FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- After watching film of his performance against the Baltimore Ravens, Michael Vick let out a deep sigh Monday afternoon.
"We just had some protection breakdowns," the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback said. "That always happens in a game. You're never going to be perfect."
Despite rushing seven times for minus-five yards, throwing an interception and fumbling twice, Vick still played well enough Sunday to help the Falcons beat Baltimore 20-17 and win their fourth straight.
Vick, who entered with an NFL-high 9 yards per carry, never totally adjusted to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's schemes. The Ravens constantly blitzed their safeties and dropped right end Adalius Thomas to spy Vick and keep him from breaking off long runs.
In a Week 8 victory at New Orleans, Vick became the first quarterback in league history to rush for 90 yards in consecutive games. Baltimore's zone defense shut down Vick's threat to run.
"They did move in waves," tight end Alge Crumpler said. "Like when Mike went left, they kind of shifted left. When Mike went right, they kind of shifted right. Even when they dropped back, they were kind of closing down some of those throwing lanes in there."
Coach Dan Reeves knows the Falcons (5-3) will see more of the same Sunday when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3).
"They are the ones who started a lot of the zone blitz, and they're going to come up with a lot of different looks," Reeves said. "They're not going to sit there and (give away) any idea where it's coming from."
To beat Pittsburgh, Vick must do a better job of knowing when to run, and his receivers have to shed coverage. The Ravens held Atlanta to season lows in total offense (241), net passing yards (115) and completions (12).
The Falcons made plays necessary to win, but their passing attack, which ranks 30th and is tied with Carolina for the lowest number of touchdowns (5), remains insufficient. Brian Finneran dropped a would-be touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. The third-year receiver was wide-open on a flea-flicker that Vick underthrew slightly at the Baltimore 40.
Finneran responded on his next big chance, setting up T.J. Duckett's 1-yard touchdown run after catching a 25-yard pass that Vick heaved from the Ravens' 26 after eluding safety Ed Reed. Vick was sacked three times for minus-21 yards, pushing Atlanta's ratio of sacks-per-passing attempt to 10.8 - second-worst in the NFL.
"You can watch film on a team, but you never know what they're going to come out and do," Vick said. "You've just got to prepare for it the right way and hopefully when you step out on the field you can protect and pick up their schemes."
The Falcons have won five of six mostly because their offense relies on a rushing attack that ranks fifth with 144.4 yards per game. Duckett and Warrick Dunn combined for 115 yards on 23 carries.
Duckett, who missed the New Orleans game with a strained arch in his right foot, was limping Monday after spraining an ankle and suffering a bruise on the top of his left foot.
"He's not quite as sore today as he was yesterday," Reeves said. "So that's encouraging, but we'll just have to see how much progress he makes during the week."
Notes: Brady Smith, who starts at right defensive end, missed the Baltimore game and is doubtful again this week with a sprained right shoulder. ... Nickel cornerback Juran Bolden could be sidelined his second straight game with a dislocated knee cap. ... Free safety Keion Carpenter injured a knee in the third quarter but later returned. ... Atlanta leads the league in time of possession (32:38). ... Patrick Kerney's 4-yard fumble return was the Falcons' first defensive touchdown since the 2000 season opener. They hadn't returned a fumble for a touchdown since Jessie Tuggle ran for 1 yard against San Francisco on Nov. 15, 1998.
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