Everyone knew coming into Sunday's game that Michael Vick was a phenom at quarterback, and he didn't disappoint. Vick bought time all day when under pressure, running in two touchdowns and creating bad angles for those who underestimated his speed and shiftiness.
The second touchdown of Vick's was the killer, coming on a 46-yard sprint in overtime to give Atlanta a 30-24 win and send the Vikings to 3-9 for the season.
Vick finished with 173 yards passing and 173 yards running, and the Falcons defense was able to apply pressure on Daunte Culpepper, sacking him six times — two in overtime — and forcing another fumble.
The Vikings didn't trail until 3:33 left in regulation and generally controlled the game, but nearly every time they scored, Vick and the Falcons answered with a touchdown to keep it tense.
The Vikings may have known they needed to score some points early against Vick and the Falcons — and they did just that, scoring on their opening drive. They went 75 yards in 11 plays with only one incompletion with Culpepper looking sharp early.
He started with a 13-yard screen to Jim Kleinsasser, then went to Randy Moss for 10 yards. One play later, Culpepper hit D'Wayne Bates in perfect stride on a slant for 30 yards to the 17-yard line. After a 3-yard run by Bennett, Chris Walsh picked up a first down with an 8-yard sideline grab. From there, two Culpepper runs — one a 5-yard scramble not by design and another a 1-yard sneak on fourth down — picked up the seven-point lead to open the game.
After a quick score to open the game, however, both offenses struggled to sustain their drives, and when it was time for the Vikings to punt for the second time in the game the Falcons' Kevin McCadam came through for a partial block of the punt.
That block set up the Falcons up for their first points. Starting from the Vikings 40-yard line, it would take only two plays, with a 39-yard pass to wide receiver Brian Finneran on first down and a 1-yard plunge across the goal line for fullback Bob Christian. That quickly the game was tied, 7-7, with 12:48 left in the first half.
The Vikings avoided a complete momentum switch when Ray Buchanan intercepted a Culpepper pass into double coverage for Moss on the fifth play of the Vikings' next drive. The avoidance part occurred when Vick followed up a 40-yard run with a botched handoff to T.J. Duckett. After a scramble for the ball, Henri Crockett recovered and the Vikings had new life on the 15-yard line.
While they couldn't make anything of the drive, they avoided giving Vick continued momentum. It may have helped, as one Atlanta drive later, Vick fumbled again when Crockett finally got to the slippery quarterback for a 9-yard sack. Crockett forced the fumble and Chris Hovan made sure to fall on the ball at the Falcons 36-yard line with 6:05 left in the second quarter.
The Vikings would capitalize, due mainly to Culpepper's scrambling ability. On third-and-7, he pulled the ball down and ran 20 yards to keep the drive alive. With a fresh set of downs from the 13-yard line, Bennett ran for 7 and Moe Williams converted a third down into a first down with a 2-yard run. Facing first-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Culpepper play-faked and found tight end Hunter Goodwin wide open on the release in the back of the end zone for a 14-7 lead with 2:40 left in the first half.
Thanks in part to an aggressive time out by the Vikings with 1:44 left in the half on third down, that lead wouldn't hold. With the Falcons facing third-and-3, Tice wanted an opportunity to add points to the board and called time. But when Vick converted the first down with a 7-yard pass to Finneran, it woke up the Falcons. Vick followed with passes of 8 and 16 yards to Crumpler and a 39-yard touchdown pass to Finneran with 37 seconds to go to tie the game, 14-14.
When Keion Carpenter pulled down Culpepper's third interception of the half (and his 19th of the season), the game went to the half tied.
The second half started with a barrage of punts — five, if you're counting — before the Vikings put together a scoring drive. Starting from the Falcons 41-yard line, Bates got close to picking a first down with an 11-yard catch but came up a yard short following a penalty. Staring third-and-1 in the face, Culpepper flipped a pitch to Bennett wide left and he sprinted 28 yards to the 4-yard line. This time he got to finished the job, with runs of 3 and 1 yards to retake the lead, 21-14 with 3:19 left in the third quarter.
But just as Vick had done the previous two times following Vikings touchdowns, he marched the Falcons right down the field for an answering touchdown and accounted for all of the big plays. He started it with a 19-yard run, then picked up another first down when Lorenzo Bromell was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Vick runs of 13 and 28 yards on consecutive plays tied the game at 21 with a minute left in the third quarter.
The Vikings tried to answer with a scoring drive of their own, as Bates accounted for 23 yards on two receptions, but Gary Anderson had a 46-yard field goal attempt stuffed by an unblocked Keith Brooking and the scored remained tied with 7:26 to play.
The Falcons took over on their own 45 and immediately picked up a first down with an 18-yard pass to Finneran. Vick picked up another first down with an 8-yard run, but the forward progress stopped on the 28-yard line and Jay Feely gave the Falcons their first lead of the game, 24-21, with 3:33 left in the game — or least regulation.
This time the Vikings would be able to answer … and nearly shut the door — but the drive didn't start that way. Ellis Johnson started the drive with Culpepper's fourth sack of the game. But Culpepper and Moss were able to make up for the lost yardage on the next play, a 40-yard bomb to the Falcons 32-yard line. The duo combined for 16 yards on the next play, and Walsh brought the ball to the 7-yard line with a 9-yard reception. After a delay of game and time ticking away, things weren't looking good for the Vikings to score a touchdown. Still, it looked like they won the game when Culpepper handed off to Moss running right and Moss stopped and threw across the field to Culpepper, who caught the ball and muscled his way into the end zone. However, when Moss went in motion before the snap, he put left tackle Bryant McKinnie uncovered, creating an illegal formation. The Vikings had to settle for a 29-yard field goal with 11 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
It didn't take long then. The Falcons sacked Culpepper twice on the opening drive of overtime and forced a punt to midfield.
After a 2-yard run by Duckett to open the Falcons' first overtime drive, Vick broke containment to the left and was gone, outrunning pursuit and creating bad angles for those who were in front of him. He didn't stop until he got into the end zone after a 46-yard run, giving the Falcons the 30-24 overtime win and leaving the Vikings with a 3-9 record.
Run Over In OT, 30-24
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