FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – It’s been six years since Michael Vick last suited up for the Atlanta Falcons and so now, as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, the main plot of the teams’ meeting on Sunday is the plight of the 3-3 Eagles and the imperiled future of their turnover-prone quarterback.
With the NFC foes meeting on what seems an almost annual basis, Vick has played twice in Atlanta (2009 and 2011), which, for him, takes on more meaning than playing in Lincoln Financial Field, as Sunday’s game is. When Vick went off to federal prison on dog-fighting charges in 2007, some diehard fans remained with him. But those hard feelings are fading over time with Vick’s old No. 7 Falcons’ jersey being replaced by more No. 2 Matt Ryan Falcons’ jerseys at the Georgia Dome.
Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, who is close to Vick and whose mother has sat with Vick’s mother at previous Falcons-Eagles games, is one of the few remaining players still on Atlanta’s roster from the time when Vick played for the Falcons. Vick said he sent White a text, telling him to drop his first five passes.
Other than that, Vick called Sunday “just another game.”
“Last year, going back to Atlanta, that was special,” he said, as he backed up Donovan McNabb in 2009, “so it added a little bit to the game. Now, it’s just two good football teams going head-to-head and it’s going to be a good football game. Nothing extra added to it. I’m not getting any more pumped for this game than any other game. It’s just another game that we’ve got to play on Sunday and another game we’ve got to win.”
Indeed, the Eagles do have to win. They could fall below .500 in a season in which 14-year coach Andy Reid’s job could be on the line and that of Vick, as the starter, also appears on shaky ground. Vick has fumbled nine times, losing five, and thrown eight interceptions against eight touchdowns.
In Atlanta, Vick will face a defense that has 17 takeaways and whose plus-10 ratio in turnover margin ranks third in the NFL. Vick also has been sacked 17 times, tied for the eighth-most of any quarterback in the league, as he has played behind a patchwork offensive line.
“Obviously, he can’t have that many turnovers,” Reid said on Wednesday in a conference call with Atlanta media. “He’ll be the first one to tell you that. Turnovers are a product of not just one person and so with that everybody’s got to do their job better, including Mike. He understands that. He’s a competitive guy. He doesn’t want that to happen and then we can help with that. As coaches we can help him with that.”
Vick was asked if he believed that he were playing for his job on Sunday.
“Who knows,” he said. “I’m mean, the thing is I’ve just got to stay focused on what I’m doing and while I’m out there, getting the job done. Can’t play looking over my shoulder, can’t play worrying about I’m going to get taken out.
“If things don’t go right and that’s what happens, then I stand tall. I stand tall and keep pushing to the next time and the next go-around. But I’m not worried about that.”
A loss would make Philadelphia’s chances to make the playoffs that much harder one game before its season midpoint. At 3-4, the Eagles potentially could trail the NFC East-leading New York Giants by 2½ games and in the wildcard race they could fall 1½ games behind.
As a result, Vick realizes what is at stake.
“We feel like it’s a must-win game for us, yeah, I won’t lie,” he said. “We have to go out and win. We’re at home. It’s an opportunity for us to go out and play in front of our fans and put on a good showing that we’ve got a tough team coming and it’s going to be a good game.”
If the Eagles don’t get off to a good start or find themselves on the losing end, Vick knows well how the team’s legendary fans could turn on them.
“Our fans, you know, we love them to death and they are who they are,” he said. “You know, you don’t come out and perform for them they’re going to let you know and that’s what we appreciate about them.”