DETROIT -- The game was over and Michael Vick accepted thanks from two, three, seven members of the Lions, his brothers in this NFL fraternity, all of whom followed Vick's journey from the top of the world, to the low of a jail cell and now, on this glorious day in Detroit, back up the ladder again. Vick started for the Eagles on Sunday, led the team to a 35-32 win over the Lions and then with great humility thanked all who helped him on his improbable voyage to this point.
He made sure that the Eagles organization started the list, followed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former NFL coach Tony Dungy, a mentor and friend. He thanked, above all, "the Lord, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" and, well, he meant it. Vick meant every word. On a day when Vick completed 21 of 34 passes for 284 yards and 2 touchdowns, added 7 rushes for 34 yards and spun out of trouble on at least a half-dozen occasions, Vick spoke with great clarity and precision and tone as he gingerly navigated his way through a minefield of questions.
"It was great being out there today. It was great just having the opportunity to make some plays for this team, to make more positive plays than negative plays. That was our primary goal. We started off slow, but we were able to fight back.
"I'm glad to be standing here, in this place, helping the team win and fighting with this team the way we fought today," said Vick. "It is an unbelievable feeling to have."
Vick, who said he played the game in his mind hundreds of time during the days before the kickoff, was every bit as dazzling on Sunday as he was at any time during the early stages of his NFL career, when he was drafted first overall by Atlanta and turned that franchise around to the point where it reached the NFL Championship Game in 2004. Vick faced dozens of Detroit blitzes from every angle and he magically spun away from pressure, threw from impossible angles and kept his balance to help the Eagles erase a 17-7 deficit to win their first game of what promises to be an extraordinary -- in every way -- 2010 season.
"I looked at him like, 'How did you make that play?" ' said running back LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 120 yards and 3 touchdowns. "He was amazing."
The story was worth the wait, then. Vick has accepted his role with the Eagles -- he returns to the backup role when Kevin Kolb is healthy and starting again, likely next week in Jacksonville -- and so this performance very well be a one-and-done starting assignment. Otherwise, Vick will back up Kolb, work into the game in his packages and hopefully help the Eagles win big this season.
There is no quarterback controversy. Andy Reid was adament once again when he said that Kolb would be the starter in Jacksonville, if he is healthy enough to go. Kolb is expected to practice on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex.
For one day in front of a stunned Detroit crowd at Ford Field, Vick was pure magic.
"It is God-given ability. Sometimes I do things that I don't even know I'm doing," said Vick. "Guys come to me on the sideline and ask, 'Did you know this guy was coming?' I don't know. I just react. I see things and God blessed me the the ability, the vision to see the field. I use that effectively and I just have to give all the glory to God and thank him for the opportunity to put me this position to play."
The Eagles needed every bit of Vick's mobility, his off-balance throws, his seemingly impossible escapes from trouble, because Detroit kept coming and coming, led by a little butt-kicker of a rookie running back named Javid Best, who accounted for 232 total yards and 3 touchdowns. The Eagles were way too sloppy in this game -- 9 more penalties, poor play on special teams and an absolutely scary final five minutes during which Detroit scored two touchdowns and recovered an onsides kick and had the ball with a chance to tie or win -- and we will talk about that during the week ahead. Everyone here knows there is a lot to clean up, a lot to improve upon.
For this day -- a long one, at that -- Vick was the headline story and everyone knew it. The national media came out to cover him. The Lions sold 2,000 tickets late in the week to avoid a blackout, and there was certainly a pro-Eagles and pro-Vick voice in the stadium. And each and every player felt great for Vick, who has taken such an important step back in his career.
"I felt like I had a great performance, but I have to go back and look at the film and see how I can improve," said Vick. "It was a lot of fun out there. I felt great and we had a great game plan. It's just nice to get out of here with a win. It was tough."
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Another excellent game for rookie safety Nate Allen, who intercepted a pass in the end zone to end Detroit's first drive and who played a very fine deep coverage game. Allen is going to be a good one. He has an excellent knack for the football and he has tremendous instincts.
- Good performance from Ellis Hobbs, who had a key interception. The Eagles were able to match up against wide receiver Calvin Johnson, caught was a target 11 times and who had 4 catches for 50 yards. The coverage was not as good on tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who 7 passes for 108 yards, or Best, who is one of the most electrifying rookies in the league.
- Sav Rocca was the highlight on special teams, averaging 48.7 yards on seven punts, with a net of 41 yards. He is crushing the football.
- Defensive end Brandon Graham was all smiles after the game – and after his X rays were negative. He made his homecoming worth remembering with a sack and a couple of tackles. ""It was great to see all of my friends and family back home, coming here as an NFL player,"" he said. ""They were so proud of me. We came in here and won the game and that's what matters. It was a great weekend for me.""
- The offensive line really struggled against the non-stop Detroit blitzing, something that will have to be cleaned up for future weeks. Vick was hit often and he was able to spin out of trouble. Teams are going to continue to go after the Eagles and the offensive line. Detroit had 6 sacks and would have had several more against a less-mobile quarterback.
- That said, center Mike McGlynn did an outstanding job up front with his communication and his work inside. He has made excellent strides.
- One of the most bizarre change of possessions happened in the first quarter when the Eagles pinned Detroit's offense at its 1-yard line, forcing a punt. Nik Harris punted 66 yards and DeSean Jackson had a return of 8 yards to the Eagles 41-yard line. But Kurt Coleman was penalized for holding and the Eagles started the drive at their 23-yard line. Then Vick was sacked on first down and then a penalty backed up the Eagles to their 10-yard line. Ultimately, Rocca punted – 53 yards – but another Coleman penalty (for taunting) gave the Lions possession at the Philadelphia 43-yard line and the Lions were able to drive 12 yards to set up Jason Hanson for a field goal and a 10-7 lead. Terrible turn of events for the Eagles.
- The offense scored touchdowns on all three trips inside the red zone, making the Eagles 5 of 6 this season in red zone touchdown efficiency.
- Jeremy Maclin isn't getting a lot of attention, but he should. He has a touchdown in each game and has been clutch in the red zone.
- Nice job by newcomers Owen Schmitt (2 catches, 21 yards) and Garrett Mills (1 catch, 14 yards). Both fit in very nicely into an offense that featured 9 players to catch at least one pass.