Speed Kills

IRVING, TX. - The Cowboys have spent the first half of this week trying to recover from Sunday's humbling loss to the New Orleans Saints, a game in which quarterback Drew Brees systematically picked apart the Dallas defense en route to five touchdown passes.

So as a reward, the NFL's schedule makers reward the Cowboys by giving them a short week to prepare for arguably the most dangerous player in the NFL … and a short week in which to prepare for him. The Cowboys are licking their wounds from Sunday's loss to the Saints as they prepare for Saturday night's showdown with the Atlanta Falcons and quarterback Michael Vick, who is among the fastest pure sprinters in the NFL. "I hate playing against him," linebacker Akin Ayodele said. "All 11 (defensive players) have to play well to contain him. That's it, too -- you try to contain him, because you're not going to shut him down entirely. He's going to get his." Ayodele faced the Vick-led Falcons when Ayodele was a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and at least from an individual standpoint, the matchup did not go well for Ayodele. "One time, I blitzed, and I thought I had him," Ayodele said. "He dipped under me and took off. The next time, I sort of crouched like a cat, and waited for his move. He beat me to the corner, and he took off again." Lots of quarterbacks have mobility, but it is Vick's blinding speed that makes him so dangerous. "He creates problems because there's always the uncertainty that he'll catch you with your back turned downfield while you're chasing receivers," head coach Bill Parcells said. "When that happens, if he's able to get through the line, he's got a lot of room to run." The Dallas defense was victimized last week on a screen pass from Brees to New Orleans running back Reggie Bush, who weaved through the Dallas defense for a backbreaking touchdown. If Bush isn't the fastest player in the NFL, Vick just might be. New safety Tony Parrish said that Vick's raw speed forces defenders to chase differently than they would against other players. "You have to take different angles against him because of his speed," Parrish said. "Sometimes, you have to controle your aggressiveness, and sometimes you have to just take your shots at him." Ayodele said that Vick's speed is jaw-dropping, even to those who already have played against him. "We're watching film all week, and he's running right by DBs," Ayodele said. "They're fast, too, and they have the angles. But you can't coach speed." Because teams have to respect his otherworldly speed, Vick is able to draw defensive attention away from Atlanta's running backs, and create mismatches in the passing game. "These guys are the No. 1 run team in the league," Parcells said. "They have two backs (Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood) who are doing well. Then you throw him in there, and he supplements what is already a pretty good running game with his ability to break the pocket. If all he did was hand off to them, they'd still have a pretty good running game." Vick, Dunn and Norwood are so dangerous running the game that the Falcons are able to implement more play-action passes than many teams. "He has such a strong arm," Parrish said. "When they throw deep, that's just a flick of the wrist for Vick. You have to really communicate well and put people in the right place, or they can really hurt you."

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