Falcons 30, Vikings 10
ATLANTA (AP)—Michael Vick felt good enough to go back in the game.
Vick went down with a sprained right knee Sunday, turning it over to backup Matt Schaub and the Falcons’ defense to finish off a 30-10 rout of the Vikings.
“It feels fine. I just tweaked it a little bit,” Vick said. “We had a good cushion, so it made sense to keep me on the sideline.”
Warrick Dunn rushed for 126 yards, including his 50th career touchdown on a 37-yard run, to lead a 285-yard performance on the ground. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the second-best rushing total in Falcons’ history, surpassed only by 297 yards against the Los Angeles Rams in 1972.
Vick ran for 58 yards and threw a touchdown pass before getting hurt. The Falcons’ defense made things miserable for Daunte Culpepper, who was sacked nine times, intercepted twice and lost a fumble.
The Minnesota quarterback has gone down 16 times the last two weeks and looked especially gun-shy on his fumble. Rod Coleman brushed Culpepper’s hip as he drew back to throw, the ball fell out of his hand and Patrick Kerney recovered.
“I took some good shots,” Culpepper said. “It’s definitely disappointing. There’s a lot of talent on this football team.”
It hasn’t showed up so far. The Vikings (1-3) were beaten at home by Tampa Bay and have been outscored 67-18 in two road losses.
“To get nine sacks and with our crowd behind us like they were, that would fluster any offensive line in the league,” said Keith Brooking, who had nine tackles, a sack and an interception.
Coleman has four sacks the last two games, quite a showing for an interior linemen who is frequently double-teamed. He credited the secondary for giving the linemen plenty of time to get to Culpepper.
“He just didn’t have anybody to throw to because of the coverage,” Coleman said.
Vick guided the Falcons to a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions.
He broke off runs of 23 and 24 yards before throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler. On the scoring play, Vick hid the ball on his left hip for a couple of seconds, fooling the defense and allowing his tight end to get open.
Then, Vick directed a tedious 14-play drive capped by T.J. Duckett’s 1-yard plunge.
On the first play of Atlanta’s next possession, Vick rolled right to throw and was hit hard by Minnesota’s Erasmus James just after delivering an incomplete pass. The 266-pound James fell on top of the quarterback as they tumbled to the turf. Vick grabbed at his shin and remained down for several minutes, the Georgia Dome fans gasping when they realized who was injured.
Finally, the two-time Pro Bowler climbed to his feet and walked slowly off the field to a standing ovation. The team said he had a strained medial collateral ligament and wouldn’t return, a decision made easier with Atlanta in complete control over the Vikings (1-3).
“It’s hard to see anybody go down,” Kerney said. “Your mind rushes until you realize you have a great backup player in Matt Schaub.”
Schaub took over and led the Falcons to a 24-0 halftime lead. Dunn scored his first touchdown of the season from 37 yards, corkscrewing into the end zone on his back.
Then Schaub led a hurried drive to the first of three field goals by Todd Peterson. The backup QB broke off runs of 21 and 23 yards.
“He was Vick-like on those jaunts,” coach Jim Mora quipped.
Schaub didn’t do much the rest of the way, completing only 5-of-14 for 39 yards. Vick expects to play next week against defending Super Bowl champion New England.
“We are going to get it on,” Vick said. “Two great coaching staffs, two great quarterbacks, two great teams. That’s the way it should be.”
Even Schaub, who hardly has Vick’s running skills, rushed for 56 yards on four carries. Between them, Vick and Schaub accounted for 114 yards on the ground.
“Not too bad for the quarterbacks, I guess,” Schaub said.
The Vikings finally reached the end zone with 2 1/2 minutes remaining when Culpepper hooked up with Troy Williamson on a 16-yard touchdown.
Atlanta won despite throwing for only 88 yards. … RB Mewelde Moore led the Vikings in rushing (67 yards) and receiving (six catches, 63 yards). … Falcons CB DeAngelo Hall had an interception but was beaten by Williamson on the Vikings’ lone touchdown. … Atlanta is averaging 209 yards rushing a game.