For the 56,688 fans that packed Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday September 19, 2010 they were not only treated to a captivating NFL showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions, they were witness to redemption coming full circle for one of the most beleaguered NFL superstars of this generation.
On this one Sunday, for 60 minutes, redemption was spelled V-I-C-K as Michael Vick gave the NFL world a glimpse as to just why he was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the number one overall selection 9 years ago in the 2001 NFL entry draft.
The evolution of Vick from a run-first quarterback to a player who uses his legs to keep plays alive inside and outside of the pocket was not the only thing evident as he amassed 284 passing yards and 2 touchdowns while completing 21-34 passes; a 62 percent clip for those keeping track.
It was his ability to lead a group of his peers, who once shunned him, at the highest level that came across as one of the most impressive feats in Sunday’s back-and-forth battle.
Trailing by 10 points, after surrendering 17 unanswered points, all signs pointed to Detroit entering halftime with a commanding lead and spoiling Vick’s first NFL start since week 17 of the 2006 season.
While the stage was set for a disappointment, that was not the way this chapter of the Vick saga would end.
After 18 plays, 163 yards, and 5:22 of game time, the Vick-led Eagles entered halftime with a 14-point flurry that saw them take a 21-17 lead and knock the wind out of the raucous Detroit crowd.
The Eagles scored the only points of the third quarter on LeSean McCoy 4-yard touchdown run, and struck again in the fourth quarter on a 46-yard gallop by McCoy; McCoy finished the game with 120 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns, he also caught 4 balls out of the backfield.
The Lions showed how far they have come after years of dismal performances by not going quietly into the night after surrendering 28-unanswered points, but the 15-points they were able to accumulate in the games final 5 minutes was not enough as Philadelphia hung on for a 35-32 victory.
The story of the game though goes back to Vick, who for just the second time in his career registered back-to-back games with a passer rating over 100, and gave Eagles fans flashbacks of a young Donovan McNabb.
As the days blended into weeks, and the weeks blended into months, one can’t help but think that this was the kind of game Vick dreamt about while serving his 18-month prison sentence for the charges he was convicted of for his role in an underground dog-fighting ring.
The road back for Vick was long, and Vick shared with reporters that he reflected often on that journey back, "I thought about it this morning on the bus ride over," he said softly. "It's been a long road for me. It's been tough. Throughout it all, I had to be resilient and overcome a lot of adversity and self-inflicted wounds."
For as sweet as this victory was, not just for Philadelphia, but for Vick himself, it now comes across as bittersweet with the announcement coming Monday that Kevin Kolb would be the starter next week against Jacksonville barring any setbacks in his recovery from a concussion suffered in week one loss to the Packers.
Vick, a 3-time pro-bowler during his 6 seasons with Atlanta, showed just how far he has evolved as not only a player, but a person when asked about coach Andy Reid’s decision to name Kolb the starter for next Sunday.
Vick shared in a Sportscenter interview that he was “OK” with Kevin Kolb reclaiming the reigns as the Eagles starter and that he was their “Leader”.
“I came into this season and this year as the backup and that’s been my mindset,” Vick said. “I’ve been working hard to be reliable whenever I’m needed. That’s the way it is, and the way it’s gonna be throughout the season.”
It would have been easy for the one-time megastar to openly throw fuel on the seemingly emerging qb controversy in Philadelphia, but Vick is doing something that other greats in the game do so very well and that’s allowing his on-field performance to speak for itself while showing the true culmination of his character as being a team-player.
"I know how good he is, and what he can do," Vick said. "He's gonna lead us and we're gonna follow."
Kolb knows with the stellar play of Vick that the pressure will be on him to perform next week against Jacksonville, and a fan-base as hostile as that of Philadelphia will have high expectations of the man that upper management thought so highly of as to trade away Donovan McNabb, who led the team to 5 NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance in the past decade.
As this decision is scrutinized, analyzed, and criticized across the board as to whether or not this is truly the best decision for the Eagles, the players and fans both know that a coach as tried and true as Andy Reid will keep the best interest of his team at heart.
When asked about Coach Reid‘s decision and Vick‘s supportive words, Kolb told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "I appreciate [Vick's support], but I got to prove it, too. That's the competitive nature of everybody. ... Andy's loyal to everybody and he's a trustworthy guy. He does what's right for the team always. And I appreciate the words that Mike has said."
Patience will be short in Philadelphia, the leash may be just as short if Kolb fails to live up to expectations with a man who still ranks amongst some of the best athletes in the game today waiting, again, for his chance in the spotlight.
Vick knows that every snap he takes is an audition for a potential starting job somewhere else in this league, and so far with 459 passing yards, a 64 percent completion percentage, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions, 140 rushing yards, and a passer rating of 105.5 in 2 games of work, the former Hokie has proven he can still be a number one quarterback at this level.
The 30-year old is hopeful that he will get a chance to be a number one somewhere in the NFL, "Hopefully, somebody will give me that opportunity [next year] and if they give me that opportunity, they'll get 110 percent," Vick said.
Certainly the fan bases in Minnesota, San Francisco, Arizona, Cleveland, Buffalo, or Oakland would welcome the 110 percent Vick would give if it were anything close to that which has given in Philadelphia, but one thing is for certain…
…for now at least…
Vick will wait…as he has done…for his opportunity to prove why he was once one of the most feared offensive weapons in the league.
And when that opportunity comes, if recent history is any indication, with a new demeanor, a more refined skill set, and a new lease on life…Superman is sure to soar once again.