Somewhere, Andy Reid is wiping his brow.
The Michael Vick experiment proved successful in his first official start as the number one quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles as they embarrassed the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-3. The Eagles (2-1) led the whole way thanks to a first quarter 61-yard touchdown reception from Vick to DeSean Jackson, and Jacksonville’s only points came from a Josh Scobee 51-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Vick had a hand in every Eagles’ point scored with three touchdowns through the air, two to second-year wideout Jeremy Maclin, and a 17-yard touchdown run late in the third to slam the door shut on the Jaguars. Maclin, whose four touchdowns this season match his total from 2009, finished with four catches for 83 yards, and Jackson caught a team-high five passes for 153 yards. Vick, who has yet to turn the ball over, finished 17-31 with 291 yards and a passer rating of 119.2.
Philadelphia’s defense played a larger role than expected and held the Jags to 184 total yards of offense and sacked Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard six times on the day. Garrard struggled throughout the afternoon after the run game was shut down early, leaving Maurice Jones-Drew with just 88 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Garrard’s big target, wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker, caught only two of the eight passes tossed his way, one of which was intercepted by cornerback Asante Samuel for his first of the season.
A three and out led to a quick first series for the Eagles, but Vick and the offense found themselves in good field position around the Jacksonville 30 following a short punt. It took four plays to get to midfield, but a sack drove them back to the Jacksonville 39 yard line. On third and 16, Vick saw the pocket collapsing around him but hung to find Jackson on an out route who tight-roped his way along the sideline for a touchdown. Vick was sacked three times Sunday but never gave up on the pass, scrambling just four times all afternoon.
Jacksonville’s field goal came early in the second quarter, and the Eagles wouldn’t score again until seconds before halftime. At their own 47 with 1:37 left and no time outs—largely in part to Reid’s horrible clock-management skills—Vick went 4-6 on the drive, spiking the ball just once with :12 seconds left before finding Maclin on a come-back route 16 yards away in the end zone.
The second half was simply a formality with the Eagles adding two touchdowns to their lead in the third. The first touchdown came one play after the interception by Samuel on a 45-yard pass to Maclin. On the next drive, Philly seemed intent on padding their lead in case of a late-game meltdown by the defense like last week in Detroit and opened with a 42-yard pass to Jackson to the Jaguars 30. Five plays later, Vick dropped back in the shotgun and scrambled 17 yards up the middle to the end zone.
The fourth quarter moved quickly as both teams seemed intent on running the clock down. The defense sacked Garrard three times in the final quarter including a huge 10-yard sack on the second to last play by rookie safety Nate Allen on a safety blitz. Allen recorded three tackles to go with his first career sack but the biggest performance was by defensive end Trent Cole, who recorded a team-high eight tackles and two sacks with four quarterback hits for his 13th career multi-sack game.
On the other side of the defensive line Juqua Parker got another sack for his fourth this season and it’s the first time he’s ever gone three consecutive games with at least one sack. Defensive tackle Trevor Laws also recorded his first career sack. Accounting for the six sacks, the defense allowed a total of 51 net passing yards. That’s the lowest for an Eagles’ defense since 2001, when they allowed just 21 against Seattle.
Reid successfully squashed the quarterback controversy for this week, but if Vick keeps up this kind of play he’ll look like the smartest man in Philadelphia come playoff time. Don’t expect Vick to lose any of the intensity he showed against Jacksonville in the days leading up to their match up with Washington, or at all this season.
“I always believed I could come back and play quarterback,” said Vick. “It was all about me getting an opportunity and I got it and it’s time to make the most of it.”