Vick catapults Falcons to early lead


ATLANTA (AP) -- Michael Vick provided a tantalizing glimpse of what the NFL can expect this season.

Vick was 6-for-7 for 110 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Brian Finneran, before the Atlanta Falcons squandered a big lead in their preseason opener, losing to the Green Bay Packers
27-21 Saturday night.

Vick, voted to the Pro Bowl in his first year as a starter, showed no signs of letting up before a raucous Georgia Dome sellout crowd that cheered his every move. Playing just the first quarter, he guided a pair of touchdown drives before another possession
stalled out on downs in Green Bay territory.

"We came out early and set the tempo for the game the way we
wanted to play," Vick said. "We are excited because we did some
good things in the first half, and that's exactly what we wanted to

The Packers, coming off a 9-0 loss to Kansas City in a preseason
opener shortened by inclement weather, got off to another sloppy
start. They trailed 21-3 in the second quarter and jumped offsides
five times in the first half, though Atlanta declined two of the

Green Bay rallied once the starters were done for the night.
Najeh Davenport scored on a 3-yard run late in the first half, then
sparked a 17-point third quarter with a 4-yard TD run.

Ryan Longwell kicked a 40-yard field goal and Bobby Jackson put
the Packers ahead for the first time, scooping up a fumble by Doug
Johnson at the Falcons 2 and returning it for a touchdown with 2:49
left in the third quarter.

Johnson, Atlanta's No. 2 quarterback, was 12 of 22 for 103
yards, with a 7-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Duckett. But Johnson
also was sacked three times behind a makeshift line.

Brett Favre went only two series for Green Bay, completing
4-for-7 for 32 yards. His backup, Doug Pederson, played one
possession as coach Mike Sherman decided to get an extensive look
at two guys battling for the No. 3 quarterback job, Craig Nall and
former first-round pick Akili Smith.

A couple of long returns by Allen Rossum gave Vick good field
position to work with on his first two possessions.

Rossum sprinted 49 yards with the opening kickoff, setting up
the Falcons at the Green Bay 49. Vick passed to his newest weapon,
Peerless Price, for a 13-yard gain on the first play from
scrimmage. Vick also broke off a 9-yard run before Warrick Dunn
finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.

Atlanta's next possession began after a 17-yard punt return by
Rossum. Dunn broke off a 21-yard run on a draw, and Vick did the
rest. At the Green Bay 43, he looked one way, then threw to the end
zone for an open Finneran, who somehow had gotten matched up with a

On Vick's last possession, he threw a short pass to George Layne
that turned into a 37-yard gain. But the left-hander finally threw
an incompletion on third-and-4 at the Green Bay 29, then was sacked
on fourth down by Chuki Nwokorie and Jamal Reynolds.

Nall helped his chances by completing eight of 13 passes for 80
yards. Smith, on the other hand, showed why his career has never
taken off since he was picked No. 3 overall by the Cincinnati
Bengals in 1999.

Smith threw one pass that should have picked off by Kevin
McCadam and missed a potential TD by overshooting an open receiver.
Finally, he was intercepted by Recardo Wimbush on a throw over the

With a bunch of no-names on the field, the Falcons had a late
chance to win the game, getting first-and-goal at the Packers 1
after a pass interference call. But No. 4 tight end Derek Rackley
dropped a pass in the end zone and Green Bay's Jacoby Shepherd fell
on the ball after fourth-string running back Fred Talley fumbled.

Both teams also experienced potentially serious injuries. Green
Bay, already missing several key players, had cornerback Bryant
Westbrook hobble off the field with an injury to his right
Achilles' tendon. Falcons linebacker Twan Russell jammed his left
knee -- the same knee that required surgery last season and has been
bothering him all through camp.


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