ARLINGTON, Texas - For one play, at least, Michael Vick was golden.
On the Eagles' first snap last night, Vick was able to stand in the pocket, take his time and find DeSean Jackson racing past Dallas' Terence Newman for 60 yards.
The rest of Vick's night was not quite so easy.
Aiming to limit the quarterback's obvious impact on Philadelphia's offense, the Cowboys made it a point to make Vick uncomfortable. Not that other teams haven't had that same thought. But for much of the evening, Dallas was able to make it happen.
Vick managed to finish with decent numbers anyway - he completed 16 of 26 passes for 270 yards with two touchdowns in a 30-27 victory - but it might have been the least effective performance of the season for the often-spectacular lefthander, as well as one of the more painful outings he has had.
"That was the main goal, to stop him and keep him in the pocket and pressure him," Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said. "Getting after him, trying to keep him in the pocket and get him moving around, especially backward. You saw the Bears do it, you saw the Giants do it, and I thought we did a good job of it tonight."
Because of that, the Eagles' offense moved in fits and starts as Vick was forced to dodge pass-rushers, break tackles and absorb big hits, including notable shots by linebacker Anthony Spencer and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff. Vick was sacked on back-to-back plays, ending one drive and opening the next. He was harassed into matching his interception total for his previous nine games, throwing two.
In short, the Cowboys were not about to let Vick beat them, coming after him relentlessly. And for three quarters, their strategy seemed sound. At that point, Vick, who entered the game ranked second in the NFL with a 105.7 passer rating, had a rating of 64.7, completing a mere 58 percent of his throws for 173 yards. He hadn't made the Cowboys pay on the ground, either, rushing for only 7 yards.
"Yeah, but that doesn't win, man," said cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who had one of the sacks. "Bottom line, they made more plays than us. We didn't stop them when we had to."
That turned out to be early in the fourth quarter when the swift Jackson turned a short out pattern into a game-breaking, 91-yard score by slipping away from Mike Jenkins on the left sideline and outrunning Gerald Sensabaugh and Scandrick as he crossed the field to the right sideline before his backdive into the end zone put the Eagles ahead, 27-20.
Newman claimed he didn't see Jackson's flop, but Jenkins admitted he was less than thrilled by the receiver's showmanship.
"It's disrespectful," he said. "You know what I mean? You show more respect for guys. We knew he was going to score. But that's him. That's him. We beat them three times in a row last year. They wanted to come back and try to do everything they could to try to embarrass us."
Jackson's big play was the second-longest allowed in Cowboys history; the longest went for 94 yards in 1972. The play made Vick's night look good, but it won't take away the bruises. And it could foreshadow the rest of Vick's season. Vick has now thrown interceptions in his last three games after going seven games without one. One of those - a pick by Bradie James after Vick spun away from DeMarcus Ware and threw to the right while running left - was the direct result of Dallas' pressure. And he's been sacked 10 times in his last four games, giving him 25 sacks in 10 appearances.
"Getting after him, that was the big thing," James said. "He's definitely the X-factor because he makes plays with his feet and his arm. We knew if we could just get in his way, we could find a way to win. But down the stretch he made a couple more plays than we did. We were one play away from getting that W."