By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
PHILADELPHIA — Last time the Philadelphia Eagles faced Peyton Manning, Michael Vick was the better quarterback.
Vick and the Eagles (1-2) are 11-point underdogs against Manning and the high-powered Broncos (3-0) on Sunday. Don’t expect Vick or his teammates to be intimidated.
“We don’t look at it like we’re underdogs,” Vick said. “We look at it like we’re playing a good football team and we have to go be at our best.”
In Week 9 of the 2010 season, Vick outplayed Manning in Philadelphia’s 26-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Vick, returning after missing a month following a rib injury, threw for 218 yards and one touchdown, and ran for 74 yards and a score. Manning threw for 287 yards, one TD and two interceptions that day.
“I was consistent all the way through,” Vick recalled. “We didn’t turn the ball over. Anytime you play against Peyton, you have to capitalize on every opportunity, and I think we were able to do that. We had a great game plan. We were at home, the crowd was great, everything was great, the atmosphere was good, and we were able to put it all together. It was probably one of my better games, but that was so long ago.”
Vick went on to win Comeback Player of the Year and led the Eagles to an NFC East title. He also started that season with 12 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Manning has matched that mark in the first three games this year.
“I know I’m a pretty good quarterback,” Vick said. “I understand why Peyton is getting the praise that he gets. I even praise him from afar. He’s playing lights-out football. It’s something that you can’t overlook. It’s something that you have to stare dead-on. You accept it. In a way, in a sense, we all kind of appreciate it. That’s what the game is all about.”
Considering the Eagles have the NFL’s 30th-ranked defense and the Broncos are first in points (42.3) and yards (486.7), Vick and Co. will have to play mistake-free football on the road. And, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson need to keep making big plays.
Manning is off to an incredible start. The four-time NFL MVP has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,143 yards, 12 TDs and no picks for a passer rating of 134.7.
“I think we can,” Vick said about matching Denver’s production. “I think for the most part we’ve shot ourselves in the foot and still have had opportunities to score 30-plus points in all three games we’ve played. So the optimism is there, we know what we have, we know what we can do, we know how to execute it. And it’s just all about putting it all together. It’ll come for us at some point.”
The key for Vick and the Eagles will be controlling the ball to keep Manning and his slew of receivers off the field. That hasn’t worked out for Philadelphia the last two weeks when it held the ball for a total of 40 minutes in two losses.
Ball control isn’t Chip Kelly’s philosophy. His priority is running as many plays as quickly as possible.
It sets up for what should be a high-scoring game. Oddsmakers have set the over/under at 58½ points. The total is the highest since 2004, when a Kansas City-Oakland matchup was set at 60.
“We’re very aware of the kind of challenge our defense is facing playing against Michael Vick, McCoy, Jackson, all their weapons,” Manning said. “We have got to be on our game from an offensive standpoint. Protecting the ball, scoring when we have the opportunities because you just can’t give Michael Vick a short field or give McCoy a short field. We have to help out our defense just like our defense has to help us out, as well. It’s a challenge from that standpoint.”
NOTES: Safety Patrick Chung is doubtful to play Sunday because of a shoulder injury. Rookie Earl Wolff would replace him in the starting lineup.