The Philadelphia Eagles have a score to settle.
In fact, they have three scores to settle. In 2009, the Dallas Cowboys swept the Eagles, winning twice in the regular season and then humiliating Philadelphia 34–14 in the opening round of the playoffs.
It was the Cowboys’ first playoff win since the Clinton administration.
Before that playoff win a year ago, the last time the Cowboys had posted a postseason win was 1996. That was the year that Atlanta hosted the summer Olympics. Michael Vick was a senior…in high school; the guy formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg was acquitted on charges of first degree murder; Lisa Marie Presley filed for divorce from Michael Jackson; Tupac Shakur was shot and killed; and Tommy Lee showed the world a new way to honk a horn.
Let’s just say that last year, the Dallas Cowboys ended a long, long drought at the expense of the Eagles. But that was 2009, an eon ago. That was back when the Eagles had Donovan McNabb at quarterback and the Cowboys had Tony Romo.
You remember McNabb? The all-time winningest quarterback in Eagles history. The man who threw for nearly 33,000 yards as an Eagle, the most in team history. The man who took them to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. The man the fans often lustily booed and couldn’t wait to be rid of.
That McNabb. Mr. Close-But-No-Cigar.
Of course, being booed by Philadelphia Eagles fans is nothing special. These are the kind of drunken boobs that boo their mom’s Thanksgiving meal. These are the kind of people that throw a hymnal at the preacher for going a couple minutes too long in the Sunday sermon. They are the kind that prank their kids on Christmas morning.
The Philly fans figured it was time to give Kevin Kolb his chance. He was the savior waiting in the wings, ready to take center stage and finally take this franchise where they have never been before, to the podium to accept the Lombardi trophy.
Kolb got his chance.
He didn’t do well.
Then he got hurt, which was the Eagles’ and coach Andy Reid’s good fortune.
Enter Michael Vick, the man who will not be nominated for PETA Man of the Year, but may well win NFL Most Valuable Player.
This is not your Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Vick, which was freaky good in its own right.
This is the post-prison, more mature Michael Vick.
This is the Vick that has led his team to a second place ranking in offense.
This is the Vick whose offense averages more than 400 yards per game.
This Vick has thrown for 15 touchdowns and run for six more.
This Vick has a quarterback rating of 105.
This Michael Vick is still the best running back in the game almost every time he steps on the field. But he is a good deal more. He may be most dangerous when flushed from the pocket. He may be better at the improv than Robin Williams, Eddie Izzard and Mitch Hedberg combined. That, however, does not mean he cannot beat you from the pocket. He can. This Michael Vick has only thrown two interceptions all season.
So, how do the Cowboys avoid being victimized by Mike? It is simple, really. But it won’t be easy.
- Play keep away. Last week, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice combined for more than 200 yards on the ground. A repeat or near-repeat would go a long way toward beating Vick’s Eagles.
- Play field position. Make Vick drive the length of the field. Coach Andy Reid hardly ever runs the ball. The farther his team has to move the ball through the air in order to score, the better the chance a mistake will be made.
- Stay in your lanes, pass rushers. Keep Vick in the pocket and then collapse it on him. Let him squirt outside on you and grab your track shoes, because the race is on and you are going to come in a distant second.
- Mix up coverages and disguise blitzes. Michael Vick reads defenses better than he used to, but don’t give him an easy read. Make him read War and Peace.
- Score 30 points or more. The Cowboys have done this in three of the four games under interim head coach, Jason Garrett. Do it again.
See? Simple. Not easy. But simple. Fail to accomplish at least four of those five things and you will be victims of the most impressive NFL comeback in memory: the return of Michael Vick.