In the second quarter, Vick saw an open pocket in the middle of the field and stepped up quickly into the pocket baiting Drayton Florence to slow his coverage on Brian Finneran. With the threat of the run, Finneran was able to create separation on his crossing route and gain 26 yards. Two plays later, Vick hit tight end Alge Crumpler with a laser from 20 yards out – touchdown Atlanta.
Those plays came few and far between in the first half. Vick and the Falcons were booed off the field after a late interception turned into seven points for the Chargers.
"You come upon a time in games when you struggle and all of the sudden you get tired of it," Vick said afterwards. "It just comes upon a time when you step up and forget about everything that happened beforehand and try to make the next play your best play."
It was his progression that beat the Chargers in the second half.
"We didn't change anything," Vick said. "Like Coach Mora said: this is not a West Coast system; this is my system. He wants me to go out and play the way he knows I can play."
The game became about Vick and the inability of the Chargers to correctly diagnose what he was going to do.
They saw one of the most talented players in the NFL showing his nifty moves and were eager to show they could make the tackle. They forgot that he could also throw the ball as long as he was behind the line of scrimmage.
One such play sealed the game for the Falcons. Vick rolled out to his left and began his assault towards the line of scrimmage. Steve Foley and Donnie Edwards were both close to running back Justin Griffith who was out in a pattern. Neither stayed with the back as both moved towards Vick. Instead of running, Vick tossed a soft pass to Griffith for a 24 yard gain, effectively ending any chance the Chargers had of getting the ball back.
"You go up 17-7 and you feel like you're going to keep rolling on offense, but Mike (Vick), the sleeping giant, awoke," Tim Dwight said.
Vick said the offensive system was his and the Chargers saw that late in the game. The defense became complacent, thinking they had Vick where they wanted him. It was the other way around. Vick had the Chargers by the scruff of the neck and was toying with them like an older brother torments his younger sibling.
"It seemed like guys were playing relaxed," safety Terrence Kiel said. Just as they became befuddled by his legs, the Chargers were not able to find an answer for his arm. When Vick hit Peerless Price for a smooth fifty yard reception, the game was tilting. Vick then needed two runs to get the ball in the end zone and bring the Falcons back within three.
Minutes later, Vick was at it again, running, pump-faking, and hitting Dez White for a touchdown – needing three plays to take the lead for good.
The Chargers simply didn't have an answer for the man they passed up years ago.
"In the end, what Michael Vick did is what Michael Vick can do," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "And that is run all over the place with that ball and create first downs and new series of downs. That doesn't come as a surprise to anyone in San Diego, and I'm certain it doesn't surprise anyone here in Atlanta."
"To come back home, it was fun. It was fun to see some people who I played with and the organization and things. It was good."
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com