Michael Vick was preparing to leave the Philadelphia Eagles' hotel for FedEx Field last Nov. 15 when he saw a report on TV about Donovan McNabb's new $78 million contract with the Washington Redskins, whom the Eagles would face that night.
Vick already had plenty of motivation heading into that game. He was starting on "Monday Night Football" for the first time since his 2007 arrest on dogfighting charges, and, five weeks earlier, the Redskins' defense had bullied the Eagles in a 17-12 win and battered Vick, knocking him out for a month with a rib injury. Watching TV inside his hotel room, though, his mission suddenly crystallized. "I wanted to show the world that, just like Donovan, I was worthy and deserving as well," Vick said.
It didn't take long for him to make his point. Vick coolly responded to pregame trash talk from Washington defensive back LaRon Landry by toasting the safety on the very first play of the game, an 88-yard TD bomb to DeSean Jackson.
"First play of the game, we scored," Vick said. "Come back, second drive, score again. Third drive, score again. Fourth drive, score again. The next time I looked up it was 35-0 with 14 minutes left to go in the second quarter, that's when I thought, 'yeah, this might be something special.' "
Vick went on to complete 20 of 28 passes for a 150.7 QB rating. He swears every pass that hit the ground was a drop. "I easily could have been 28-of-28," Vick said.
The Hall of Fame wanted his jersey after Vick became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 300 yards and four TDs and also rush for 50 yards and two TDs in a game.
"When you're in the middle of something like that, you think about the ups and downs that brought you to this moment," Vick said. "You stop and look up to the sky and think, this is the one chance you've been asking God about for so long."
Vick's performance served as an evolutionary step for quarterbacking. He completed 81 percent of his passes inside the pocket, throwing to receivers open downfield with laser-like accuracy and touch, and gunning the ball into impossibly tight spaces closer to the line of scrimmage. Outside the pocket, with one cut he left half the Redskins' defense inhaling vapors. Pushing the vertical limits of the West Coast offense, Vick also threw the ball 20 or more yards downfield five times and completed four of those passes. And he did it while barely breaking a sweat. Teammates described it as the "Madden NFL" video game come to life. Vick called it "the perfect game," and ranks it as the best performance of his career.
But what about of all time?
"No. 1, no doubt," he said.
-- David Fleming, ESPN The Magazine
Michael Vick, Jason Peters, Nick Cole, Todd Herremans, Andy Reid
DeAngelo Hall, Andre Carter, Lorenzo Alexander, Rocky McIntosh
Vick, shown scoring a second-quarter TD,
said it was a "perfect game," the best of his career.
Photo: AP Photo/Nick Wass