NEW YORK (AP) — With Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles always feel they’re in the game.
It’s only fitting Vick has become Captain Comeback. After all, his remarkable comeback to the NFL is one of the most compelling stories in sports.
In his latest dynamic performance, Vick brought the Eagles back from a 21-point deficit with 8:17 remaining, and DeSean Jackson finished off the stunning rally with a 65-yard punt return on the final play to give Philadelphia a 38-31 win over the New York Giants on Sunday.
The win gave the Eagles (10-4) sole possession of first place in the NFC East and bolstered their chance for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“Determination and poise is hard to coach and this group has got that and they showed that yesterday, both coaches and the players,” coach Andy Reid said Monday. “They all worked together to figure it out and get it right and we were fortunate enough to have enough time. That big heart, that’s hard stuff to coach. You either have that or you don’t and this group seems to have that and they showed it last night with one of the all-time great games in NFL history.”
Jackson’s spectacular return beat the Giants (9-5). But it was Vick who made it even possible by leading the Eagles to three straight touchdowns to tie it up after they fell behind 31-10.
For 3½ quarters, Vick was battered, frustrated and contained. The Giants took away his deep passes, gave him no room to run and hit him every chance they got.
Then No. 7 broke loose. He scrambled like his “Superman” days in Atlanta, and his passes were right on target.
“Oh my goodness,” rookie linebacker Jamar Chaney said. “He lets us know that we can come back from behind. Morale was probably a little low in the first half. We have a lot of playmakers on this team. Michael Vick is definitely a great leader.”
Vick has led the Eagles on fourth-quarter comebacks in their last four wins. He’s engineered second-half comebacks in five of the last six victories.
“He had the attitude like, ‘Hey guys, I’m going to score. I’m going to get the job done. If you’re going to be with me, come with me. If not, I’m gone, no matter what,'” running back LeSean McCoy said. “Once you hear stuff like that, I mean, you’ve got to go with him, you know?”
Vick completed five of 10 passes for 108 yards, and ran four times for 94 yards in the last three scoring drives that set up Jackson’s clutch return. He finished with 242 yards passing and 130 more rushing.
First, Vick fired a 65-yard TD pass to Brent Celek. Then he used his legs to make big plays on the next two drives. He had runs of 35, 33 and 22 yards. His 33-yard scramble came on third-and-10 from the Eagles 12 with 2:50 left.
“I believe in myself. I believe in my teammates. I believe in the guys around me,” Vick said. “The offensive line did a great job of stepping up despite the adversity. Our receivers hung in there, our defense was resilient throughout the game. We were able to make plays when we needed to and those are great characteristics of a good football team. I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
The Eagles became the ninth team in NFL history to win after trailing by at least 21 points in the fourth quarter and the first since 2006. They’re the first team to trail by 21 with under eight minutes left and win in regulation.
It wasn’t too long ago that a fourth-quarter deficit was nearly insurmountable for the Eagles. Donovan McNabb had an outstanding career in Philadelphia, but he wasn’t known for his ability to lead the team to late victories in the latter part of his tenure.
The offense came up short several times in big games with McNabb in charge. Most recently, there was the NFC championship at Arizona in January 2009. McNabb helped the Eagles overcome an 18-point, second-half deficit in that game. But trailing 32-25 on the final drive, he misfired on four straight passes from the Cardinals 47.
McNabb had several comeback wins in his younger days, but he didn’t lead the Eagles to a come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter for two full years from Nov. 11, 2007 until a 24-20 win at Chicago on Nov. 22, 2009.
Now Vick seems to do it every week.
“When Mike comes into the huddle, he’s got this determined look on his face that’s like, ‘All right, I’m about to win this game. If you guys want to help, you’re more than welcome. If not, I’m going to win,'” left guard Todd Herremans said. “That’s just the attitude that he has.”
Vick, who began the season as the backup to Kevin Kolb, is having the best all-around year of his career, including the three times he went to the Pro Bowl with the Falcons.
He has 2,755 yards passing, 20 TDs and only five interceptions. He’s also run for 613 yards and eight scores. Vick’s completion percentage (63.2) and passer rating (103.6) are career bests. He is tied for his career high in TD passes and TD runs. And, he’s done it all despite missing three full games, not playing the first half in one and getting knocked out after one quarter in another. He has started and finished nine games, and the Eagles are 8-1 in those contests.
“Having Michael Vick at quarterback, you always feel like you’ve got a chance with him,” cornerback Dimitri Patterson said. “He can do it all. He’s shown that. He’s an MVP candidate. He’s just an amazing player.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.