Falcons rush to a 2-0 start
What the Falcons victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at the Georgia Dome is that they're both probably due for an oil change. Vick and Dunn combined for 261 of Atlanta's team-record 306 rushing yards in the Falcons' second consecutive NFC South victory. It was a win over a longstanding nemesis that had never allowed another team to gash it on the ground so ruthlessly.
The incorporation of a diverse spread offense that includes more use of the shotgun formation, as well as Vick's insistence on getting back to being a run-oriented quarterback, could be too much for some teams to combat, Vick said.
"It's tough to defend the things that we do," said Vick, who rushed for 127 yards on 14 carries, ran for a touchdown and threw for another. "You're looking for one thing, we do another. Just when you think you got us, we do something else. It's a tough package to defend. We've got a lot of speed in our offense, so it's something they've got to deal with."
The only things diminishing the victory's one-sidedness were four missed field goals by kicker Michael Koenen, a fumble deep in Bucs territory by wide receiver Roddy White and a number of dropped interceptions.
The abundance of points left on the field allowed Tampa Bay to stay within striking distance until the end, which is never comforting to a Falcons team that has blown its share of fourth-quarter leads against the Bucs. However, Atlanta's defense failed to yield a touchdown for the second straight game, a first in franchise history at the start of a season.
Tampa Bay almost forced a momentum swing when linebacker Derrick Brooks intercepted a Vick pass intended for tight end Alge Crumpler and raced 63 yards into the end zone early in the third quarter, but an illegal block penalty on the return negated the play. The Bucs' drive ended with Matt Bryant missing a 43-yard field goal.
"We are trying to become a very good team," Falcons coach Jim Mora said. "We did some good things today, but there are a lot of things we can improve on."
The Falcons intercepted three Chris Simms passes — DeAngelo Hall had two, Jason Webster the other — and batted several more passes down. Though Simms finished with 313 yards passing, his untimely miscues and inability to get Tampa Bay into the end zone for the second straight week has led to a quarterback quandary for the defending NFC South champs.
Atlanta's defensive effort came without right end John Abraham (groin), who stood on the sideline in a white workout shirt, shorts, sneakers and a baseball cap. Defensive tackles Rod Coleman and Grady Jackson, linebackers Keith Brooking and Michael Boley, and Hall picked up the slack. "We're building something pretty special," Brooking said.
The defense was able to play at a high level because the offense provided another early lead and controlled the tempo with its mauling ground attack.
Vick burned the Bucs by running on the edges while Dunn, who had 134 yards running on 21 carries, dipped and darted through interior creases that grew to yards of real estate because of the confusion Atlanta's offense created.
"When you have Mike going one way and the back going the other way, they're going to have to respect Mike," said Dunn, who has 266 yards rushing in two games this season. "Today, Mike just got off. He did what he had to do and that helped the running game in the end. If they don't respect him, he's going to gain a lot of yards on the backside. If they do respect him, that's one less guy we have to worry about; me and Jerious [Norwood] can make you miss. It works. It's the right system for the right guys that we have."
The multipronged attack was in full effect on the Falcons' first scoring drive, which Dunn opened with a 7-yard run that moved the ball to Atlanta's 42. Vick then scrambled for 14 yards. A pass interference penalty on Ronde Barber against Michael Jenkins on a deep pass down the left sideline gave the Falcons the ball on Tampa's 10. Dunn went back to work up the middle for a 9-yard gain.
Vick capped the drive with a dash around left end. "Some of [the calls] were run-run options and some of them were run-pass option," Mora said. "Some of them were just [Vick] pulling the ball in and taking off, being the great improviser that he is."
Steve Wyche, The Atlanta Journal Constitution 18 September 2006