EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The ballot is not due until the first Friday of 2011, but I have already filled in the name that goes next to MVP: Michael Vick.
Yes, I get a vote for the NFL's most prestigious individual award, and while there are two games left in the regular season and I know that Tom Brady is playing lights-out for New England, Vick is as deserving, if not more so, particularly after he led the Eagles back from the dead against the New York Giants on Sunday.
Honestly, did anyone other than Vick think the Eagles still had a chance after the they fell behind the Giants, 31-10, midway through the fourth quarter? New York owned the Eagles from the opening kick, abusing the Birds' seven-defensive-back formations and pinning Vick in with zero blitzes and rushers off the edge. The idea of an eventual 38-31 Eagles victory seemed laughable.
DeSean Jackson won it with his 65-yard punt return as time expired, but it was Vick who got the Eagles back into the game. Without his perseverance, his confidence, his running and his throwing, the Eagles would be in a huge hole right now. The NFC East essentially would belong to the Giants. The Eagles would have next to no chance at a home playoff game, much less a first-round bye, and even a postseason berth would not be a given.
Vick was not willing to let that happen. He told his teammates to savor every play, to keep pushing, that every possession counted, every down counted. He told them to be "efficient" and to block everything else out - the score, the crowd, the Giants. Make plays, he said. It was the only thing that counted.
With 8 minutes, 9 seconds left, Vick got the Eagles started with a 10-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin, followed by a 65-yard strike to Brent Celek that cut the Giants' lead to two touchdowns. After the Eagles recovered an onside kick, Vick scrambled 35 yards to the Giants' 9-yard line, and three plays later ran in for another touchdown that cut the lead to 31-24.
After the Eagles defense forced another stop, Vick scrambled for 33 yards and then 22 yards to get to the New York 20-yard line, and two plays later found Maclin with a 13-yard pass. Three plays later, the Giants punted to Jackson, and the game was over.
In that final 8:09, Vick was 6 of 11 for 121 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran four times for 94 yards and another score. The Giants, who had contained Vick up until that point, had no answer. They practiced sound football, used proper techniques, and played all the right angles, and they still could not stop Vick. He was that good.
"That's as frustrating as it gets to anybody, a defensive team or anyone, to be in position and to be doing what your responsibilities are, and the quarterback just slithers his way out of there or he ducks down, or however he did it," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said afterward. "He made huge plays against us and put them in position."
It wasn't the first time this season, either.
This was the Eagles' fourth comeback win in the last five weeks - and the second over the Giants. During that span, they have outscored opponents, 79-21, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the ninth time in NFL history that a team trailed by 21 points in the fourth quarter and won the game.
Think about it: The Eagles win games in the fourth quarter, and they come back to do so. With all due respect to the man who served 11 years under center here, that hasn't always been the case.
This team is never dead, and that is because of No. 7, who has tied career highs with 20 passing touchdowns and eight rushing touchdowns. In his 11 games this season, 10 times he has had a passer rating north of 90.
"It's always great to have guys that you can depend on, very reliable and smart guys who know how to play the game and have a great feel for the game," Vick said. "When you've got a team that's built in that fashion, you're very hard to beat and you very seldom lose, and this is one of those teams."
The Eagles are now 8-1 when Vick starts and finishes a game. They are 10-4 overall - tied for the second-best record in the NFC behind the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons - and who would have ever predicted that when this crazy Eagles season began with Kevin Kolb at quarterback and Vick as the wildcat?
Vick has built his resume, and while he does not have the same number of starts as Brady, he has had as big of an impact on his team, if not bigger. The Eagles' swagger is a reflection of Vick. The players in the locker room play for him, keep their confidence because of him, and feel that they can win every game because of him.
Jackson was ready to give up at halftime on Sunday. Vick implored him not to.
"Vick kept telling me, 'Man, come on. Man, keep your head up. You're going to get one. You're going to get one,' " Jackson said. "And we kept plugging away, and we got one."
When the NFL announces its MVP on Super Bowl Sunday, Vick should hear his name called. He might not, but he has proved that he is worthy. Just look to Sunday for more proof.