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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

When Vick leaves field, so does Eagles' momentum

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As Vick heads for the exit, the Eagles' competitive edge seems to go with him. (Getty Images)  
As Vick heads for the exit, the Eagles' competitive edge seems to go with him. (Getty Images)  

ATLANTA -- As Michael Vick left the Georgia Dome field Sunday night, his head certainly filled with cobwebs courtesy of a concussion, he was coherent enough to hear the boos raining down on him and, more surprisingly, to respond with a cocky-like reaction.

He smirked and pointed to the scoreboard.

Vick's Philadelphia Eagles were up 10 on the Atlanta Falcons as he made his way to the locker room, never to be seen again. What he missed was a nice Falcons comeback. Atlanta, staring 0-2 in the face to open the season, rallied from down 31-21 to beat the Eagles 35-31 in wild game that had a little of everything.

It was a night during which both quarterbacks took a ton of shots, some of them so brutal you almost had to turn away. It would have been understandable if Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan might have also ended the game on the sidelines, but he fought through the multiple big hits -- including one that had him split-legged like a gymnast -- to rally the Falcons in the fourth quarter.

Ryan wasn't great, passing for only 195 yards and getting picked twice, but he did throw a career-high four touchdown passes.

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And he finished the game.

"He's a tough Irishman," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "He takes the hits and he keeps going. When you have a guy like that, it's going to pay dividends in the long run."

As Ryan walked to meet the media after the game, I joked that he might not be able to make it there.

"I'm good," he said.

At one point, Ryan took the big shot and looked to stay down, but he popped up to stay in the game.

Vick wasn't so lucky. He left in the fourth quarter when Falcons safety William Moore knocked him into Todd Herremans, Vick's right tackle. Vick's head hit Herreman's shoulder, ending his night.

As Vick was helped from the field, he spit out blood and then wobbled to the bench before leaving. He wasn't made available for postgame interviews because new league rules make it so concussed players don't have to talk.

Some in the Falcons locker room did the talking for him. Some players thought Vick checked out of the game.

"You could see him early taking those shots and he didn't want to be there," one Falcon said. "I'm not saying he checked out because he's soft. It's just that we hit him a lot."

The Falcons' plan was simple. Blitz him and blitz him some more. This was Vick's first game back facing his former team as a starter, the second time playing in the dome he used to make his performance studio.

That was before his much-publicized dog-fighting troubles that led to his release from the team and his spending more than a year in Leavenworth. Vick's resurrection as a person and a player has been well documented. He is the poster child for second chances -- both on and off the field.

CBSSports.com Grades
Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles
C+
The Eagles won in just about every statistical marker available. Philadelphia had more first downs, a huge advantage in total yards and were penalized less frequently. However, the Eagles turned the ball over three times and Atlanta managed 14 points off of those turnovers, winning the game by four points.
Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons
B-
Atlanta won this game and broke into the win column, but there is still work to be done going forward. The secondary is porous still -- even with two new starters in the secondary in the nickel package and the Falcons were penalized too much Sunday. Had Eagles QB Mike Vick not been knocked from the game, would Atlanta have won?
By Knox Bardeen
RapidReports Correspondent

This version of Vick has become a better passer than the one who played for the Falcons, but he still has one big hiccup. He has trouble with blitzes. So the Falcons blitzed him an estimated 70 percent of the time on passing downs, according to corner Dunta Robinson.

"We knew that we were putting hits on him," Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton said.

Vick finished the game 19 of 28 for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran it six times for 25 yards.

When he went out, the Eagles lost more than their quarterback. You could tell the Falcons seized the momentum. The big play on the game-winning drive was a 61-yard run by Michael Turner on a first-and-17 from the Atlanta 13. That set up the 3-yard run for the winning score by Turner.

Losing Vick seemed to take the life out of the Eagles, but that didn't make it easy for Atlanta. The Eagles drove from their 9 to a first-and-10 at the Atlanta 28 in the closing minutes behind Mike Kafka. But Jeremy Maclin dropped a pass on fourth down that would have kept the drive alive.

Then the Falcons botched its time management at the end of the game, taking three knees instead of running plays -- for which Smith took the blame -- and they had to punt. They punted to DeSean Jackson, even though punter Matt Bosher was instructed to punt it out of bounds.

Jackson, who last year won a game against the Giants on a punt return on the final play, was tackled after briefly making the Falcons sideline and most of the fans hold their collective breath.

"There is no quarterback like Mike Vick," Robinson said about adjusting to Kafka.

No, there is not, which is why when he left the field, the Eagles' spirit seemed to go with him. The last time Vick was on this field -- two years ago as a backup -- he came in late and threw a touchdown pass in a blowout Eagles victory.

That didn't go over well with the Falcons. This time, there was none of that.

Vick was in the locker room being attended to, with his availability in doubt for next week's game against the Giants.

He was a star seeing stars, the Dream Team quarterback ending his trip back to Atlanta in a nightmare.

Bet he wasn't pointing to the scoreboard when he made his way to the bus.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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