LANDOVER, Md. -- The Philadelphia Eagles entered the 2013 regular season as perhaps the most fascinating team in the NFL, with all kinds of intrigue and questions surrounding how new head coach Chip Kelly's offense would work at the professional level. While one of the questions was answered when Michael Vick won the starting quarterback competition during Training Camp, nobody was sure how the offense would look, and how Vick would perform, when the team finally had to take the field against the Washington Redskins. Despite an early fumble on what was ruled a backwards pass that led to Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall returning the ball 75 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead, Vick executed Kelly's up-tempo, breakneck offense to perfection and led a well-oiled, precise unit that kept a gassed Redskins defense on its heels.
"I just like what we do, and I feel confident and comfortable with everything that Coach Kelly calls," Vick said. "We sit down and go through the game plan and try to make sure that everyone understands what we're trying to do, and it doesn't get any better than that. We just have to keep working and continue to work on our tempo and doing things fast and making sure that we're on top of everything."
Vick played within himself, made smart decisions with the football and unfurled some beautiful throws, particularly on two touchdowns. On the first, the Eagles offense started at the Redskins' 25-yard line thanks to the defense forcing a fumble on the Redskins' first offensive play from scrimmage. The call was a play-action pass, with wide receiver DeSean Jackson lined up split wide to the right. Jackson ran a post route to the middle of the field and got open in the back of the end zone. After faking the handoff to running back LeSean McCoy, Vick planted his back foot nine yards behind the line of scrimmage. He stepped up into a clean pocket and manipulated the safety with his eyes by looking right before launching a gorgeous strike that traveled nearly 40 yards in the air. The ball hit Jackson between the numbers for the Eagles' first touchdown of the season and a 10-7 lead.
The second touchdown throw was probably Vick's most impressive of the game. On 2nd-and-7, with under seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Eagles found themselves at the Redskins' 28-yard-line. The offense lined up in the shotgun formation, with McCoy next to Vick, two wide receivers left, one right, and tight end Brent Celek in-line to the right. Vick faked a handoff to McCoy to freeze the linebackers. After a brief moment where it looked like he might take off and run, Vick stepped back and stood tall in the pocket; with a defensive lineman lunging at him, Vick threw off his back foot and rifled a perfect pass to Celek over the middle in between two defenders, one of whom came within centimeters of getting his hand on the ball. Celek corralled the pass at the 9-yard-line, broke a tackle and rumbled into the end zone to give the Eagles a 19-7 lead.
"I think it was a good play fake because the (line)backers bit really fast and then as soon as I got behind them Mike made a good throw," Celek said. "It was a great play call right in that time, especially with those (line)backers coming up like that."
On the night, Vick went 15-for-25 for 203 yards and two touchdowns, but he also made plays with his legs. As he showed throughout Training Camp and preseason, the dynamic quarterback is still a threat as a runner and will make defenses pay for giving him room. Against the Redskins, he finished with nine rushes for 54 yards, including a three-yard touchdown plunge to put the Eagles up 26-7 and an enormous 36-yard scramble in the fourth quarter after the Redskins had cut to the score to 33-20 and seized all the momentum. Occasionally, Vick even showed a willingness to block when McCoy reversed field.
On a sticky late summer night in suburban Maryland, Kelly's Eagles opened the 2013 regular season with a transcendent performance that will have the entire city abuzz. Vick was brilliant, showing that he is more than capable of piloting what has a chance to be one of the league's most dynamic offenses.
"It was a crazy game, I've never been a part of anything like it," Vick said. "I think tonight everybody had an opportunity to see exactly what Coach has been trying to preach to us over the last three months."
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider.