Originally created 09/25/01

The education of Vick right on schedule



FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The first completion is out of the way. The first touchdown has been taken care of. The first game ball will soon be on its way to mom.

The education of Michael Vick is right on schedule.

Vick, the NFL's No. 1 draft pick, is playing a limited but valuable role for the Atlanta Falcons (1-1), who are trying to balance starter Chris Chandler's happiness with the learning curve of their prized rookie.

"I think Chris understands what we are trying to do, and he understands too that there is going to be some inconvenience as far as the flow of the game," coach Dan Reeves said Monday. "Its just something he's got to learn to deal with."

Both quarterbacks dealt with the arrangement just fine on Sunday, when the Falcons defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-16.

Chandler completed 11-of-14 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns, including a 94-yarder to Jamal Anderson that put the Falcons ahead for good early in the third quarter.

Vick played one full series, guiding Atlanta to a field goal. He also came in for another play in the fourth quarter with the Falcons facing third-and-goal at the Panthers 2.

Reeves called a college-style option. Vick rolled left and wound up scoring himself, barreling through two defenders at the goal line. His ribs were aching when he got up, but Vick made sure to keep the ball he carried to his first pro TD.

"My mom called me right after the game," Vick said. "She told me how proud she was, and she told she wanted that game ball."

He'll happily comply with mom's request. The Falcons, meanwhile, are pleased to have a dangerous new weapon to spread the field in the red zone.

"We're going to use him some more in goal-line situations," Reeves said. "That's an area where he gives you an extra threat."

Overall, Vick was 2-of-2 for 27 yards, threading his first NFL completion to Tony Martin for an 18-yard gain in the second quarter.

Vick was sacked for a 11-yard loss on the next play, then got the Falcons out of the hole with his running ability. He rambled 9 yards on a planned play and scrambled up the middle for a 12-yard gain, somersaulting for the first down.

"Second-and-21, and he makes two runs and makes a first down," Reeves said. "That's an unusual talent, being able to overcome second-and-21, and you do it by running."

Vick also has a lot of work to do when it comes to understanding NFL defenses.

After driving the Falcons to a third-and-1 at the Carolina 5, he misread the alignment and called for a running play to go right instead of left. Jamal Anderson was stuffed for a 2-yard loss, forcing Atlanta to settle for a field goal.

"I was not supposed to check on that play," Vick conceded.

He'll continue to play a secondary role to Chandler, which helps the Falcons in a couple of ways, according to Reeves.

"Chris is so much further ahead as far as being able to move your football team and giving you the best chance to win," the coach said. "I also think it's an easier situation for Mike to be learning under those circumstances than it would be if he was in there and had the responsibility of trying to win a football game."

The 35-year-old Chandler is a pure dropback passer, while Vick - 14 years his junior - can run or throw with equal effectiveness. For two games, at least, the rest of the team has adapted to both.

"No one is upset. There's no turmoil among any of their teammates," receiver Tony Martin said. "It's accepted. That's the game plan. Plus, it's a good change-up when Michael comes in."

The Falcons, who next travel to Arizona, will continue to change things up for opposing teams, hoping it doesn't upset the delicate balance between Chandler and Vick.

"Michael definitely brings some special problems to a defense," Reeves said. "We want to utilize that, and also just try to bring along the learning process and make it a little bit quicker.

"We will do that with Chris in mind so that Chris understands what we are doing prior to the game. We will have a definite plan every week."

Notes: Martin cracked his right clavicle while blocking on Atlanta's first possession. The shoulder was extremely sore Monday, but Martin hopes treatment and rest will allow him to play against the Cardinals. ... CB Ray Buchanan and TE Algie Crumpler also got treatment for aching shoulders. ... Reeves named DE Patrick Kerney the defensive player of the game, in which he had two sacks and also caused a fumble. ... Rookie Kynan Forney, who sat out Sunday's game with a toe injury, will return to his starting spot at right guard if he is healthy. But Reeves was happy with Travis Claridge, who shifted from tackle to guard, and Ephraim Salaam, who made his first start at right tackle. "Ephraim has come on strong in practice, and I thought he really helped himself as far as the game," Reeves said.