With all the talk about Peyton Manning's sublime performance to this point in the season, Michael Vick is flying under the radar a bit going into Sunday afternoon's game. Though he respects and admires Manning, Vick has gotten off to a pretty good start and thrust himself back into the conversation as one of the NFL's better quarterbacks.
"I know I'm a pretty good quarterback," Vick said. "I understand why Peyton is getting the praise that he gets, I even praise him from afar. He's playing lights-out football. It's something that you can't overlook. It's something that you have to stare dead-on. You accept it. In a way, in a sense, we all kind of appreciate it. That's what the game is all about."
Manning has been incredible at home as a Denver Bronco, posting a quarterback rating over 100.0 in eight of 11 games including playoffs and leading the offense to at least 30 points in 10 of those games. The Eagles offense will have to put on a show of its own in order to keep up, and it needs Vick to bounce back from his lackluster performance against the Kansas City Chiefs and play like he did against the Washington Redskins and the San Diego Chargers.
"I think we can," Vick said of matching the Broncos offense. "I think for the most part we've shot ourselves in the foot and still have had opportunities to score 30-plus points in all three games we've played. So the optimism is there, we know what we have, we know what we can do, we know how to execute it. And it's just all about putting it all together. It'll come for us at some point."
The last time Manning and Vick squared off was Week 9 of the 2010 NFL season, a game which the Eagles defeated the Indianapolis Colts 26-24. Vick outplayed his counterpart that day, en route to 17-of-29 passing for 218 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions for a 93.7 quarterback rating, to go along with 10 rushes for 74 yards and another touchdown. As Vick recalled, the key for him was consistency, protecting the ball and taking advantage of opportunities.
"I was consistent all the way through (the game)," Vick recalled. "We didn't turn the ball over. Anytime you play against Peyton, you have to capitalize on every opportunity, and I think we were able to do that. We had a great game plan. We were at home, the crowd was great, everything was great, the atmosphere was good, and we were able to put it all together. It was probably one of my better games, but that was so long ago."
While a similar showing from Vick would be wonderful this time around, that game was a lifetime ago by NFL standards, and the circumstances have changed dramatically. Manning is with a different team, directing an offense stocked with explosive weapons, and the Eagles must go on the road against a notoriously difficult home opponent. Then again, this is a totally different Eagles team, too, with a potent offense that feels it can go toe-to-toe with anyone and come out on top.
"We just have to focus on what we can do," Vick said. "(Do not) put the pressure on ourselves to score points, and just take it one drive at a time. That's what we're going to do, that's what we're planning for. We're extremely confident in what we can do, and we accept the fact that it's going to be a tough game."
After the Chiefs forced a bunch of turnovers and held the Eagles to just 16 points by relying on its defensive front to generate pressure and playing press man coverage with safety help over the top to contain wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the offense should expect to see a similar scheme employed by the Broncos. That means other players have to elevate their game, and Vick has to help make that happen.
"When teams take DeSean away, others guys have to step up," Vick said. "That's just the way the game is. Every great receiver gets double-covered with safety over the top or linebacker underneath, whatever it may be. It's up to other guys to find ways to get open, and it's up to me to find them."
In that vein, perhaps against the Broncos is when head coach Chip Kelly will get more creative with personnel groupings and unleash multiple tight ends on the field at the same time. During the offseason, Kelly emphasized the utility of the tight end and how the position would be such an integral part of his offense. Through three games, that has not been the case. The offense has overwhelmingly come out in one-tight end formations, and the tight ends have accounted for only eight total receptions for 148 yards (Brent Celek and Zach Ertz each accounting for four catches for 74 yards). Vick preached patience, cautioned against overreacting to a small sample size and hinted that their time is coming.
"We've only played three games," Vick said. "There's still a lot of season left. There's still a lot of time to get guys involved, get the tight ends involved. You're going to be surprised at what you see. I really can't say, but I do know it's a long season with a lot of football left to play."
However it is achieved, the offense must have its best performance to date on Sunday in order to vanquish the mighty Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson will lead the way, but other players must rise to the occasion and have breakout games of their own.
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