After a long, hot day that included chasing an unbelievably athletic quarterback, encountering several breakdowns, and allowing 34 points, the Packer defense could reluctantly smile. Though they did not play their best game, they were bailed out by a 34-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell in overtime to escape with a victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field in the 2002 regular season opener.<p>

In the extra period, the Packers' defense forced the Falcons to turn the ball over after a three-play series for only the second time in the game, to help set up Longwell's game-winning field goal on the Packers' next drive.

"That was the highlight of the day, getting that stop in overtime," said linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who posted a team-high 10 tackles.

Warrick Dunn ran for two yards on first down, followed by two incomplete Michael Vick passes (the first nearly intercepted by Nate Wayne) to force the Falcons to punt from their own 14-yard line on their only offensive series in overtime.

The Packers, however, were not satisfied with their overall performance on defense and had fits trying to contain Vick and the Falcons' offensive game plan.

"It was just a bad performance on our part period," said linebacker Na'il Diggs.

"We're not happy at all with our performance," added defensive end Joe Johnson, who notched his first sack as a Packer.

The Packers watched Vick, in his first full season as the Falcons' starter, complete his first 10 passes of the game and dance around would-be tacklers to avoid sacks and amass 72 yards rushing. Many of the plays he ran on were specific calls for him to run.

"He's going to make a lot of defenses look shabby out there," said Nickerson. "The guy's very, very good. He made a lot of things happen and took advantage of a lot of mistakes we made."

Individuals on the Packers' defense were in agreement that they have never played against a quarterback with abilities quite like Vick. In just his second NFL season, he has appeared to develop into a dangerous offensive weapon both on the ground and through the air. Johnson said afterwards, "There ain't no other quarterback in the league with that type of athletic ability." Packer defensive coordinator Ed Donatell added, "This guy is special. He's the rarest guy to come around in a while."

The Falcons also had success running the ball with Dunn and rookie T.J. Duckett, who combined for 108 yards on 21 carries, but several pass plays in particular were unsettling to the Packers' defense. They were drawn in by Vick play fakes on a 55-yard pass completion to fullback Bob Christian in the second quarter and on a dropped pass by wide receiver Brian Finneran, which would have went for a 60-yard touchdown.

"It was very timely," said Donatell regarding Christian's big play. "It's a play we knew that they had, and we misplayed it. We put our guys through i t, but it didn't come out on game day. We've got to coach it better next time."

Vick also drew the Packers' defense on a goal-line rollout before finding Alge Crumpler for a two-yard, second-quarter touchdown. Tight end Reggie Kelly later dropped a pass in the end zone that would have given the Falcons an eight-point, third-quarter lead instead of just four. In each case, Falcons' receivers were able to get open behind the Packers' defense with no defender in the vicinity. Donatell claims that there was only one blown coverage in the game, but it appeared, rather, that players put themselves in bad positions.

Backup safety Matt Bowen was even used to spy on Vick at times during the game, but Donatell did not want that to get him out of his game plan entirely.

"We made a few adjustments, but there were really no big adjustments that we needed to make except playing our defense a lot more sound," said Johnson. "We gave up some cheap things, and that's what we have to eliminate from an assignment point of view."

"We got a wake up call in the first game of the year. It's on us as individuals and as men to step forward and hone up to your mistakes and correct them - make sure it doesn't happen down the line."

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