Monday, December 20, 2010

Vick comes back in spectacular fashion as Giants fold late

I would've been sitting pretty as a Giants fan, up 31-10 with about eight minutes to play. There is only one quarterback who could have engineered an Eagles comeback yesterday and it just happens to be the man who was under center for Philadelphia.

Using his arm, legs and some poor Giants coaching and execution to his advantage, Michael Vick single-handedly brought the Eagles back from a sure loss to win in regulation thanks to Matt Dodge failing to kick away from DeSean Jackson. But he had other help too.

Brent Celek made an appearance catching a beautiful deep ball from Vick, but Kenny Phillips whiffed on the ball instead of playing to make the tackle and allowed Celek to tack on another 30 yards and a touchdown and with time being the one major factor playing against the Eagles, they scored in two plays.

Vick would scramble three times for 20-plus yards over the next two drives, running one in himself from four yards out and hitting Jeremy Maclin on a short curl for a touchdown. Where Terrell Thomas was playing Maclin nobody will ever know, as he was on the goalline with Maclin at the five, allowing him to catch and make an unbeatable move to the inside to clear a path to the endzone. You can't give a player as quick as Maclin that much room and give yourself a chance.

Just when you figure the game is going to overtime, the Giants were stopped on their next drive and had to punt with 14 seconds left. Rookie punter Matt Dodge, instructed by coach Tom Coughlin to kick out of bounds, didn't and Jackson made the Giants pay.

Jackson bobbled the punt, which was probably the best thing he could have done. The Giants coverage team lost their lanes and Jackson used the best acceleration I've seen in the NFL in a long time to break free and sprint down the sidelines almost untouched for the winning touchdown as time expired.

All the positive things the Giants were about to take from their big divisional win went out the window. It doesn't matter that they held Vick to 21 passing yards in the first half. Or that Eli Manning threw 4 touchdowns and looked comfortable even without Steve Smith. The Eagles magic number is now down to one thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker; one Philadelphia win and one New York loss and the Giants only path to the playoff is through the Wild Card and a guaranteed first-round road game.

The Giants outplayed the Eagles badly for over 50 minutes, but the Eagles have the league's best quick-strike offense thanks to Vick, who added to his MVP candidacy in leading this comeback. Speaking of Vick, it's time to look at what this man has done.

From a lazy player who took his immense talent for granted to sitting in jail not knowing when or if he would play again to using a Kevin Kolb injury to propel himself back into the spotlight, it sure has been a journey for Michael Vick. And while I am a dog lover I'm also a firm believer in second chances and I've been all about Vick's from the start.

To paraphrase something I heard Vick say earlier this week, he wants a dog himself as part of the "rehabilitation process." Vick wants to be a role model for kids but he understands his path and how people can learn from it. He wants to be looked up to as somebody who "rose to the top, failed dramatically, then rose again."

This is a contrite man who knows he made a huge mistake and that quote shows he recognizes this. Am I forgiving his! What he did was terrible and it will always be in the back of my mind whenever I watch him play. But what will be at the forefront of my mind at the same time is the beauty of watching what happens when once-in-a-lifetime talent meets work ethic and that was on display yesterday.

We all make mistakes, some on a larger scale than others. And since being put in jail, Vick has done everything he was supposed to. He lost all of his money, did his time and returned to the league humbled and ready to prove he could still play. He has been a model citizen and until that changes, I will continue to root for the man and his second chance.

And I will also continue to root for an Eagles-Falcons NFC Championship game. The owner and team that Vick essentially screwed versus the player and person they thought they were drafted nine years ago. This saga has honestly turned from a terrible story into one of redemption. And wouldn't beating Atlanta to get to the Super Bowl be the ultimate redemption?

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