Fourth quarter update: To his credit, Michael Vick made himself the story, and in a positive way. A week after Andy Reid said that Vick's teammates had been giving him a hard time about getting into the end zone, Vick scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek in the fourth. It was his first two touchdowns of the season.
Say what you will about what landed Vick in prison, he's been a pro's pro this season. He's been at the practice facility early, and stayed late. He's accepted his role as the gimicky Wildcat, and has said the right things when he's talked to the media. And Vick's teammates genuinely like him.
Reid rewarded Vick by giving him a large package of plays and putting him in for Donovan McNabb early in the fourth quarter. A bruised hand ended Vick's day after that pass to Celek. Said Reid: "I'm proud of Michael for going in and doing the things he did and maintaining his composure during an emotional time.
Third quarter update: Sheldon Brown has had to stay patient. It's not always easy. He's played through a hamstring injury that could've sidelined him. He's toughed it out, waited for his opportunity, and kept his head in the game. And in the third quarter, it paid off.
Brown read Chris Redman's eyes, jumped in front of Redman's intended receiver, caught the ball and streaked 83 yards into the end zone. It was Brown's fifth interception of the season, a career high, and gave the Eagles two cornerbacks with at least five picks (Asante Samuel has seven) for the first time since 1950.
Brown was unspoken during the offseason about his desire for a new contract. He's pretty much kept his mouth shut during the season. He's still not happy, but he plays for his teammates and himself. He's a pros pro. And today, he got a much-needed reward. Never underestimate the power of a defensive back getting into the end zone. Brown's big smile on the sideline afterward showed just how much that touchdown meant to him.
Second quarter update: Against lesser opponents, you can get away with mistakes. The Falcons last possession of the first half proved that. The Eagles had back-to-back personal foul penalties to give Atlanta first-and-goal at the 7-yard line. A huge goal-line defensive stand kept the Falcons off the board and gave the Eagles momentum heading into halftime with a 13-0 lead.
But as this season winds down, and the push for the playoffs heats up, those kinds of mistakes could kill the Eagles' playoff chances. Penalties have been a problem all season. Entering this week, the Eagles were the second-most penalized team in the National Football League, with 82 penalties for 659 yards. Only Green Bay has been penalized more (87 for 730 yards). The league average is 66.9 penalties for 542.2 yards.
Andy Reid has said throughout the season that he has to live with some penalties because he's playing so many young players. But at this point in the season, those numbers should go down. They haven't. In the first half, the Eagles had five penalties for 36 yards. That comes down to coaching.
The big upset of this past week was that Michael Vick wasn't a bigger story. Maybe that's as it should be. The furor over the former dog-fighter has died down considerably, even in his old city of Atlanta, which hosted the SEC title game last night. Florida-Alabama was of much greater interest than Vick returning to play against the Falcons. That really says a lot.
There were Vick supporters in the Georgia Dome crowd, people in No. 7 Falcons jerseys. Vick was always a huge draw in Atlanta. In a classy move, Andy Reid made Vick a team captain for this game. That was the reward for being a good teammate, for working hard, for staying after practice, for trying to get his life and his career back on track.
The Vick experiment here in Philadelphia remains a bit of a mystery. Vick isn't a big part of the offense. When he comes in to a game, he might pick up a first down, but aside from one significant gain, he's little more than a decoy that seems to bog down the offense. Maybe we'll see more of him in the final weeks of the season, but so far, he's been nothing special.