"Pretty much everyone in this locker room feels the way that I do," Vick said. "We have to get ourselves going for the last game and end our season on a positive note, but it's tough. I've never been in this situation before, and it's all new to me."
--When Michael Jenkins reached over his shoulder and beat Ronde Barber for a 37-yard catch down the right sideline, the second-year receiver finally had the signature play that he'd always lacked in his resume.
Jenkins also gave Vick credit for recognizing press coverage, which the Bucs rarely use with their star cornerback.
"The confidence has built more each game," Jenkins said. "It was just him reading coverage. Ronde was up in press, and he threw it up and gave me a chance."
--DeAngelo Hall's separated shoulder also means that special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis must find another punt returner. Atlanta's regular specialist, Allen Rossum, landed on injured reserve Wednesday with a sprained knee. Brian Finneran will continue to work in situations that are deep in Falcons territory, but DeCamillis could use a faster player if he anticipates the ball landing closer to the 50.
"You can't just totally throw out your concepts, but you do have to try to cater to that guy," DeCamillis said when asked to compare the blocking schemes he's drawn up for six punt returners and seven kickoff returners. "When Finneran's back there, we're obviously rushing a little bit more, for example."
BY THE NUMBERS: 13 - Number of players who have started or held significant roles in the secondary this year. DeAngelo Hall, Jason Webster, Keion Carpenter, Bryan Scott and Ronnie Heard have made the most starts. Allen Rossum, Antuan Edwards, Kevin McCadam, Cam Newton, Chris Cash, Leigh Torrence, Omare Lowe and Christian Morton have all worked in different situations. Kevin Mathis, whom Atlanta re-signed last March to continue his role as the No. 3 cornerback and nickel man, was inactive in Week 1 after a pregame fight with Philadelphia linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and then went on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Knowing Steve's passion for the game and the nature of the game, he's going to be rolling. We are going to have to account for him. Whether that means we roll up to him or we get someone under him or we roll to him or we match up to him, we have to do all of those things. We can't just do one thing. He's too good." - Falcons coach Jim Mora on facing Carolina WR Steve Smith.
he NFL has fined Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith an undisclosed amount of money for touching an official, which prompted his ejection from Saturday's 24-20 loss to the Cowboys.
Asked by a reporter if the fine was for $7,500, Smith replied, "I wish."
When asked for further comment, Smith said, "I love the league. I'm a league supporter."
Panthers cornerback Ken Lucas said he has not heard anything from the league on whether he'll be fined for comments he made to the media about the officiating after Saturday's game.
League spokesman Michael Signora said the NFL would not announce any fines until later this week.
--So have the Panthers figured out how to stop Michael Vick, or was their last win against him just an aberration?
We'll find out Sunday.
Panthers safety Mike Minter said he knows Vick will be looking for revenge after being shut down in the last meeting.
"I mean, you can't solve this guy," Minter said. "He's too good. He's like Michael Jordan. He has a bad day, and he comes back and hits you for 60 the next game. You can't solve the problem, the only thing you can do is go out there and continue to try to win."
--Panthers coach John Fox isn't putting much stock into the fact the Panthers are 1-9 at the Georgia Dome and he personally is 0-3 there as a head coach.
"There was a lot of talk that we hadn't beaten (Michael Vick) at all before we played at our place (Bank of America Stadium)," Fox said. "Talk doesn't really solve much. It is what happens on Sunday that's the proof."
BY THE NUMBERS: 214 - Rushing yards by the Dallas Cowboys last week against the Panthers, not good news for the Carolina run defense considering this week they will face the league's top-ranked running game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know you guys like to sit around and say we can't stop the run. But it was one freaking game. You have to take your hats off to Dallas. They made some plays. But I like our chances. We can play the run, and we're going to get back to doing that this week. That's going to be the key. If they can't run the ball, they can't win. If we let them run the ball, we have our work cut out for us." - Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner.