The critics are out, in full force, poking holes in Michael Vick's game, questioning his skills as an all-around quarterback, wondering if he is good enough, complete enough to win in the NFL postseason. The rhetoric is in the streets, around office water coolers, on the talk shows. What has happened to Michael Vick?, they ask.
Let's get a sense of perspective here, folks. Calm down. View the entire body of work of Michael Vick this season, all 12 games, all 30 touchdowns he has accounted for, all 3,694 yards and, yes, all of the plays he would like to have back. And the inescapable conclusion is that Vick has been remarkable this season, dynamite, a player against whom defenses scheme like no other in the league.
Vick understands the great challenge waiting on Sunday. Green Bay's defense allowed the second-fewest points in the league in 2010, and any way you slice it the Packers are just really good, really sound and with veteran coordinator Dom Capers calling the shots, capable of showing almost anything from one play to the next. Green Bay likes to play nickel -- using one extra defensive back and one fewer linebacker -- so that cornerback Charles Woodson can play in the box and roam. He is devastating at the line of scrimmage and in coverage.
How do the Eagles attack Green Bay's defense? That is the question of the week for head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg as they huddle with Vick, as they formulate the script, as they put in motion the plan to take advantage of the Eagles' strengths.
Those strengths start with Vick.
Now, it is certainly true that the offense wasn't as 60-minute prolific in the month of December as it had been for most of the season with Vick as the starter. Philadelphia had to come from behind to defeat Houston, had to battle all game to win in Dallas, needed a football miracle in the fourth quarter at the Giants and then stumbled into a sack-fest and turnover-mangled loss to the Vikings. Vick, despite the struggles, accounted for 12 touchdowns -- 8 passing, 4 running -- in those four games.
So, the thinking here is, if Vick combines for 3 touchdowns on Sunday, the Eagles will be in pretty good shape offensively. We'll see ..
It is much more complicated that the sheer numbers, of course. The concern is that the Eagles haven't been as smooth and efficient in recent weeks as they have demonstrated at times this season. What happened in Washington is not likely to be duplicated -- not this year, not in many seasons -- but the Eagles want to reach that level again. Of course they do.
They aren't going to score 50 points on the Packers on Sunday. Green Bay is too solid in its scheme and the foundation to have a game filled with breakdowns. The Eagles are going to have to be patient. They are going to have to be secure with the football. And they are going to have to keep Vick clean to allow him to do his magical thing.
In the loss to Minnesota, even with the three turnovers and the six sacks, Vick accounted for 326 yards of offense (263 passing, 63 rushing) and a pair of touchdowns. There was far too much pressure, yes, and Vick dropped his eyes and reacted to the blitz too often, and the entire offense didn't adjust to the corner blitz from Antoine Winfield, and Vick's accuracy was not nearly good enough, and those are lessons to be learned.
But to think that Vick has regressed sharply, or that he has reverted to his "old ways" is just ridiculous. It is premature. Vick is a yardage-generating machine with the kind of versatility that adds to the explosive aspect of the offense heading into the postseason. If there is a concern, it is that the Eagles are leaning too heavily on Vick. Perhaps, the suggestion goes, they need to put the ball in the belly of running back LeSean McCoy and establish him early in the game.
There is no question that Vick is in the bull's eye of the Packers defensive hunting. They know that if Vick goes wild, this offense will be difficult to contain. An entire game plan -- one totally different than Green Bay had in the opener in September -- is built around slowing the magical talents Vick brings to the field.
With his quad injury healing nicely -- don't worry, Vick will be every bit as fast and durable and elusive as he has ever been -- Vick is prepared to step back into the playoff spotlight as a starter for the first time since 2004. Those were the days when defenses figured that if they surrounded Vick and took away his scrambling that he would not beat them with his arm.
Perhaps that is what some people think now. Maybe the common theory is that if you blitz Vick enough times he will try to beat the pressure all by himself and stray outside the structure of the offense. We will see.
All I know is that the Eagles have one of the most lethal weapons in these playoffs playing quarterback on Sunday, and that Michael Vick's skills are a huge reason the Eagles can go out and beat Green Bay and live for another day.