Vick, clearly the NFL’s most lethal quarterback on the ground, has absorbed criticism for his perceived lack of passing ability out of the pocket. He went a long way toward dispelling that reputation last Sunday, completing 22-of-31 passes for a season-best 228 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta’s 17-10 win at Miami.
The Falcons, winners of three straight overall and 13 of their last 14 home games with Vick behind center, remained tied with Carolina for first place in the NFC South, with Tampa Bay one game back.
Vick’s passing yards were his most in 14 games, and his 22 completions were his highest total since an overtime tie in Pittsburgh on Nov. 10, 2002. He has thrown for 951 yards overall this season, but the Falcons have flourished behind the league’s top ground game and a stout defense, with Vick leading all NFL signal-callers with 340 rushing yards.
“People say I can’t throw the ball from the pocket. I had to show them,” Vick said Sunday. “From here on out, I don’t want to hear that question if I can throw from the pocket.”
Atlanta has specialized in pulling out close contests, winning four of six games decided by eight points or fewer.
“I like the fact that we are playing in close games because there is going to be more of those down the stretch. We know how to win,” coach Jim Mora said.
Favre and the Packers haven’t been nearly as fortunate, suffering five losses by a total of 16 points this year. The three-time league MVP appears to have lost some of the drive that has made him arguably the game’s biggest active icon, throwing six of his league-high 14 interceptions in the last two games as the Packers are 1-7 for the first time since 1986.
“I just kind of feel lethargic,” Favre admitted after skipping practice Wednesday. “I could have practiced, I would have been fine. It would have been tough.”
Favre, who was back on the field Thursday, has never lost more than eight games during his previous 13 years in Green Bay. A new cast of teammates, though, may not have the same appreciation for the Packers’ winning tradition.
Green Bay has already used 11 rookies this season, mainly because the battered offense lost three of its top players for the year due to injury— running backs Ahman Green (thigh tendon) and Najeh Davenport (ankle) and wide receiver Javon Walker (knee). Pro Bowl tight end Bubba Franks (knee) missed three starts, and Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan (sports hernia) missed two more.
It has left Favre, who insists he’s not injured and skipped Wednesday practices down the stretch last season, seemingly alone with a revolving door of castoffs.
“This is a huge challenge for me,” Favre said. “For some of these guys that are lining up on offense for us, they don’t know the difference.
“I don’t want to say that they’re just happy to be there, but they’re kind of trying to find their place and this is their opportunity to make it or break it. But for me, I’m trying to get this team in the end zone and win.”
The injury-plagued Packers will start their fifth different running back in as many weeks. Samkon Gado will celebrate his 23rd birthday on Sunday with his first career start.
Gado was unemployed four weeks ago, but had 62 yards and his first career touchdown last week in Green Bay’s 20-10 loss to Pittsburgh.
“Undrafted, unknowns certainly come with a strong work ethic and a fear of failure. They feel like they have something to prove, and he probably falls inside that context of player,” coach Mike Sherman said.
“He missed some cuts we would have liked to have seen him make. He still has to be considered a work-in-progress, but he’s certainly worth working with.”
The Packers have not played at the Georgia Dome since a 24-10 loss on Oct. 4, 1992. The game marked Favre’s second start during his current run of 213 consecutive games.