When Michael Vick gently descended from the podium after the Eagles' Pepe Le Pew loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the quarterback staggered as if he had a 52-man weight strapped to his back.
The actual reason for Vick's limp was the bruised quadriceps he suffered Tuesday night. But a more apt name for the cause might be carry-the-team-itis.
When the Vikings figured out how to exploit this disorder and concentrated their efforts on stopping Vick, the Eagles could not respond and the result was a woeful 24-14 defeat that eliminated any chance at a first-round playoff bye.
Coach Andy Reid has not officially stated that he's giving his starting quarterback Sunday off against the Cowboys, but it is all but certain.
"I'm not even sure he can get back from what he's got here with the quad," Reid said Wednesday. "I mean, it's pretty sore right now. . . . He'd be one that you have to look at" resting before the playoffs.
Blitzing Vick relentlessly, as the Vikings did, was not a wholly original game plan. Teams such as Jacksonville tried it very early on and were burned. But since Vick's remarkable performance at Washington in November, opposing defenses have cooked up newfangled ways to pressure and hit him, and the culmination of those efforts was Tuesday night's beat down.
Vick was sacked six times and hit 17 times - by one unofficial count - and committed three turnovers in a performance that hearkened back to his undisciplined days in Atlanta. Vick had a rough night, but the problem is a systematic one that is surfacing at the wrong time with the Eagles a meaningless regular-season finale away from the playoffs.
Vick is holding onto the ball too long and trying to do too much. But that mind-set is a by-product of Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's reliance on Vick to bail out the offense - and the team. And in the process, the brain trust has done very little to protect its most important piece.
"There are going to be certain games where teams are going to bring extra guys and it's just a matter of getting it out of your hands and not taking the hits that he's taking right now," Reid said. "And then, some of it's protection; some of it's calls. I mean, we can do a better job with that and give him an opportunity to get the ball out of his hand quicker."
Reid did not announce definite plans as far as who's playing against Dallas and who isn't. But with just four days of rest and the potential for the Eagles to play their first-round game on Saturday, Jan. 8 - giving them three games in 12 days - there will be some starters watching from the sideline.
"Some guys need the play time. Some guys need the rest time," Reid said. "So I have to look at who those guys are, and what situations I put them in, and so on. But at the same time, you want to win the game no matter who's playing."
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (sore foot) and cornerback Asante Samuel (sore knee) are two candidates for rest. Both, like almost all the Eagles starters, said they were ready to play if necessary.
"I need some picks," Samuel said after the game.
Individual accomplishments at this point mean very little, however. The Eagles are locked into the No. 3 seed and will host one of three teams - the Packers, Giants, or Buccaneers - in the playoffs.
Green Bay and New York, the more likely opponents than Tampa Bay, boast two of the top seven defenses in the NFL. Vick will need the extended break to get near healthy if Reid and Mornhinweg plan on using their quarterback as they have for most of the season.
It has been successful. But their live-or-die-by-Vick scheme caught up to the Eagles on Tuesday when he took a hit to his thigh on a designed quarterback keeper on the opening play from scrimmage. Even with the injury, Vick escaped from many would-be sacks, but he still took a pounding.
Reid was asked if he considered inserting backup Kevin Kolb, who was seen stretching on the sideline at one point after halftime.
"No, not necessarily," Reid said. "Again, I was going off of what I saw as far as [Vick] moving. . . . He didn't look like he was hindered at all when he ran."
Minnesota, meanwhile, kept coming after Vick, and the Eagles seemingly did little to protect him. They didn't max-protect once, and the run-pass ratio had Vick dropping back to throw 55 out of 71 times.
"I still felt like I could get the job done," Vick said after the game. "Maybe I was just being selfish, but that's just me. If I couldn't walk, I would have come out."
He probably won't have that choice Sunday.
Michael Vick's passing and rushing numbers in his last six games as opposed to his first six have remained relatively the same. He's completing the same percentage of passes and he's still gaining big yardage on the ground. But the biggest difference is the number of turnovers the Eagles quarterback has committed since his phenomenal effort at Washington on Nov. 15. Here's a comparison of his first six games with his last six. - Jeff McLane
First six 62.7 1,350 11 0 0 15 44 341 4
Last six 62.5 1,668 10 6 3 19 56 335 5
F-fumbles; S-sacks, R-rushing attempts.EndText