When Tampa Bay tried to contain Vick, Dunn scooted through a huge hole up the middle. When the Buccaneers focused on stuffing the inside runs, Vick took off around the outside for another big gain.
The result was the greatest rushing effort in Atlanta Falcons’ history.
Dunn ran for 134 yards against his former team, Vick added to one of his own NFL records with 127 yards and the Falcons set a franchise record with 306 yards on the ground while beating offensively challenged Tampa Bay 14-3 Sunday.
“I don’t think any defense can stop us,” Dunn said. “Today, we did have some holes like it was in practice. Because in practice, it usually looks like that a little bit, like, ‘This is where the holes are supposed to go.”’
The Falcons (2-0) fared just fine on defense, too, even though Week 1 star John Abraham didn’t suit up because of a groin injury. Atlanta has yet to allow a touchdown this season.
Then there’s Tampa Bay (0-2), still seeking its first TD of 2006. Linebacker Derrick Brooks tried to pitch in, returning an interception 63 yards for an apparent score, only to have it called back on an illegal block.
“We missed the opportunities that we had all day long,” embattled quarterback Chris Simms said. “Whether it was a penalty or an interception by me, a receiver falling on a route, we just didn’t get a break.”
Simms had another miserable day despite throwing for a career-best 313 yards, getting picked off three times by the Falcons to match what he did in the season-opening, 27-0 loss to Baltimore. So, is coach Jon Gruden planning a switch to rookie Bruce Gradkowski?
“I’m not thinking about a quarterback change at this time,” Gruden replied in what hardly qualified as a solid endorsement. “I’ll address the quarterback position in the future as we move forward.”
Tampa Bay, one of the league’s top defenses against the run last season, surrendered a franchise record on the ground. The Falcons broke the previous high of 299 yards by the Los Angeles Rams in 1984.
The only glaring problem for Atlanta was Michael Koenen, who missed four field goals—all from 40 yards and in. That might bring an end to the Falcons’ plan to let him handle both the kicking and punting duties.
But there was no stopping the Falcons’ running game, which easily surpassed its 252 yards in a 20-6 victory over Carolina the previous week. Atlanta’s previous record was a 297-yard effort against the Los Angeles Rams in 1972.
Vick completed only 10 of 15 passes for 92 yards, but showed again that he’s playing a different game than any other quarterback. He had a hand—and legs— in both TDs, running it in from the 1 and connecting with backup fullback Fred McCrary on a 4-yard scoring pass that gave Atlanta a 14-0 lead in the first half.
Vick picked up at least 12 yards on eight of his 14 carries and averaging more than 9 yards per running play. It was the sixth 100-yard rushing game of his career; he already held the NFL record.
“I’m not surprised,” Vick said. “If they’re looking for us to do one thing, we do another.”
Dunn, the NFL’s top rusher in Week 1, had another brilliant performance against Tampa Bay, where he played his first five seasons. He picked up his blocks and read the holes perfectly, breaking off a 30-yard gain and four other runs longer than 10 yards.
Tampa Bay’s Simeon Rice said the threat of Vick running off the bootleg created holes for Dunn.
“Listen, they were on point today,” Rice said. “They put pressure on us in every facet.”
The Bucs were nearly shut out again. Matt Bryant, who missed two field goals, kicked a 22-yarder on the final play of the first half, which the Bucs were lucky to get after Simms burned precious time scrambling before throwing an incomplete pass that left one second on the clock.
Otherwise, nothing went Simms’ way. He was intercepted twice by DeAngelo Hall, the second one on a deep throw into the end zone that was returned 57 yards. But the one pass Simms really wanted back came on Tampa Bay’s first possession of the third quarter.
Simms didn’t get any help from his running game, which was held to 40 yards and accounted for just one of Tampa Bay’s 22 first downs.
Falcons WR Roddy White went out in the first quarter with a rib injury, fumbling on a brutal hit by Jermaine Phillips and Torrie Cox after making an 18-yard catch. … Simms also set a career high with 53 passes. … Vick’s 127 yards rushing were the third-highest of his career. His best effort was an NFL-record 173 yards in a 2002 overtime victory at Minnesota. … Koenen is 2-for-8 on field goals this season.