PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Michael Vick dodged the rush, created some space, looked into the end zone and fired.
Big plays were the norm for Vick this year, so as the ball cut through the air, it seemed one more was left for an Eagles fanbase waiting 50 years for a championship.
Not this time.
Vick kept the Eagles in the game until the end, hoping for one more touchdown pass that would carry his team to a playoff victory over the Packers and keep his season full of personal and professional redemption running.
The quarterback’s comeback tale ended the first weekend of the playoffs with a 21-16 loss to Green Bay on Sunday when his final shot at the end zone fell short.
“I feel like I got greedy,” Vick said. “I didn’t throw the right ball I wanted to throw and then it got picked off. It’s a bad way to go out, but, hey, I went out swinging.”
Vick went deep for the potential go-ahead touchdown, attempting a 27-yard pass to Riley Cooper. But Packers cornerback Tramon Williams was positioned in front of Cooper and picked off an underthrown ball to seal the win for the Packers.
“I felt like I was in control,” Vick said. “I felt like everything that had happened up until that point happened so that, in the end, we could be victorious.”
Vick was 20 of 36 for 292 yards, ran for a TD and threw for another. He also rushed for 33 yards in his first playoff start since losing the 2005 NFC championship game on the same field as a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
Vick, voted to start for the NFC in the Pro Bowl, needed more help from the teammates picked to join him in Honolulu.
David Akers, one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL, missed tries of 34 and 41 yards. Jackson left the game in the first quarter and didn’t catch a pass until the fourth.
Eagles coach Andy Reid lamented the missed opportunities.
“We can all count, and those points would have helped,” he said.
So, perhaps, would a healthy Jackson.
Without his dynamic go-to receiver, Vick had one less reliable target. And hampered still by a late-season quad injury, he was contained until the fourth quarter, when it looked as though he was on the brink of leading the Eagles back — just like he did when they scored 28 points in the final 7:28 Dec. 19 against the New York Giants.
Vick scored on a 1-yard run that brought the Eagles to within 21-16. The 2-point conversion failed, and he grimaced and limped off the field with an injured ankle.
“I rolled it, but it was nothing that was going to stop me from going out in that game,” Vick said.
The Eagles defense held the Packers, and Vick connected with Jackson for a 28-yard reception that brought the crowd to life and put a victory within reach.
His interception ended the fun.
Jackson thought Vick should have spiked the ball before the INT.
“I just feel we rushed that last play and we didn’t have to rush it,” Jackson said. “That’s what I was trying to say, ‘Just down the ball, just spike the ball, just kind of get back to the huddle and regroup.’ But he called ‘All go.’ We just ran what was called so that’s neither here nor there. It’s just unfortunate.”
Vick, in a season when clutch plays became commonplace, thought otherwise.
“You want to keep attacking, keep them on their heels,” he said.
Vick found a special gift in his locker this week, an autographed jersey from Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Bryant wrote “Be Epic” on it.
Unlike Bryant, Vick is still looking for his first championship ring.
“This one hurt more than any one, any of my previous seasons,” Vick said.
It’s still hard to believe he was even in position to win a title after missing two seasons while serving 18 months in prison for his role in a dogfighting operation. He was used mostly in gimmick offenses behind Donovan McNabb last season and opened this one as the No. 2 QB behind Kevin Kolb.
When Clay Matthews knocked Kolb out with a concussion in Green Bay’s season-opening win, Vick was ready to prove he was better than ever.
After playing the final game of a two-year contract, he hoped to return to a franchise that gave him an unexpected second chance. Vick could surely command a lucrative deal, but the Eagles could simply tag him as their franchise player.
“I’m going to stay optimistic and keep believing,” he said. “I still feel like I can play at a high level for the next couple of years.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.