PHILADELPHIA – Michael Vick limped to the huddle and walked gingerly to the line of scrimmage. He may have been bruised. He may have been battered. But nothing could slow him down once he took the snap.
Vick threw for 302 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, rallying the Philadelphia Eagles to a 34-24 victory over the Houston Texans on Thursday night.
Vick was hurried and harassed throughout the game. But he kept getting up. He kept making big plays despite a slew of jarring hits. He scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run, and the Eagles held serve in the race for the NFC East title.
"I'm used to taking hits. It's not that bad," Vick said. "If I take one and I lay down, then I took a good one. But I'm a pretty tough guy. I bounce back when I can. There's no science to getting hit, or protecting yourself."
It was the first time Vick led the Eagles (8-4) back from a fourth-quarter deficit. They led 14-3 in the first half before falling behind 24-20.
Matt Schaub had 337 yards passing and two scores for the Texans (5-7). Andre Johnson had 149 yards receiving — four days after his hockey-like fight with Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan.
The NFC East-leading Eagles were coming off their first loss in a game that Vick started and finished. He was 5-0 before a 31-26 loss at Chicago.
Vick continued his remarkable comeback story. He completed 22 of 33 passes for two touchdowns, and had his third 300-yard game. Vick, a three-time Pro Bowl pick in six seasons with Atlanta, only had two 300-yard games coming into this year. He also ran for 48 yards and a score.
"This young man is playing as good as anybody I've seen play in the NFL and I've been doing it for a while," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of Vick. "He's special and we just tried to contain him, but obviously he still had a big night. He's been doing it against a lot of people so. ... We had a couple of chances for turnovers. He gave us a couple of opportunities that we just didn't take advantage of."
After the Texans took their first lead in the third quarter, the Eagles quickly answered. Vick sneaked in from the 2 to put Philadelphia ahead 27-24 early in the fourth. Vick's 33-yard pass to DeSean Jackson to the Texans 11 set up the score.
Vick drove the Eagles 87 yards on their next possession, and tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Owen Schmitt to extend the lead to 34-24. He celebrated with a side leap into coach Andy Reid.
"He got knocked around a little bit," Reid said. "He got back up and kept going. I loved his energy in the second half. Both sides of the ball, he was firing them up."
A 19-yard pass to Brent Celek on third-and-19 kept that drive going. Celek was ruled stopped short of the first down, but the Eagles challenged the spot and replays showed he had enough yards.
Philadelphia is now a half-game ahead of the New York Giants (7-4) in the NFC East. New York plays host to Washington on Sunday.
"They are a good team and this is a tough place to play," Schaub said of the Eagles. "We had a good plan, we kept fighting back. It just wasn't enough in crunch time to do it."
Houston came out strong in the second half. Schaub tossed a 13-yard scoring pass to Arian Foster to complete a 79-yard drive and get the Texans within 20-17. Then, Houston's defense made a big play. Jason Allen intercepted Vick's deep pass and the Texans took over at their 14.
The Texans marched downfield in 13 plays, with Foster running in from the 3 to make it 24-20. Schaub hit Johnson for 31 yards on third-and-17 to keep the drive alive.
Philadelphia's Jorrick Calvin returned the opening kickoff 102 yards, but a holding penalty on Clay Harbor nullified the touchdown. That was no problem for the Eagles. They drove 88 yards and went ahead 7-0 on Vick's 1-yard scoring pass to LeSean McCoy. Vick connected with Jackson for 30 yards on the first play from scrimmage, and was 7 of 8 for 89 yards on the drive.
Jackson had two catches against the Bears, and was unhappy with his lack of production. He answered with three receptions for 84 yards.
McCoy ran in from the 4 on the next series, putting Philadelphia ahead 14-3.
The Texans finally stopped the Eagles on their third possession — sort of. David Akers kicked a 36-yard field goal to make it 17-3.
Schaub then tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones to cut it to 17-10. He connected with Johnson for a 42-yard gain to the Eagles 11 two plays earlier.
Late in the second quarter, Schaub made an errant toss that was intercepted by defensive lineman Trevor Laws and returned to the Texans 18. Laws fumbled, but the Eagles recovered. Philadelphia wasted the field position, though. Jason Avant and Celek each dropped what should've been touchdowns. The Eagles settled for a 22-yarder by Akers, and a 20-10 lead.
The Eagles played without three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel, who missed his second straight game with a knee injury. Samuel leads the NFL with seven interceptions.
Notes: Akers set a franchise record by playing in his 184th game, passing Brian Dawkins. ... Eagles RT Winston Justice left with a knee injury and didn't return. He is scheduled to have an MRI Friday. ... The Eagles have scored touchdowns on their opening possession six times, and are 6-0 in those games. ... The Texans have lost five of six since a 4-2 start.