The Houston Texans’ offensive star didn’t finish Sunday’s game and sure must be happy he’s starting this one.
Andre Johnson(notes) avoided a suspension for his highly publicized altercation, keeping two of the league’s top offensive weapons on the field Thursday night when his Texans visit Vick and the Eagles.
Johnson’s fist fight with Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan(notes) grabbed plenty of headlines after Houston’s 20-0 victory, and many were surprised the NFL only decided to fine both players $25,000 and not suspend either one.
A four-time Pro Bowler who is among the league leaders with 65 receptions and 869 yards, Johnson was ejected for that fourth-quarter brawl and said this week he was relieved to learn he would be allowed to play Thursday.
“That’s something I have been thinking about ever since the incident happened,” Johnson said. “I’m happy that I’m not suspended. At the same time, I’m not happy about my actions.”
The Eagles (7-4) might not be so pleased to see him playing, particularly if Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel(notes) misses a second straight game with a knee injury. Samuel is listed as questionable and has been limited in practice but hopes to return.
The short turnaround might make it tougher for Samuel to be at full strength for a Philadelphia team finishing a stretch of four games in 18 days.
“We have to get ourselves right in a short period of time, so that’s what we’re going to do,” coach Andy Reid said. “We have to toughen up, and we have to roll. We have to get ourselves in the right frame of mind.”
After losing to Tennessee 37-19 on Oct. 24 with an injured Vick on the sidelines, the Eagles recorded three straight wins before falling 31-26 at Chicago on Sunday. Their only other losses this season came in two games started by Kevin Kolb(notes) and one to Washington which Vick left in the first quarter with injured ribs.
Vick matched a season high with 333 passing yards and threw two for touchdowns Sunday, but he was sacked four times and threw his first interception of the season on a pass to the end zone late in the first half.
“It’s difficult to move on, but you have to do it,” said Vick, who had gone 238 passes without an interception. “You can’t go back and play the game again. It’s hindsight now. We have to move forward. Short-term memory is going to be very important for this football team.”
Vick is averaging 308.0 yards through the air over his last three games and could be in line for another big day against a Texans defense which has allowed an NFL-worst 25 touchdown passes and 286.2 passing yards per game - 31st in the league.
However, the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback has fumbled six times in his last two games and knows the Eagles need to come out with a better effort going forward.
“We just beat ourselves,” Vick said. “Plays that we can make, we just don’t make them. So many opportunities that we had that we didn’t capitalize on, and we just have to get better, starting with me.”
Houston (5-6) has allowed 38 completions of 20 or more yards, potentially providing DeSean Jackson(notes) - tied for 12th in the league with 12 receptions of 20-plus yards - a chance to rebound after he was limited to two catches for 26 yards against the Bears.
The Eagles defense had surrendered an average of 73.6 rushing yards over their previous six games before allowing Chicago to run for 131. That unit faces another stiff test against Arian Foster(notes), who leads the NFL with 1,147 yards on the ground. Philadelphia is 1-3 when allowing more than 130 rushing yards.
While the Eagles fell back into a tie atop the NFC East with New York, Houston moved within a game of the AFC South lead. The Texans, though, have lost their last three road games and Philadelphia has won three in a row at home.
“It’s going to be a big test for us, big game on the road for us,” Johnson said. “Not much time to let your body heal, but at the same time, we all have to rally together to go out and get the job done.”
Foster ran for 143 yards and caught nine passes for a season-high 75 yards Sunday as the Texans ended a four-game losing streak.
“If you’re in this league, you’re probably going to have some tough stretches,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We got some breaks and had some things go our way. We just need to keep going.”
It surely will be a tougher challenge facing Vick, the league’s highest-rated passer, and an Eagles offense which is tied for second in the NFL with 28.2 points per game.
Philadelphia has won the only two meetings between these teams.