Yesterday morning John Hockenberry asked me whether there were any story lines worth paying attention to for last night's Vikings and Eagles game in Philadelphia. There were plenty, but I chose to focus on one: The emergence of Joe Webb, the Viking rookie quarterback starting for the first time.
The Eagles, led by MVP candidate Michael Vick, and the offensive triumvirate of wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, and running back LeSean McCoy, lost to a Brett Favre-less Vikings team 24-14 in the NFL’s first Tuesday night game since 1946.
In doing so, the Eagles locked themselves into the third seed in the playoffs and missed an opportunity to get a bye in the first round.
Another story line was the play of the Vikings defense. They sacked the elusive Vick six times and hit him another seven times throughout the game. Harried, Vick threw one interception (nearly threw two more), and fumbled twice.
That being said, all day long I was curious about how the rookie, Joe Webb, the one-time option oriented running quarterback, who came into the NFL determined to play receiver, would do with this big opportunity to go against a tough blitzing Eagles defense.
With legend Brett Favre unable to play and running back Adrian Peterson questionable for the game, last night was quietly billed as a referendum on whether Joe Webb would come of age.
Thankfully he had some help. All-Pro Adrian Peterson played, racking up 118 yards and one score and Webb stepped up to the challenge. He converted critical plays in the second half with the exuberance of a schoolboy.
On one possession, with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings faced a 3rd down with 11 yards to go. Joe Webb sat in the shotgun formation, took the snap, and bounced confidently until he zipped a strike down the middle of the field to wide receiver Percy Harvin for 19 yards. That drive ended with a touchdown sealing the victory.
I like this kid and I think that his heroics last night matter. With the eyes of the NFL watching, Joe Webb proved he can be a productive player. He made some mistakes early but we saw him learn from those as the game progressed.
America loves comeback stories, they loved Michael Vick because of his reemergence and they have loved the Eagles this year because of what they have done to comeback and win tight games on the field.
The Joe Webb story is another story that resonates. It is the story of the unexpected, of someone seizing and opportunity on a big stage. There’s another NFL quarterback whose story started like this one; you guessed it: Tom Brady.