Falcons fly past Rams

Monday, September 20, 2004

Atlanta's Michael Vick rushed for over 100 yards and completed 14 of 19 passes.

By Charles Odum ~ The Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Standing in his end zone, looking for a receiver, Marc Bulger had big plans.

"I was going for a home run," Bulger said.

Atlanta defensive end Brady Smith had other ideas, stripping the ball from Bulger and catching the fumble in the air for a touchdown to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the St. Louis Rams 34-17 Sunday.

After the Rams rallied from a 14-0 deficit to tie the game at 17 in the third quarter, the Falcons outscored St. Louis 17-0 in the final quarter.

"That's one of my favorite takeaways of all time," Falcons defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said.

Bulger said: "I was a half-second away from letting the ball go. ... It could have been a touchdown the other way."

Instead, Smith beat Rams left tackle Orlando Pace and then reached with his left hand for Bulger, knocking the ball loose before Bulger began to bring his arm forward in a passing motion.

"I wish they were all that easy," said Smith, who was credited with a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery in addition to what he said was his first touchdown since high school.

"It's a dream play for a defensive lineman because usually you have to run 80 yards to get in the end zone. It was just right there."

The Falcons' front four had four sacks, including two by end Patrick Kerney. Cornerback Bryan Scott added another sack. Bulger wasn't sacked in the Rams' season-opening win over Arizona.

Led by quarterback Michael Vick's 109 yards running, the Falcons (2-0) outgained the Rams (1-1) on the ground 242-30.

Bulger passed for 285 yards. Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce combined for 17 catches for 223 yards, but Marshall Faulk was held to 20 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Warrick Dunn rushed for 43 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with a sprained left knee in the fourth quarter. His status for the Falcons' home game against Arizona next Sunday wasn't known.

Following Smith's touchdown, the Falcons' defense delivered another big play when Aaron Beasley ended the next drive with an interception.

Vick recorded the third 100-yard rushing game of his career, and the Falcons ended a seven-game losing streak in the series with the Rams, their former NFC West rival.

"He did some things today, we were on the sideline with our mouths open," said Falcons fullback Justin Griffith, who caught four passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. "He's an awesome athlete. It's fun to play with him."

Rams defensive end Leonard Little said the team wanted to contain Vick and make him throw.

"Real clear we weren't able to do that," Little said.

Vick was 14-of-19 for 179 yards and a touchdown in his second start in the team's new West Coast offense.

"Every Sunday I think I'll continue to get better," Vick said.

Vick ran for 91 yards on seven carries in the first half to help the Falcons build leads of 14-0 and 17-7.

The Falcons opened their second possession with Vick dumping a 62-yard screen pass to fullback Griffith, who later caught a 3-yard touchdown pass on a play he said was designed for tight end Alge Crumpler.

Vick started the Falcons' second touchdown drive with a 12-yard run. He took off later in the drive from the Rams 16, running left and then flipping through the air to the 2 when hit low by Rams cornerback Jerametrius Butler.

"I was just trying to score a touchdown," Vick said. "It's been a long time since I crossed the plane, but it's just the excitement, the adrenaline rush."

Dunn ran behind Todd Weiner for the 2-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 lead.

Jay Feely's 35-yard field goal gave Atlanta a 17-7 lead at halftime. The Rams pulled even with 10 points in the third quarter. Holt jumped in front of Falcons cornerback Jason Webster to catch a 33-yard touchdown pass from Bulger midway through the quarter. Jeff Wilkins' 46-yard field goal tied the game at 17.

Notes: Vick (7 of 9) and Bulger (14 of 15) combined for only three incompletions in the first half. ... Former Atlanta standouts Tommy Nobis, Steve Bartkowski, William Andrews and Jessie Tuggle were honored at halftime as the first four members of the Falcons' Ring of Honor. ... The 242 yards rushing is the Falcons' highest total since rushing for 260 yards on Oct. 27, 2002, against New Orleans. ... The Falcons are 2-0 for the first time since 1998, also the last year they beat the Rams.

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