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Vick struggles badly in second start

12/15/2003

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Peyton Manning showed he was ready for the
playoffs Sunday.

The Indianapolis Colts now have two weeks to fine-tune their
explosive offense.

Question on the Falcons: Were you surprised to see them look this flat following Reeves' firing?
I was more surprised at the lack of protection provided for QB Mike Vick. The Colts dominated the line of scrimmage and held Vick to 47 yards passing and 30 rushing yards. Part of the reason for the Falcons' lack of production offensively may be attributable to Reeves' firing. Not only was Reeves the coach, he was also the offensive coordinator and the playcalling was lackluster. Sometimes play calls can motivate and jumpstart a team. I've been on teams where at the beginning of games, defensive coordinators would call a ton of blitzes to get the defense in an aggressive mood. The lack of Reeves' playcalling may have contributed to the Falcons' lack of focus.

Question on the Colts: If they don't get a first-round bye, how do you like their Super Bowl chances?
The Colts played a heckova defensive football game today and that's the key for this team. This is the second consecutive week that the team has won a ballgame because of the defense's play. That's important because so far this season, the defensive unit has been inconsistent. If the Colts can get home field advantage and play defense like they did today, they'll be in great shape. But if not and they have to travel to play New England, then the Colts will be in trouble.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Manning threw for 290 yards and five touchdowns, Edgerrin James
ran for 126 yards and the defense manhandled Michael Vick in a 38-7
win over Atlanta to clinch a playoff spot.

"That was the goal coming in here, to get into the playoffs,"
Manning said. "We need to keep it going the next two weeks."

The Colts (11-3) couldn't have asked for more from Manning, who
has now led Indianapolis to four playoff appearances in five years
but has been dogged by an 0-3 postseason record.

With Tennessee's 28-26 win over Buffalo on Sunday, the Colts
will have to wait another week for a chance to clinch their first
division title since 1999. One more win, or a Titans loss, gives
Indianapolis the AFC South title.

A handful of fans hung around to watch the end the Bills-Titans
game on the big screen TVs inside the stadium, cheering when
Buffalo scored a last-minute touchdown and moaning when the Bills
failed on a potential tying 2-point conversion.

But it hardly mattered.

The Colts played one of their best all-around games this season
and Manning turned in another MVP-like performance before leaving
at the start of the fourth quarter.

He completed 25 of 30 passes, became the first Colts quarterback
to throw for five TDs in a game twice in a season and the first NFL
player to achieve that since Buffalo's Jim Kelly in 1991. Only
three other players -- Houston's Warren Moon in 1990, Miami's Dan
Marino in 1986 and San Diego's Dan Fouts in 1982 -- have done that
since the merger in 1970.

Manning also broke the NFL record for most consecutive seasons
with 25 touchdown passes (six). The record of five was set by
Miami's Dan Marino in the 1980s and was tied by Green Bay's Brett
Favre in the 1990s.

"I'm starting to get numb to those," coach Tony Dungy said.
"He was very sharp all week in practice and he's been very, very
hot the last month or so."

Atlanta (3-11) looked like a team reeling from a midweek
coaching change.

In Wade Phillips' first game as interim coach, Vick was sacked
four times and the Falcons' offense did almost nothing. They
couldn't run until the outcome was already decided, couldn't throw
and Vick was hit a number of times before being pulled in the
fourth quarter.

"My worst fears came to being," Phillips said. "Coach (Dan
Reeves) gets fired in the middle of the week and there's a
letdown."

Part of the problem was Vick's ineffectiveness.

He was just 2 of 12 for 25 yards with a passer rating of 4.9 in
the first half when the Falcons were outgained 302-28. He finished
6 of 19 for 47 yards with four carries for 30 yards.

"It's the worst game I ever had," Vick said. "Why? I don't
know."

The Colts, meanwhile, played almost flawlessly.

James and wide receiver Marvin Harrison each topped the 100-yard
mark in the first half. James went over the 1,000-yard mark for the
first time since having knee surgery in November 2001, while
Harrison finished with 117 yards and two touchdowns.

Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley each had seven
catches. Stokley caught his first two TDs with the Colts and Wayne
added one TD.

They never gave Atlanta a chance.

Vick was sacked on two of the Falcons' first four plays,
fumbling on the second sack to set up the Colts at the Atlanta 14.

Manning found Wayne on the Colts' first play to make it 7-0.

Two series later, Manning led the Colts 49 yards, hooking up
with Stokley on a 4-yard TD and the rout was on.

Things got worse before the half ended.

Mike Vanderjagt's 43-yard field goal early in the second quarter
put him within two of the NFL record for most consecutive field
goals, and then Manning hit Harrison on a 17-yard TD pass to make
it 24-0 at the half.

Manning hooked up with Stokley again early in the third quarter
and the Falcons avoided a shutout when T.J. Duckett burst 17 yards
for a touchdown with 4:57 left in the third quarter.

"It's important to play at a high level late in the season and
going into the playoffs," Manning said. "Hopefully, we can keep
this kind of momentum going the next two weeks."

^Notes:@ James' 43-yard run in the second quarter was his
longest since 1999, his rookie season. ... Atlanta is 1-12 against
the Colts. ... Duckett broke the Falcons' franchise record by
scoring a touchdown in his seventh straight game. ... Atlanta
defensive end Brady Smith hyperextended his elbow and did not
return. ... Indianapolis offensive lineman Adam Meadows left with a
sprained right knee. Meadows replaced Steve Sciullo at guard in the
starting lineup and did not return.