By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 10, 2010; 12:13 AM
His sprints from the pocket are as breathtaking as ever. His passes are delivered with zip and are settling into receivers' hands with increasing regularity. Midway through the second season of quarterback Michael Vick's NFL comeback with the Philadelphia Eagles, the on-field results are overwhelmingly positive.
Vick is the league's top-rated passer this week as he and the Eagles ready for their second meeting this season with the Washington Redskins, this time in a Monday night game at FedEx Field. And while much of the focus for the remainder of the week surely will be on McNabb, who is coming off a late-game benching against the Detroit Lions and preparing to face his former team, Vick's eye-catching play should ensure that he retains at least a portion of the spotlight.
He was sidelined for more than a month after suffering a rib cartilage injury during the Eagles' Oct. 3 loss to the Redskins. But he returned to the lineup last Sunday and played with his usual assertiveness as the Eagles beat the Indianapolis Colts at Lincoln Financial Field, improving their chances of competing for supremacy in the NFC East, and perhaps beyond, in the season's second half.
"I play this game the way I play it and I'm not going to change," Vick said after the game. "I think I did a good job protecting myself at times and I think at times when I knew the hit wasn't going to be as devastating, I was able to protect myself . . . At the end of the day, I just want to be able to tell myself I gave it everything I had and I didn't hold anything back. Regardless of what happens out there, whether I run and get hurt or I don't, it's just me playing my game."
Playing his game has served Vick well all season. He has thrown seven touchdown passes and no interceptions. He has completed 60.8 percent of his passes, with a passer rating of 105.3, putting him four spots ahead of the Colts' Peyton Manning and five in front of New England's Tom Brady.
Vick never connected on more than 56.4 percent of his passes or had a passer rating above 81.6 during his six-year tenure with the Atlanta Falcons, before he missed two NFL seasons while serving his federal sentence for his role in a Virginia dogfighting operation. (He did have a passer rating of 93.8 for the Eagles last season, when he threw only 13 passes). Vick also ran with his trademark abandon against the Colts, rushing for 74 yards and scoring a touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak in the 26-24 triumph.
So much for taking it easy after the rib injury.
"It's going to be hard holding him back," Eagles Coach Andy Reid said after the game. "I've talked to him, and he's one of the more competitive guys that I've been around. He loves to play the game. It's hard because you don't want to take anything away from his game. You know, he did run out of bounds one time. I was really fired up about that. He's making a little progress."
People who know Vick have said he has made off-field progress as well, including keeping his pledge to make appearances as part of the Humane Society's anti-dogfighting campaign. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said when his team signed Vick before last season that the success of the move would be measured by Vick's off-field impact, not his on-field success.
But the Eagles certainly aren't complaining about Vick's current level of play. His on-field success led Reid to take the starting job away from Kevin Kolb, who was designated McNabb's successor when the Eagles traded McNabb to the Redskins in April, after Kolb suffered a concussion in the season opener. Reid gave the job back to Vick when Vick recovered from his rib injury.
The offense also was boosted last Sunday by the return of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who'd been sidelined after suffering a concussion in a game against the Atlanta Falcons last month. The Eagles looked capable of challenging the first-place New York Giants in the NFC East and being in the conversation alongside the Giants, Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints about the NFC's best teams.
"We don't really get caught up with the other teams in the NFC," Jackson said Sunday in the Eagles' locker room. "We're aware of other teams' records but we're still focused on ourselves."
Vick, however, said he'd told Reid that he thinks the Eagles are capable of making a run at a Super Bowl appearance, something they managed only once with McNabb despite reaching the NFC title game five times in 11 seasons.
"The only person I told that to was Andy," Vick said. "I didn't tell anyone else. I talked to a couple other guys, and we all see the potential. We have a lot of rising stars. We have a lot of young guys who are very dedicated and we have some veterans who have been around for a long time."
Having a similar conversation with any of his teammates wasn't needed, Vick said.
"I think they should all be able to look around and see what we have in place, what type of team we have in place," Vick said. "I don't think I need to stand up and make a big dissertation about what we can do. I think the potential is already there and we see it. We've shown glimpses of it."
Reid didn't object.
"I think what he's saying there is that he believes in his teammates and he believes in this football team, believes in his coaches and his teammates," Reid said at his news conference Monday. "And I have to love that."