The ballyhooed matchup of Michael Vick versus Donovan McNabb, which is how yesterday’s Philadelphia Eagles-Washington Redskins game was billed, didn’t last very long.
Vick, as he’s apt to do, saw an opening and took off down field late in the first quarter, got sandwiched, got hurt and didn’t return to the field. Oh those aching ribs. More on that later.
But let’s not lament what football fans didn’t get. This game, and all the hype associated with McNabb’s return to Philadelphia, where he did everything except win the Super Bowl, should be remembered for what fans of all sports did get: a much-needed reminder that no one person, not even the quarterback, can win by himself.
The Redskins won the game, 17-12.
“We won,” McNabb, prodded all week to reduce the game to one-on-one, him versus Vick, told his teammates in the locker room when it was over. “This defines team.”
Amen to that. Win together, lose together.
Undoubtedly disappointed Eagles fans, the folks who once booed Santa Claus, headed to the parking lots believing in the notion that surely their team would’ve won had Vick played all four quarters.
Not so fast.
Vick was replaced by Kevin Kolb, who began the season as the starter. Kolb got hurt and was replaced by Vick, a former Pro Bowl player who seized the opportunity, impressed the coach, won over the fans and, ultimately, won the starting job.
For two weeks now we’ve heard how this Vick is better than the old Vick, the guy who as a member of the Falcons dazzled with his feet. The new-and-improved Vick, National Football League analysts said, had learned to be patient in the pocket, enabling him to pick apart defenses with his left arm.
Fans always remember the final score. Too often, however, they forget the details of how it happened, the little things, which are really big things. Oh, you can bet the fans of Philadelphia will remember that Kolb entered the game and dropped a shotgun snap from his center.
They’ll remember the final drive, when the Eagles still had a chance. They’ll remember four consecutive incomplete passes and, ultimately, a shot at the end zone that didn’t answer prayers.
If only Vick didn’t get hurt, they’ll lament all day on sports radio.
Fans tend to forget that Kolb had the Eagles, down 17-3, inches from the goal line when his coach called timeout. Only something went haywire on the sideline, resulting in a five yard delay-of-game penalty. Instead of one last shot at the end zone, which would’ve cut the deficit to seven points, the Eagles had to settle for a field goal.
Big difference between 17-10 and 17-6. Huge.
Yes, Kolb is the quarterback and is responsible for getting the play off on time. Presuming, of course, the coaching staff gives him the play with enough time to execute the plan. They didn’t.
Fans tend to forget when an Eagles linebacker, on third down, gets flagged for roughing the quarterback. Instead of getting the ball, the Eagles gave McNabb another set of downs. Things like that lose football games.
Then there was the illegal contact penalty on third down, giving McNabb yet another automatic first down. And don’t blame Kolb for LeSean McCoy’s fumble.
This isn’t a knock on Vick, who has played awfully well in his brief stint as starter. But a running quarterback needs to understand the art of self preservation. Slide. Get out of bounds. Duck. Whatever. Just don’t take on behemoths hell-bent on pleasing their coaches by knocking the opposing team’s most dangerous player senseless.
Vick got hurt on a 23-yard run to the Washington 1-yard line. He saw the end zone, put his head down and then, crunch. Making matters worse, the play didn’t count as Eagles lineman Max Jean-Gilles was flagged for holding. Double ouch.
Vick, who didn’t speak with the media after the game, will have an MRI today.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know what would’ve happened had Vick not gotten hurt. We can only speculate. One man can only do so much. His presence wouldn’t have changed the stupid penalties and one running back’s butterfingers.
Pick a quarterback, any quarterback. Vick. Kolb. Heck, even Montana, Marino or Elway. It’s one guy and football is a team game.
Football fans didn’t get McNabb versus Vick, no. But the reminder ain’t bad.
(Scott Soshnick is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)