PHILADELPHIA – So much of the talk about Peyton Manning revolves around just how smart and experienced he is. He is, at 37, still physically able to play at a high level, but his football IQ is the key to his record-breaking start to the 2013 season.
“He's a coach on the field that is saying, 'Here is your look, I'm going to put our offense in the best position,' ” Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “Peyton has a great understanding of what that defense is strong at and weak at. He takes what you're giving him, down after down.”
“Probably him and (Tom) Brady are the two best I've ever seen,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. “You're talking about two of the all-time greats.”
If only the Eagles had a quarterback with years of experience and exposure to everything a defensive coordinator can devise …
Oh, wait. They do.
Michael Vick is 33. He was the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, three years after Manning was the No. 1 pick. Vick has played in 124 NFL games. He has been coached by Dan Reeves and Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg and Greg Knapp and now Kelly and Pat Shurmur.
Vick is the first to admit that he did not take the mental aspect of the game seriously for years. He famously admitted to his former Atlanta head coach, Jim Mora, that he left DVDs intended for home study on the front seat of his car. Vick was able to rely on breathtaking athletic ability that, quite frankly, was not an option for Manning or Brady.
After he got to Philadelphia in 2009, Vick said he developed a new appreciation for video study. But he did not maintain that commitment. By his own account, he is only this year spending the kind of extra time necessary to prepare.
In his first two games, that translated into relatively mistake-free football. The only turnover committed by Vick was a pass that was ruled a lateral and a fumble at Washington. Vick made mostly good decisions in the read-option game and was accurate on most of his passes -- as evidenced by his 62.3 completion percentage.
Last Thursday, though, many of the bad habits of the past two years resurfaced in a 26-16 loss to the Chiefs. Vick took six sacks and lost one fumble. He completed only 43.3 percent of his passes. Vick threw two interceptions, both of which he acknowledged were the result of poor decisions.
“It was something that I'll learn from,” Vick said. “I'll never second-guess myself like that again.”
On Sunday, he will be pitted against one of the best decision-making quarterbacks in the history of the game. To have a chance, the Eagles need Vick to take care of the ball and play as smartly as he did in the first two games.