All eyes on Vick against the Lions

DETROIT (AP) - September 19, 2010

Matthew Stafford's golden right arm, an improved surrounding cast on offense and a strong defensive line were expected to make the Lions respectable after they won just twice in two seasons.

Then, Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers hit Stafford in the back, drove his right shoulder into the ground and suddenly Detroit's optimistic fans have plenty to be glum about.

Second-year coach Jim Schwartz and his players, publicly at least, insist replacing Stafford with Shaun Hill hasn't altered their outlook.

"Before you make judgments about what our offense can't do without Matt, allow us to prove to you what we can do with Shaun," receiver Nate Burleson said. "If anything, I think we'll be more aggressive against Philly than we were at Chicago."

The Eagles also are turning to a backup QB - Michael Vick in place of banged-up starter Kevin Kolb - on Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit's home opener. Vick hasn't taken the first snap in a game since Dec. 31, 2006, when he was playing for Atlanta.

He didn't play the next two seasons because he served an 18-month sentence in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation. Vick slowly worked his way back into game shape last year, playing sparingly in 12 games, and last week looked a little like the electric Pro Bowler he was at times for the Falcons.

Philadelphia coach Andy Reid, though, said a concussion isn't going to change the pecking order of Kolb and Vick.

"Kevin knows he's the guy," Reid said. "I don't want to slight Michael at all in this because I am so happy for this kid and the progress that he's made since being incarcerated, in both life and on the football field. He's worked so stinking hard to get himself to this position.

"On the other hand, Kevin's the starting quarterback for this football team."

Vick connected on two-thirds of his passes for 175 yards and a touchdown and ran 11 times for 103 yards, helping the Eagles rally from a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit to have a shot at beating Green Bay. It was the seventh game in which he had more than 100 yards rushing and passing, a feat no one else has done more than three times

"I don't really go out to try to prove to anybody that I can still play this game," Vick said.

Lions linebacker Julian Peterson, who chased Vick when he was playing for the Falcons, said he doesn't look as fast as he did in the past.

Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, seemed unfazed to face Vick after matching up successfully with similar QBs in college.

"I've played against quarterbacks that are like him, actually at his own school, Virginia Tech with Tyrod Taylor," Suh said. "So, I know how to play against guys like that. You just have to be get on him quicker and close fast because if you allow them to use their legs as a weapon they will cause havoc all game."

Hill will rely on his arm much more than his feet to make plays. He was 3-3 as a starter for San Francisco last year and was 10-6 as the No. 1 QB for the 49ers over the previous three seasons.

"It's not his first rodeo," center Dominic Raiola said. "He started games ahead of another No. 1 pick, Alex Smith, in San Francisco and people would've been talking about the game-winning drive he led us on if won at Chicago."

Oh, but the topic of conversation in the days after the season-opening loss to the Bears was the catch that was ruled an incompletion.

Hill lofted a pass to the end zone that Calvin Johnson leaped to snag and got both feet and a knee on the ground before putting the ball on the grass and celebrating what almost everyone thought was a game-winning TD in the final seconds. It was ruled incomplete because Johnson didn't maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire process of the catch.

Schwartz gathered his team for a chat between stretching and practicing Wednesday, but insisted it had nothing to do with encouraging his players to forget about the deflating defeat at Chicago or the loss of Stafford.

"You guys are the only guys that are bringing it up," Schwartz said. "That's not an item of discussion in our locker room or in our meetings. This is the NFL, you have 16 games."

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