Remember the 2004 NFC Championship Game? Between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles?
If your memory needs refreshing, this was the game that propelled the Eagles into the Super Bowl for only the second time in team history.
This was the game in which the Philly D shut down the athletic Michael Vick, who during the regular season had rushed for 902 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for 2,313 yards and 14 touchdowns. But on January 5th, 2005, the electric Vick looked rather ordinary.
He did not score a touchdown and was held to 136 yards passing and an interception, and, shockingly, just 26 yards rushing.
The Eagles kept the most athletically gifted player in the game from dominating with his athletic ability.
While watching the Sunday Night game between the Eagles and the Cowboys, I saw some similarities between these two games, even though they took place six years apart. Michael Vick had just 16 yards rushing on eight carries.
There were no escapes from pressure that led to big gains. There were no angle-eliminating runs down the sidelines. He did score a rushing touchdown, but that came on the goal line.
I hate to say it, but the Cowboys effectively contained Michael Vick, probably better than anyone has this year. They eliminated half of his trademark game, not allowing his athleticism to take over.
As shown in that 2004 NFC Championship game, the old Michael Vick would have been ineffective, and the Eagles probably would have lost the game.
But this is a different Vick. Yes, he has changed his ways and has become an outstanding human being, but he has also changed the way he plays football. He has become, without exaggeration, a NFL quarterback, not just a guy playing the position.
Michael Vick is still one of the the best athletes on the field, but he has worked very hard to keep that from being his only definition. With the help of Andy Reid and the Eagles coaching staff, Vick has added another dimension to his already impressive talents, one that is more consistent even than his running ability.
This is why I was so encouraged by Vick's performance on Sunday night. It seems that he has finally put it all together, this quarterbacking thing.
This wasn't the first time Vick's running game was shut down. The Bears managed to keep him in check, and he had only 36 yards rushing. The Eagles lost that game, and Vick had arguably his worst game as a starter.
Since that game, I've been waiting for the next time an opponent of the Eagles was able to completely take away the running ability of Michael Vick, to see how he would respond. That time happened to be this past Sunday night.
I was very worried, to tell you the truth, because after watching the Bears game, I was not sure Michael Vick could win a game with just his arm. As great as he is, he has never really been known as a passer.
But now I'm convinced that he has shed that label of great athlete, decent passer.
I know he threw two interceptions, but they were both more the fault of the intended receivers than the quarterback. He threw a perfect pass that is overlooked by the fact that DeSean Jackson took it and ran 91 yards before falling backwards into the end zone.
Vick also hung in there while taking some hard (and maybe illegal?) hits from Cowboys defenders. He was 16-for-26 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
He looked like a quarterback, a new version of the Michael Vick that the NFL can come to love. If you didn't know it, you would've thought Kevin Kolb was under center rather than No. 7.
This is why I am feeling good about the Philadelphia Eagles right now. Michael Vick has become a complete player, finally fulfilling all of enormous potential, not just some of it. Even with those stinkin' Cowboys taking away a big part of the Eagles offensive game plan, Vick and his offensive mates managed to walk out with a win.
It wasn't his most impressive performance, not his most gaudy statistics. But it was definitely his most encouraging start, at least to me. Michael Vick erased, once and for all, his old stereotypes and preconceptions.
Michael Vick is a bona fide NFL quarterback, with a bona fide NFL passing skill set.
Imagine what will happen when they can't stop him from running, either.