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Atlanta adds to woes with penalties for safeties

10/5/2003

ATLANTA (AP) -- Gus Frerotte erased a very bad memory in his
return to the Georgia Dome.

A year ago, Frerotte started for the hapless Cincinnati Bengals,
was benched after he failed to complete his first seven passes and
watched the rest of a 30-3 loss from the bench.

On Sunday, he got some payback against Atlanta. Starting his
second straight game for Minnesota, Frerotte threw two touchdown
passes and helped keep the Vikings unbeaten with a 39-26 victory
over the Falcons.

"It was a rough day back when I was with the Bengals,"
Frerotte remembered. "I got hit hard a lot that day. Things
weren't as positive there as they are here."

Moe Williams ran for a pair of second-half touchdowns as the
Vikings (5-0) outscored Atlanta 27-6 over the final two quarters.

The Falcons (1-4) lost their fourth in a row, suffering the
further indignity of being called for two penalties that resulted
in safeties.

Doug Johnson was flagged for intentionally grounding the ball to
avoid being tackled in the end zone. Then, left tackle Bob
Whitfield capped a miserable game by literally tackling Lance
Johnstone as he was closing in on a sack of Johnson in the end
zone.

"I don't think they're as good as we are," Johnson said.
"When you're playing at home, you're supposed to beat teams you're
better than. It's very frustrating."

Johnson, who is starting in place of Michael Vick, hasn't been
able to match the success of Minnesota's backup. The Vikings
haven't missed a beat with Frerotte filling in for Daunte
Culpepper, winning the last two games by a combined score of 74-33.

Frerotte completed 14 of 24 passes for 239 yards against the
Falcons, including two throws that picked up more than 50 yards.

"I grew up in Pittsburgh in the '70s, with all that `We Are
Family' stuff with the Pirates," Frerotte said. "It's kind of
like that here."

It wasn't that way in Cincinnati. He never threw another pass
for the Bengals after his woeful day in Atlanta.

Frerotte wound up in Minnesota as a backup, only to get pressed
into duty when Culpepper broke several small bones in his back
Sept. 21 against Detroit.

For one half, at least, it looked as if Atlanta coach Dan Reeves
would finally get his 200th victory. The Falcons led 20-12 at
halftime, Johnson was playing well at quarterback and the defense
was containing the high-powered Vikings.

It didn't last. Reeves fell to 0-for-4 in his pursuit of No.
200.

Frerotte connected with Randy Moss on a 17-yard touchdown, and
the Vikings made a 2-point conversion to tie it at 20. Moss' catch
was a thing of beauty -- he leaped over cornerback Kevin Mathis to
grab the ball, then somehow got both feet down before tumbling out
of bounds.

Moss also had a 32-yard touchdown in the second quarter, beating
Mathis on a post route. The second TD came after Moss was called
for offensive pass interference against cornerback Ray Buchanan,
wiping out a touchdown.

"I was kind of mad," Moss said. "Each week, I get pass
interferences against me and they don't call it. I was just trying
to get my hands up to make a play, and he was bumping me and
pushing me. I was just trying to get the guy's hands off me."

Minnesota went ahead for good with 2:46 left in the third
quarter. Frerotte's 51-yard pass to Kelly Campbell pushed the
Vikings deep into Atlanta territory, and Williams scored on an
11-yard run.

Williams finished off the Falcons with a 5-yard touchdown early
in the fourth quarter, though Minnesota tacked on a safety and
Aaron Elling's second field goal for good measure.

The Falcons scored two touchdowns in the final seven minutes of
the first half to take a lead to the locker room. Warrick Dunn ran
8 yards for a TD after T.J. Duckett broke off a 55-yard run.
Peerless Price scored his first TD for Atlanta on a 6-yard
reception with just 10 seconds left in the half.

Johnson threw for 352 yards and Price finally had a breakout
game with the Falcons, catching 12 passes for 168 yards. Not that
it mattered.

Atlanta fell apart over the final two quarters, leaving the team
in dire straits with the return of Vick still at least two weeks
away. He broke his right leg in the preseason.

The Falcons have given up 103 points in three home losses this
season, drawing lusty boos from a sellout crowd that expected so
much more out of this team.

"We were on the brink after we lost two in a row," Price said.
"We need a win, and we need one in a hurry. This is bad."

Game notes
The Vikings clearly decided to focus on the running game
after falling behind at halftime. They gained just 31 yards in the
first half -- and finished with 166. The Falcons came in as the
league's 28th-ranked team against the run. ... Minnesota has won
its first five games for the second time in four years. In 2000,
the Vikings started 7-0. ... Johnson had career highs in passes
(40), completions (28) and yards. ... Moss had five catches for 81
yards.