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Vick makes Eagles way better, and proves so in return

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- He hasn't been benched for a two-minute drive. His knowledge of the playbook never was questioned. And no one will dare to criticize him for his conditioning.

He is Michael Vick, and he is why the quarterback controversy in the NFC East is no longer in Philadelphia -- moving, instead, to Washington with Donovan McNabb.

Vick was one reason Eagles coach Andy Reid considered peddling McNabb in the first place, and now you know why. To put it simply, Philadelphia is a better team with him. It has three wins in four Vick starts, including Sunday's 26-24 defeat of Indianapolis, and it is more dangerous on offense than virtually anyone out there -- with Vick's latest performance the evidence.

Vick was everywhere, passing, throwing and leading the Eagles to a victory that could not -- would not -- have been possible without him. He threw for 218 yards and a touchdown. He didn't throw an interception. He ran for another 74 yards -- or more than the entire Colts' rushing attack. He scored there, too.

One was a 32-yard scramble through the middle of the Indianapolis defense. Another was good for 24. I think you get the idea. It was Michael Vick at his best, which is what the Philadelphia Eagles have been getting this year ... when he's healthy.

But it's been four weeks since he made an appearance, and in that time the Eagles won two of three with Kevin Kolb. Not bad, huh? Nevertheless, they weren't the same as they are with Vick, and let Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell explain why.

"He gives you all kinds of problems because he's a dual threat," he said. "Not only can he do harm to you in terms of running the ball, but I mean he had some big, big gains against us."

The biggest was a 58-yard pass to DeSean Jackson that dug the Eagles out of a third-and-7 hole at the Philadelphia 4. He had another 34-yard pass to Jason Avant. And a 22-yarder to Jeremy Maclin. In short, he was everywhere doing just about everything, which is why the Eagles had scoring drives of 96, 72, 80 and 55 yards against an Indianapolis team considered one of the best in the league.

More Colts at Eagles

Now, I understand Vick has done that before, but he hasn't done it after taking off a month with a rib injury. If Sunday's game was a gut check for the Eagles -- now 12-0 after byes under coach Andy Reid -- it was also a gut check for Vick, with people in and around the Eagles interested in seeing how or if his game changed because of the injury.

It didn't.

"You know what? I play this game the way I play it," Vick said. "I'm not going to change. I think I did a good job of protecting myself at times, and times when I knew the hit wasn't going to be as devastating I was able to protect myself.

"But I'm not going to play this game scared or hesitant or conservative. I'm going to go out and give it 110 percent and everything I got. At the end of the day I want to tell myself I gave it everything I had and didn't hold anything back. It's just me playing my game."

Vick playing his game makes the Eagles the best threat to push the New York Giants in the NFC East and New York and Atlanta in the conference. For the moment, the Eagles will again be sucked into a quarterback controversy, but not because of anything going on here. No, their next game is next Monday in Washington -- with the Eagles playing McNabb and the Redskins in Washington's first appearance after McNabb's benching.

Of course, that wasn't the first time it happened to the star quarterback. He was benched after a half in a 2008 loss to Baltimore. But it was the first time he was benched in that manner and by that team, and that caused an uproar in Washington that once upon a time was commonplace in Philadelphia.

But there is no quarterback controversy here. Not anymore. Michael Vick is the starter, Kevin Kolb is the backup, and the Eagles are better for the move.

Vick not only is playing the best football of his life, but he's in charge of a team with so much talent that he confided in Reid last week that he thought it could make it to the Super Bowl. Honest. So Philadelphia's isn't leading isn't division. Watch Vick play as he did Sunday, and tell me who can or will defend him.

I don't know of anyone outside of Reid himself, with the head coach understandably cautious to have Vick risk another kill shot instead of running out of bounds or launching into a feet-first slide. But watch highlights of Sunday's performance and tell me that message got through ... because it didn't, and good for Michael Vick.

No, better for the Philadelphia Eagles.

"You got that end zone in front of you and that's what drives me," Vick said. "When I see that end zone it's like the lights are turned on. I don't care what happens. I'm willing to go the extra mile to put six points on the board. I'm not going to play my game thinking about getting hurt."

Nor should he. But that doesn't mean Reid can't think about it and implore his quarterback not to take unnecessary risks. We've seen what the Eagles are with Vick, and we've seen what they are without him ... against Washington, no less. Given the choice, I'll take Vick with all the anxieties -- and highlight reels -- that his game delivers.

"It's going to be hard holding him back," Reid admitted. "I've talked to him, but this is one of the more competitive guys I've been around. He loves to play the game. You don't want to take anything away from his game. At the same time he did run out of bounds one time, so I was fired up about that. We're making a little progress."

Nope, they just made a lot.


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