to hurt them.”
Vick hurt the Eagles most when he threw his fourth interception early in the fourth quarter and it was returned 27 yards for a touchdown by Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who somersaulted the final few yards into the end zone as Cleveland fans flipped out in the stands thinking an upset was possible.
But with the Eagles down 16-10, Vick marched them 91 yards for the go-ahead TD on his career-high 56th pass. Before that, the superstar showed that missing all but 12 snaps during the preseason because of injuries was indeed a big deal.
”The great thing about it was nobody pointed fingers,” said Vick, who finished 29 of 56 for 317 yards. ”Everybody just stuck together and encouraged one another. We got out of here 1-0, and that’s what’s important.”
But even on that final drive there were flaws. Vick recovered his own fumble on a third-down scramble, and one play before his TD pass to Harbor, Browns rookie linebacker L.J. Fort let what could have been a game-clinching interception slip out of his hands.
”He’s got a lot of courage, man,” wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. ”We worked so hard throughout the offseason and through training camp just to come out on fire and set this team up for a long year and great success. Sometimes, it doesn’t always work that way.
”But you could see that he fought back. He kept making plays. Regardless of him being down on himself, everybody was saying, ‘We will still ride with you.’ It was a good situation to see him come back and make a game-winning throw.”