This was the type of tragicomic play that had done in the Philadelphia Eagles during the first five weeks of the season: A shotgun snap early in the first quarter sails high, quarterback Michael Vick scrambles to the 1-yard line to recover the ball and then heaves a pass toward the sideline as he is hit by two Washington Redskins.
How many opportunities for a turnover were there on that play for a one-win team that had given the ball away more than any other in the NFL? Two? Three?
“It started out as a disaster,” Vick said, and while he was talking about that particular second-and-12 play, he may as well have been commenting on the Eagles’ season to that point.
Despite several chances for Vick and Philadelphia to revert to their disaster-prone ways, they managed to preserve a win and perhaps their season Sunday. No NFL team has begun a season 1-5 and won its division.
But after a 20-13 win over Washington, the Eagles (2-4) don’t have to worry about that. They are in the NFC East, which has no clear front-runner.
“I still think we can win this division,” Philadelphia center Jason Kelce said. “I don’t think the division’s out of reach by any stretch of the imagination.”
The Eagles were able to revive their season in large part because their star, Vick, managed the game sensibly. Washington blitzed frequently, so Vick operated out of three-step drops more than he anticipated. The Redskins’ defense proved vulnerable to short passes, and Vick made them.
That second-and-12 play that had Vick hurling a pass out of bounds as linebackers Rocky McIntosh and Brian Orakpo collided with him near his own end zone? Not only did the ball fall harmlessly beyond the sideline, but Orakpo was flagged for roughing the passer.
“I think the ref made the call because he knew I was trying to get the ball out of my hands and out of bounds,” Vick said. “It was just a play where I was just trying to salvage the play. When you’ve got Orakpo coming down your gun barrel, you know you’re about to take one. I just braced up for it, and he hit me pretty good.”
It wasn’t the last time Sunday that the Redskins made solid contact with Vick. Midway through the third quarter, Vick scrambled up the middle for a 20-yard gain and was hit from behind by Redskins safety LaRon Landry. Vick has fumbled seven times this season, but kept it secure on that play.
Vick remained down momentarily before leaving the game. Afterward, Vick said he had dirt in his eyes. Coach Andy Reid said Vick had the wind knocked out of him.
“I mean, come on. He’s Michael Vick. I was nervous,” running back LeSean McCoy said. “But he’s a fighter. He came back. I was hoping he’d come back.”
He did, and for the remainder of the game the Eagles battered the Washington defense with consistent runs by McCoy — who finished with 126 yards on 28 carries — and short passes by Vick. Vick had thrown seven interceptions entering the day, but tossed just one — on a tipped pass near the Redskins goal line — on Sunday.
Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman, on the other hand, turned the ball over four times. And no team knows better than the Eagles what that typically leads to.
“Turnovers have really hindered us in the last couple of weeks,” Vick said. “When you turn the ball over, you don’t win games.”