EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Trailing by 21 points in the fourth quarter, and then by 14, and then by seven, Michael Vick willed the Eagles down the field. There is no other way to say it. He masterminded the impossible yesterday with his legs and with his gumption. The New Meadowlands will be old and decrepit before it sees anything like it again.

And as he Twittered his way home down the turnpike, Vick wrote, "Whenever facing adversity never run from it run to it!!!"

An NFL team had not blown a 21-point lead at the half since the self-same Giants did it against Tennessee in 2006. The Eagles had not come back from a 21-point deficit at the half since they did it against the Redskins in 1946. The Eagles had never scored 28 points in the fourth quarter of a game, ever.

If it was DeSean Jackson who transformed improbable into impossible with his 65-yard punt return to win the game at the gun, it was Vick who showed the most miraculous mettle in the 38-31 win. In the final 7 minutes of the game, with his team desperate throughout, with the margin for error essentially evaporated, Vick ran the ball for 94 yards on four carries.

It is the only reason they were in a position to win. He gruesomely gutted the Giants and then he complained afterward that they didn't stay around to shake his hand.

"I have a lot of respect for the New York Giants," Vick said. "I just thought that for them to walk off the field at the end really didn't show good sportsmanship. But we still have the utmost respect for those guys. They were doing a lot of talking. We just wanted to come out and play a good football game."

Less than an hour earlier, the Eagles were dead and the division was lost. There were 8 minutes, 17 seconds remaining on the clock and a 31-10 deficit on the scoreboard. The Giants were going to win the NFC East and Andy Reid was going to have to spend a week answering questions about unmade replay challenges and Vick, well, you know how that conversation was going to go: that the accumulation of physical punishment had reached the tipping point.

Then there was 7:28 to go and the score was 31-17. Tight end Brent Celek had just scored on a nice, juggling, 65-yard catch-and run. Vick had found him and Jeremy Maclin had thrown a nice block along the way, and there was a tiny opening - emphasis on tiny.

As Vick said, "They just gave us some opportunities. I think, once we made a couple of plays downfield, I saw the momentum shift. They started playing off - they were playing real deep."

So he began running, knowing that once he was past the first line of defenders, the rest of them were too far downfield to be much of a bother. Thirty-five yards. Four yards for a touchdown on third-and-goal. Thirty-three yards on third-and-10. Twenty-two yards, down to the Giants' 20-yard line, down to the 2-minute warning, with the building in horrified shock.

He dragged them down that field, all of them.

"[The Giants] give you a lot of opportunities to run the football - they play a lot of Cover 2 [with two deep safeties], and they like to blitz," Vick said. "It can be good at times but it can also hurt you. They did a good job containing me and a good job with the passing lanes, but we adjusted to them. It got to a point where we were like, 'It's not going to be about them. It's going to be about us.' ''

There will be most valuable player talk, and it will be a fine conversation. In the end, though, it is a bauble. Vick is accomplishing something much more important than that.

There is no way for any of us to know about his personal life, and his personal redemption after prison, and the sooner we all stop pretending that we can will make all of us a little bit more real. But in a football sense, Vick's ability to recapture what he had physically and to add on to it mentally - and now, in the season's toughest quadrant, to shake off the physical pounding and the earlier failures to lead them through this kind of an afternoon - signals a measure of growth as a player and as a leader that was never foreseen.

It is the leadership part of the equation - the ability to recognize the demands of the moment, and the persistence above all - that leaves you most impressed, more than the 130 total rushing yards or the three touchdown passes or anything.

"We were discouraged in the first half that we didn't make the most of our opportunities to put the ball in the end zone," Vick said. "We had some turnovers. And we just said to ourselves, 'Listen, we're just going to go out there and play for pride above anything else. They may beat us 49-25 but we're going to play with pride and we can't complain.'

"And that's all I want. That's all I want to ask of my teammates, and my offensive line, to play with some pride and enjoy the game."

Little did he know. On this most miraculous day, little did any of them know.

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