ATLANTA (AP)—Dr. Gado, paging Dr. Gado.
You’re needed in the Green Bay Packers’ backfield.
Making his first career start on his 23rd birthday, doctor-in-waiting Samkon Gado scored three touchdowns to give the Packers only their second win of the season, a 33-25 upset of the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
“It was surreal,” said Gado, who was given the game ball. “I didn’t even think it was a reality. But I’m here. I’m just enjoying it as much as possible.”
Gado, who was unemployed less than a month ago, was the fifth player—and certainly the most improbable—to start at running back in Green Bay’s revolving door backfield after season-ending injuries to Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport.
The Nigerian-born Gado started only two games in college at Division I-AA Liberty, where he was a premed major and planned to become a doctor. His medical career is on hold while he plays for the Packers, who promoted him from the practice squad two weeks ago as the losses piled up for the storied franchise.
For one week at least, Gado helped Green Bay (2-7) look like the Pack of old. He rushed for 103 yards on 25 carries, and even a pair of fumbles didn’t hurt—teammates fell on the ball both times.
“I just hope I’m here at the end of the year,” Gado said.
Less than a minute after Longwell’s fourth field goal, rookie receiver Roddy White finished off the Falcons (6-3) with their sixth fumble of the day. Nick Barnett scooped up the ball and returned it to the Atlanta 2, where Gado powered into the end zone for his third TD.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Favre said. “In some ways, he came out of nowhere, but in some ways I did too. I just told him this week, ‘You just need the opportunity.”’
Gado scored twice in the first quarter to give the Packers a quick 14-0 lead. The Falcons fought back to tie it, but Longwell’s 46-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half put Green Bay ahead for good. Longwell booted three more field goals in the second half, also connecting from 53 yards.
Atlanta dropped a game behind Carolina for the lead in the NFC South, tied with Tampa Bay for second place in the highly competitive division. Both the Panthers and Buccaneers won Sunday.
Based on Green Bay’s record, the Falcons figured to have a walkover. But the mark was somewhat misleading, considering the Packers were the first team to start a season 1-7 while scoring more points than they’ve allowed.
Turnovers had been the big problem, but it was the Falcons who had trouble holding on to the ball in this game. Michael Vick fumbled three times, losing one. Warrick Dunn also lost the ball, leading to Green Bay’s second TD.
“We turned the ball over three times,” Vick said. “You can’t do that in this league.”
Vick threw for 209 yards and a couple of TDs, including a 19-yarder to White for the rookie’s first career TD with just 1:43 remaining. The Falcons gave themselves hope by passing for a two-point conversion, but Green Bay recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
The Packers got good pressure on Vick, sacking him three times, forcing him into an intentional grounding penalty and allowing the fleet quarterback to run seven times for 24 yards.
Green Bay drove 74 yards for a TD on its opening possession. Favre completed four passes for 60 yards and Gado took care of the rest, finishing it off with a 9-yard touchdown run through a huge hole.
Then, Dunn was hit from behind by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila after catching a screen pass, the ball squirting right into the hands of safety Mark Roman at the Falcons 21. Gado had a 17-yard run, then hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass from Favre to make it 14-zip just over seven minutes into the game.
Atlanta rallied for tie it in the second quarter. Vick hooked up with Dunn on a 21-yard touchdown pass and a 43-yard pass interference penalty on Ahmad Carroll put the Falcons in scoring position again. From the 1, Vick took off around the right side, sticking the ball across the goal line as he flew through the air.
Driver had 10 catches for 114 yards. … Roman went out with sore hamstring, but returned to the game. … The Falcons had their 29th consecutive sellout, a franchise record. … Vick is 29-14-1 as a starter.