PHILADELPHIA — Michael Vick thought the Philadelphia Eagles would’ve defeated the Green Bay Packers in the season opener if he played the whole game.
He can prove it now.
Vick and the NFC East-champion Eagles (10-6) will host the Packers (10-6) in a wild-card playoff game Sunday. It’s a rematch of Green Bay’s 27-20 win at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 1.
Vick started that game at wide receiver for a gimmick play and finished at quarterback after Kevin Kolb sustained a concussion. Vick was outstanding, nearly rallying Philadelphia from a 17-point deficit. He threw for 175 yards and ran for 103 in his first extended action in nearly four years.
But he ran out of time at the end.
“I feel like if I had been out there for four quarters,” Vick said, “maybe we would have had a chance to win the game.”
He could make all the difference this time.
“We got Vick as the starting quarterback now,” Eagles defensive end Juqua Parker said. “So, it may be a different story.”
Vick’s dynamic performance against the Packers on Sept. 12 was just the start of a remarkable comeback story. He played so well in the next two games that coach Andy Reid flip-flopped on his decision to give Kolb his starting job back once he was healthy.
Vick, who was one of the league’s biggest stars when he played for Atlanta, had his best season. He set career highs in yards passing (3,018), touchdowns passing (21), touchdowns rushing (9), completion percentage (62.6) and passer rating (100.2). He went 8-3 as a starter and was selected to start the Pro Bowl for the NFC.
Vick and nearly every starter sat out the meaningless game against the Cowboys on Sunday. But it was only meaningless because the Eagles lost to Minnesota, 24-14, last week. So, combined with the 14-13 loss to Dallas, Philadelphia doesn’t have a ton of momentum heading into this game.
That said, Vick’s injured quad and the rest of his banged-up body benefited from the rest. Now, he’ll get ready for his first playoff start since the Falcons lost to the Eagles in the NFC championship game in January 2005. He threw two passes, completing one for a 76-yard touchdown to Jeremy Maclin in Philadelphia’s 34-14 playoff loss at Dallas last year.
“I think he’s excited to have the opportunity,” Reid said. “I think he’s fired up about it. Now listen, he has to go through the process. Being fired up, doesn’t make you achieve. That’s a small part of it, but you have to go through the process and make sure you get all the studying down. And he’s been in (on Monday), and he’ll be ready to go.”
The Packers may have an advantage against Vick this time around because they know they’ll be facing him. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers game planned for Kolb the last meeting. But Clay Matthews knocked him out of the game on a hard hit, paving the way for Vick.
“We went in and played probably as good a first half of football as we’ve played this year, and then Vick goes in and we had a hard time chasing him down,” Capers said. “Now, I’ll say this. It was one of those games where we didn’t have an extensive game plan for him. We were counting on maybe six, eight plays in the game and he played the whole second half.
“He’s an explosive guy. I think he’s unlike any guy in the league in terms of what he can do with that ball in his hands. You’ve got to not let him come out of there and get those 30-, 40-yard runs and he’s got enough arm strength and speed at wide receiver that they can make big plays on you in a hurry.”
Matthews already gave away part of Green Bay’s game plan. He said the Packers will put a spy on Vick. That’s really no secret, of course, because most teams do that against running quarterbacks. They usually, however, don’t tell the media.
“Obviously, they have a more mobile quarterback now,” said Matthews, who had 13½ sacks this year. “It’s going to be tough to really get after him. But if we bring some pressure and hopefully hit him early and often and get him off the spot, that will help out. But the fact is he can make plays with his feet, not only with his arm. He’s proven at both. He’s a dual threat, and we’re going to have to have someone spying him all of the time.”
The Packers may also borrow a little bit from the way the New York Giants and Vikings attacked Philadelphia’s offense. Vick struggled for 3½ quarters against the Giants before a stunning 28-point rally in the final 7½ minutes. He had a tough time against the lowly Vikings, who had a lot of success blitzing cornerbacks.
Antoine Winfield came in off the corner, sacked Vick, stripped the ball, and returned it for a score in the Vikings’ victory that ended up costing the Eagles a chance at a first-round bye.
“We’ve gone back and looked at it, analyzed it,” Reid said. “And we’ll get that fixed.”
If he’s wrong, it could be a short playoff run for Vick and the Eagles.
AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins in Green Bay contributed to this report.