Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.
13/20 159 yards 1 TD Rushing: 5/33 yards 1 TD QB Rating: 106.0
% of total offense: 68
6/9 126 yds 1 TD 1 INT QB Rating: 107.2
% of total offense: 64%
In the latest installment of the maddeningly unpredictable ongoing series that is Michael Vick’s career, a bizarre trend is materializing. Many are aware of Vick’s constant battle with decision-making and his affinity for making bad situations worse (sometimes in spectacular fashion). For this reason, many may find this developing pattern, and its subsequent comparison, baffling.
The Eagles are 3-1 through their first four games this season. While their record may not be surprising, the manner by which it was achieved certainly was. In all three of the Eagles’ wins thus far, a late 4th quarter, game-winning drive was required. That’s a tall order even for some of the most elite quarterbacks in the NFL. In a show of impressive resiliency, Michael Vick has come through for the Eagles whenever he’s had the opportunity.
Just how impressive have Michael Vick’s late game heroics been? For the answer, look no further than the performance of an ELIte quarterback just one year ago. (Do you see what I did there? No one has ever used that before right…right?) Eli Manning made history in 2011, posting a stunning EIGHT game-winning fourth quarter drives. Still, it took until week 6 for the New York Giants’ signal caller to match Vick’s current total. The comparison between these two late-game heroes is even more compelling upon closer inspection.
As is stated above, Michael Vick has had three opportunities this year to be “clutch”; to drive his team down the field to a 4th quarter, game-winning score. Thus, a fair comparison would warrant examination of Eli’s first three opportunities in 2011. Most importantly, overall record in these situations should be considered. Vick edges Manning here with an impressive 3-0. Eli converted on two of his first three attempts. As erratic as Philly’s quarterback has been at times, it’s hard to believe that he has been more reliable than his Giants counterpart in 2011.
Taking a Closer Look
While Michael Vick has posted a better overall record in these close games, it is a common misconception that Manning is simply rELIed on to do more. (Again, do you see what I was able to do here? It’s gold!) Taking a closer look, the statistics polygraph has determined that is a lie. During these late-game adventures, Michael Vick has had the ball placed in his hands on 68% of the plays. That’s 4% higher than Eli’s rate through his first three such drives in 2011. This really brings Andy Reid’s trust in his quarterback to light for a few reasons.
For one, Michael Vick had not been exceptional through the first three and a half quarters of most of these games. This would lead most coaches to take the ball out of his hands in crunch time, but Andy had the courage of his convictions and deserves some credit. After all, it’s his job that’s on the line. Another reason this reliance on Vick is surprising is that, for the most part, there has been plenty of time left on the clock during these late-game drives. The running game was certainly still a viable option in most of these cases.
Eli Gets One
There just had to be one area where Eli Manning and his 201l campaign could gain an advantage over Vick. It’s true, Manning’s quarterback rating of 107.2 during his first three game-winning opportunities is impressive. Connecting on 6 of his 9 pass attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown, Eli made his presence felt. What kept his rating down, however was a soul-crushing pick-6 that the New York quarterback threw at the goal line, in the waning moments of a home game vs. the Seahawks.
Michael Vick certainly has had his share of head-scratching throws this season, but few have come during his comeback bids. He’s hit his targets on 13 of 20 attempts for 159 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles’ savior has also made use of his legs, rushing 5 times for 33 yards and another score. It should be noted that this success on the ground doesn’t even factor into Vick’s impressive 106.0 quarterback rating on game-winning drives.
What Does it Mean?
Is Michael Vick a better quarterback than Eli Manning? No. I’m fairly certain that, aside from a few die-hard Vick fans, there will be little argument here. Still, the stats would suggest that what Michael Vick is doing this season in the 4th quarter is special. It’s entirely possible that Philadelphia’s quarterback is making some history of his own. There’s a lot of football left to be played, and there are sure to be some bumps along the way, but if Michael Vick is building a “dynasty,” these fourth quarter drives make for a solid foundation.