PHILADELPHIA -- When Michael Vick raised his voice in the huddle and spoke up on the sideline, teammates responded.
Vick isn't just playing like an MVP. He has become a leader for the Philadelphia Eagles. After they blew an 11-point lead and fell behind the Houston Texans on Thursday night, Vick sparked a 34-24 comeback win.
"On the sideline and in the huddle, he did a great job," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Friday. "It's a calmness and it's also a confidence that he brings. He's not afraid to challenge people, and people aren't offended by him challenging them the way he presents it. There's a fine line there. He's done a good job with that."
The soft-spoken Vick gathered the troops after the Texans erased a 14-3 deficit and took a 24-20 lead late in the third quarter. Vick isn't usually the rah-rah type, but he knows when it's time to take charge.
"When you get down and you know you should be winning the game by more points than what you have, then instinctively you just step up as a leader," Vick said. "That's my job. My job is to rally, motivate, to push these guys as hard as I can just as much as I've pushed myself. So with that said, you just have to not put yourself in that position and not make this game harder than what this is."
The Eagles (8-4) moved a half-game up on the New York Giants in the NFC East, and now have a mini-bye before visiting the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 12. Reid gave the players five days off, and they'll resume practice Wednesday.
"I just wanted the guys to believe in themselves," Vick said. "I have all the belief in the world in those guys. I think the world of them, and I'll go to battle with them any day. So I try to encourage them and say whatever I can to keep them upbeat, keep them confident and keep them with their will to win."
The Eagles are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. The 30-year-old Vick is the oldest starter on offense, and just six other players are in their 30s. Since becoming the starter, Vick has taken a bigger leadership role every day.
"He was very vocal about everyone rallying and picking up their games, and he said that he was going to pick up his game," Reid said. "It was all positive. For someone that's normally quiet, when he speaks up like that, people listen. I thought he did a very nice job of bringing good energy."
Vick is surrounded by guys who grew up idolizing him and being him in video games. Running back LeSean McCoy and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were in high school when Vick was a superstar with the Atlanta Falcons.
"I joke with Mike all the time about in high school, my whole team had his cleats when he was playing in the NFL," McCoy said. "Now I'm in the same huddle with him, locker room with him, joking with him, texting him, calling him. I'm a fan of his. I just can't show him too much. But it's different. It's the same for me, for Maclin, for DeSean. Us young guys, to be playing with him, we're excited. We look up to him. I think it works out when you look up to your leader instead of just playing with your leader."
Vick has undergone a total transformation in Philadelphia after nearly ruining his career by going to federal prison on dogfighting charges. He used to rely on raw skills to be a dynamic player who went to three Pro Bowls. Now, he is a complete quarterback.
Vick is one of the most exciting players in the league, whether he stays in the pocket and fires a laser-like throw or takes off on one of his daring runs. In the locker room, Vick leads by example. He shows up early for film study and stays late to work out and make sure his body can endure the pounding he takes on a weekly basis.
"He's worked so hard," Reid said. "He goes out there and stays after practice. He did that last year when he was trying to get himself back into shape, and then this offseason he spent so much time getting himself right. That's where this helps Michael, especially with the way he plays the game. He plays a physical type of game at quarterback, and you have to be in good shape to do that."
Vick's numbers are incredible, especially considering he entered the season as a backup and missed three games with a rib injury. He has thrown for 2,243 yards and 15 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He has a 63.8 completion percentage, and his passer rating of 105.7 trails only New England Patriots star Tom Brady (105.8). Vick also has run for 467 yards and six scores.
Notes: Eagles RT Winston Justice has a hyperextended left knee, but he should be ready to play against the Cowboys. Reid said an MRI revealed no structural damage. ... CB Asante Samuel (knee) and DE Juqua Parker (hip) should be ready to practice Wednesday after both missed the last two games.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press