1:00 PM ET, November 20, 2005
Tampa Bay (6-3) at Atlanta (6-3), Sunday 1:00 pm EST
After a stunning home loss to Green Bay, Vick and the Atlanta Falcons will host the Buccaneers on Sunday in a battle of NFC South rivals.
Both teams are tied for second place in the division, one game behind Carolina.
Facing a strong pass rush led by linebacker Derrick Brooks and defensive end Simeon Rice, Vick committed a career-high four turnovers which led to 20 points in an embarrassing 27-0 loss at Tampa Bay last December 5.
Brooks had two sacks, an interception, a deflection that resulted in an interception and also forced a fumble by Vick. Rice had two sacks, a forced fumble and batted down a pass and defensive end Greg Spires recovered two fumbles - both by Vick.
The NFL's fastest quarterback, Vick threw for just 115 yards with two interceptions and rushed for 81 yards. His favorite target - tight end Alge Crumpler - was held to one catch for five yards.
"They got a good pash rush and collapsed the pocket," Vick said of the last meeting. "They had a great scheme. They double-teamed Alge a lot and kept a guy high over the top."
Look for Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to devise a similar scheme.
Kiffin learned from the first meeting last season when Vick connected with Crumpler on a 49-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to lift the Falcons to a 24-14 victory here at the Georgia Dome. Until that point, Vick had completed just six passes for 83 yards.
Falcons general manager Rich McKay held the same position with Tampa Bay for nearly nine seasons and built the 2001 Super Bowl championship team, which was coached by Jon Gruden. However, McKay was lured away by the Falcons in December 2003 and hired Jim Mora Jr. as coach. The move paid immediate dividends as the Falcons won the division last season and reached the NFC championship game.
Playing against the Buccaneers always has extra significance for Warrick Dunn, who spent his first five years with Tampa Bay and rushed for more than 1,000 yards twice before signing as a free agent with Atlanta in 2002.
Last season, Dunn rushed for 1,106 yards for Atlanta and is second in the NFC with 896 rushing yards this season.
The Buccaneers yielded 144 yards on the ground to Clinton Portis in last week's thrilling 36-35 win over Washington.
Tampa Bay will again count on Rice to put the heat on Vick. Rice had two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in the win over Washington.
That victory stands as Chris Simms' signature game. After committing three turnovers in each of his first two starts this season, Simms threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions against Washington. He hit Edell Shepherd with a 30-yard touchdown with 58 seconds left to pull the Buccaneers within 35-34.
Then Gruden made Washington pay for an offside penalty on the extra-point attempt, deciding to go for two points at the Washington 1 and fullback Mike Alstott barely got into the end zone to give the Bucs the thrilling win.
The Falcons will have to contend with Bucs speedy receiver Joey Galloway, who had seven catches for 131 yards and a touchdown last week.
Atlanta did not do a good job covering Donald Driver, who had 10 catches for 114 yards in the Packers' stunning 33-25 win here last week.
The Falcons also faltered against the run, yielding 103 yards on the ground to undrafted rookie Samkon Gado, who was a backup at Division I-AA Liberty for most of his college career.
Matchup to watch: Rice matches up against left tackle Kevin Shaffer, who is in his second full year as a starter.
Series: The Buccaneers lead, 13-10.
Next week: Tampa Bay hosts Chicago, November 27 Atlanta visits Detroit, November 24
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Key NFC South battle in Atlanta
The NFC South has been one of the most competitive divisions in the league and this game could have a big impact on the playoff picture. Tampa Bay is coming off a dramatic win and it will look to build on that momentum. However, the Buccaneers would rather not have to rely so much on QB Chris Simms' arm. They need to get more from the running game. The good news for Tampa Bay fans is there is reason to believe RB Carnell Williams will have a big game.
A Buccaneers' defense that has been stout against the run for the most part appeared to take a game off last week. It needs to bounce back with a strong performance. No team has run the ball more than Atlanta, who is content keeping the ball on the ground until forced to throw downfield. If Tampa Bay's front seven doesn't clean up the mistakes, Atlanta's two-headed monster of QB Michael Vick and RB Warrick Dunn could have a monster game.
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|Avg Points Allowed||18.3||20.6|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||TB|
|Rush Yds Allowed||TB|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Tampa Bay leads 6-2|
|Dec 5, 2004||TB 27, ATL 0|
|Nov 14, 2004||TB 14, @ATL 24|
|Dec 20, 2003||TB 28, ATL 30|
|Sep 21, 2003||TB 31, @ATL 10|
|Dec 8, 2002||TB 34, ATL 10|
|Oct 6, 2002||TB 20, @ATL 6|