Michael Vick, amid much hoopla and some minor protests, returned to the NFL last night during the Eagles' wild, 33-32 come-from-behind exhibition victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
David Akers' 34-yard field goal with 15 seconds left provided the winning margin.
The most controversial addition in Eagles history, Vick was on the field for a total of five offensive plays that counted and one that was negated by a holding penalty.
"It was a surreal feeling coming out of the locker room and all these big guys with Philadelphia Eagles symbols on their helmets and green and white, and I had to kind of pinch myself to remind myself that it was real," Vick said. "This is something I've been waiting for for a long time, suiting up and playing a game, regardless of whether it's preseason or regular season. It's been a long journey for me, and I just want to do it right this time."
Donovan McNabb, the Eagles starting quarterback who said he wanted Vick here, indicated those six plays interrupted the flow of the first-team offense at times. Asked if the Eagles needed to get back to the basic offense after incorporating Vick into the first four possessions of the first half, McNabb answered affirmatively.
"Absolutely, absolutely," McNabb said. "I did. In that situation, it's needed. I know what we were trying to do [with Vick] and we were able to get that done. And I thought it was time for us to kind of get our offense going. If you're going to show different looks, make sure it's the right time."
Eagles coach Andy Reid said if the Eagles are going to use Vick then it has to become part of the offensive flow.
"If you're going to use that a little bit, then you need to work it in there," he said. "I expect the guys to make that part of their rhythm and make it work."
Vick, after spending the morning in bankruptcy court in Virginia, lined up five times in the shotgun formation, ran once, and completed all four of his passes, although only one of the throws was longer than 4 yards.
It only took two plays for Reid to send Vick into the game and the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field reacted with more appreciation than condemnation of the quarterback who spent 18 months in a federal prison after being convicted on dogfighting charges.
"I didn't think it was going to be that positive," Vick said of the crowd reaction. "I really didn't know what to expect. I was running out there on the field and I was listening to see what the reaction was going to be and I was very pleased. I really didn't expect that reaction, but I was very thankful."
In that first series, with the Eagles in a second-and-10 situation, quarterback Donovan McNabb lined up as a wide receiver and Vick took the shotgun snap from center Jamaal Jackson. Vick shoveled a short throw to rookie running back LeSean McCoy for a 4-yard gain. It was the only play of the Eagles' opening series that went for positive yardage.
Vick returned on the second play of the next series, again faked a handoff to McCoy, then kept the ball for a 1-yard gain before being pulled down by defensive end Derrick Harvey.
Vick's best play came near the end of the Eagles' second series when he completed a first-down pass to Hank Baskett that went for 13 yards to the Jacksonville 14-yard line, setting up an eventual field goal by Akers.
However, in the big scheme, Vick had almost no impact on the outcome of this uneven preseason contest.
McNabb completed 21 of 36 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown, but the offense, albeit without star running back Brian Westbrook, continued to struggle near the goal line.
"I think overall we have a lot of things to work on," McNabb said. "There were a couple of mistakes that shouldn't have happened. I think we have to be able to clean that up and get things together when the time comes, because Carolina is right around the corner."
In three trips inside the 20-yard line in the first half, the Eagles settled for two field goals and one touchdown - except the touchdown was by Jacksonville.
At the Jaguars' 1-yard line, McNabb threw a backward pass to McCoy. The rookie running back whiffed on the catch and it bounced off his helmet. Linebacker Brian Iwuh scooped up the lateral and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown that gave the Jaguars a 14-3 lead.
It was a second straight difficult night for McCoy. After managing just 4 yards on five carries in the Eagles' loss at Indianapolis, McCoy had just 31 yards on 11 carries against Jacksonville. He did score on a 4-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
The Eagles' first-team defense had an odd night, surrendering two touchdowns but also forcing two turnovers, one on an interception by cornerback Asante Samuel and another on a fumble.
Defensive end Jason Babin continued to make his case for a roster spot by forcing a fumble on the Jaguars' first possession of the second half. Quintin Demps picked up the loose ball and returned it 20 yards to the Jaguars' 18.
Meanwhile, backup quarterback Kevin Kolb, after being flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone on his first snap of the preseason late in the third quarter, rallied the Eagles from a 29-20 deficit by completing 10 of 18 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.