Defense Able To Contain Vick
Michael Vick needed 71 yards to become the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards. He still needs 66 yards. Unlike in the teams' first meeting this season, the Bucs defense was able to contain Vick on Sunday. The mobile quarterback was held to 5 rushing yards on three carries.

Bucs defenders noticed as the game wore on that they had left quite an impression, sometimes literally, on the Falcons quarterback. "When he did [run], we had three or four guys around him," Bucs Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "I think we set a good tone with some hits and he didn't want to get hit that much."

Bucs defenders weren't able to get good hits on Vick in the teams' previous meeting, mainly because they couldn't get close enough. Vick and running back Warrick Dunn combined for 261 rushing yards in Atlanta's 14-3 Week 2 victory.

The Falcons rushed for 139 yards in Sunday's 17-6 victory. Fullback Justin Griffith, in an emergency role as tailback because Dunn and Jerious Norwood were knocked out of the game in the third quarter with injuries, led the effort with 57 yards. Dunn finished 3 yards shy of 1,000 on the season. Shelton Quarles led an inspired effort by the Bucs linebacker corps. He finished with a team-high 12 tackles and also matched a career high with 1 1/2 sacks.

Quarles and linebacker Ryan Nece combined on a sack of Vick late in the first quarter during a three-play stretch that let Vick know it wasn't going to be like last time. Brooks started it with a hard hit on Norwood, who was slow to get up afterward. Then Quarles and Nece, who tied for third on the team with six tackles, combined on the sack. Ellis Wyms then stopped Vick for no gain, and Atlanta was forced to call a timeout.

"We felt like we played one of our better games all together," Nece said of the linebackers. "We just were motivated. We understood that we just didn't play up to our capabilities the last game. For me personally, I had this game marked on my calendar because I needed to play these guys and play them well again."

After the timeout, the Falcons failed to convert on third down when Dewayne White flushed Vick out of the pocket and he threw an incompletion, with Quarles adding a nice pop for added measure. A bad snap led to Atlanta botching a 45-yard field-goal attempt.

Brooks, who had five tackles, noticed after that first-quarter series that Vick played differently in an effort to avoid getting hit. "He did a good job of protecting the ball because in the past, he'd try to stick a throw in there and we'd get it," Brooks said. "This time, he threw the ball away or he'd lay down and take the sack, which didn't allow us to get any hits on him."

Forced to try to do his damage in the air, Vick finished 14 of 23 for 155 yards with two sacks and one interception. "It was a grind," Vick said. "It could have been a bit better than what it was"

Katherine Smith, The Tampa Tribune 11 December 2006