With all of the Peyton Manning talk this week, and the conversations about the way the Eagles will try to match up with him defensively, Michael Vick has an agenda of his own. He is coming off a two-interception, one-fumble loss to Kansas City 10 days ago, and no matter how you slice it, and no matter how the coaches filter the blame throughout the entire offense, Vick wasn't pleased with his performance.
He had played two outstanding games in Weeks 1 and 2, beating Washington and then falling just short against San Diego. In those two games, Vick made great decisions, had ball security at the top of his priority list, threw with good timing and accuracy ... and the offense hummed.
Kansas City did an excellent job taking Vick out of his comfort zone. The Chiefs varied their pass rush and their coverages, and they won the battle at the line of scrimmage. Vick was rushed. He never found any kind of rhythm.
The result: Four offensive turnovers and only 16 points in a 10-point defeat.
Today is a new challenge, then. Vick has seen the film from Kansas City and he stewed over what he saw. It wasn't the Michael Vick from the previous two weeks. How does he get that back against a Denver team that is 3-0, is averaging more than 40 points per game on offense, and that puts an enormous amount of pressure on the opposing team's offense to score a lot of points to even stay in the game?
Vick needs to be just about perfect today for the Eagles to have a chance to win. He is playing in a loud, hostile environment against a defense that plays fast. The Broncos know that the best way to defeat this offense is to hurry Vick and get their hands up in his passing lanes and make him hold the football.
This is Vick's day, then. The Eagles need him in the worst way to be at his best and to command the offense and to take what the defense is giving this scheme. Can Denver take away DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy and Vick's' scrambling? Can the Eagles get the tight ends more involved in the offense? Is there anyone on this offense who strikes the fear of vertical threat other than Jackson?
Is this the day the Eagles control the football and play move-the-chains offense? Would head coach Chip Kelly slow the tempo?
Kelly can change and alter the way he approaches offense all he want as long as Vick is on his game. And the thing with Vick, his early-game performance is so often a barometer for how his 60 minutes plays out. Vick was 5 of 12 with two interceptions and four sacks in the first half against Kansas City. He tossed an interception that was returned for a touchdown on the first offensive possession and also added a beautiful touchdown pass to Jason Avant. Vick completed just 1 of 6 passes in the second quarter of that loss.
Compare those numbers with the first-half numbers from the San Diego game (10 of 16, 201 yards and a touchdown) and the victory at Washington (13 of 21, 190 yards, 2 touchdowns as well as a touchdown run) and you understand how important it is for Vick to come out of the gates strong today.
Plus, let's face it, the Eagles just can't afford to fall behind to Manning and the Broncos. If that happens, this extremely difficult task becomes Mt. Everest-like. The Eagles are better served if they can forge an early advantage and at least take some of Manning's options away.
It depends on everyone for that to happen, but it largely falls on Vick's shoulders. He's the quarterback. He's the player around whom Denver plans its defense.
Vick has to battle the noise, the road conditions, the understanding that Manning is going to get his and Denver is going to score some points, plus the scheme the Broncos put in place -- and have his best game of the season.
This is the kind of game that can get Vick and the Eagles right back where they need to be with two road games still to go in this three-game stretch. The quarterback on the visiting sideline today is just as much in the spotlight as is Manning, who has been as perfect as can be through three games. Vick needs that kind of Grade-A-plus performanc for the Eagles to win a big game away from home today.