Originally created 11/18/02

Falcons top Saints



ATLANTA -- Michael Vick flew through the air, somehow managing to stick the ball across the goal line before he went tumbling out of bounds.

Maybe he is Superman.

And what about that Atlanta Falcons defense? It's not so bad, either.

Vick passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, while the Falcons slowed down the New Orleans Saints' offense to win 24-17 Sunday.

Atlanta (6-3-1) extended its unbeaten streak to six and crept within a half-game of New Orleans (7-3) in the NFC South, beating the Saints for the second time in four weeks.

The Falcons also sent a strong message to Saints receiver Joe Horn, who boasted during the week that Atlanta was lucky to win the first meeting - 37-35, on a field goal as time ran out.

"Michael Vick can't make them a Super Bowl contender," Horn had said. "Not now, not this year."

Sorry, Joe, but maybe be can.

The Falcons haven't lost since an Oct. 6 defeat against Tampa Bay dropped them to 1-3. Since then, they are 5-0-1, the only blemish being last week's 34-34 tie against Pittsburgh. Even that outcome felt like a win, since Atlanta rallied from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Vick put on another dazzling performance before a raucous Georgia Dome crowd of 70,382 - the second-largest turnout in Falcons history.

The most spectacular play came in the third quarter.

On third-and-goal from the New Orleans 7, Vick took a shotgun snap, tucked the ball under right arm and took off running for the right corner. With several Saints defenders closing in, he didn't appear to have room to reach the end zone.

Not so fast. Vick switched the ball to his left hand, planted his right foot at the 2 - just inches from the boundary - and launched his body toward the goal line. Somehow, he managed to stick the ball across before a defender sent him sprawling out of bounds. The spectacular play gave Atlanta a 14-0 lead.

The Falcons' defense had a lot of prove after giving up a franchise-record 645 yards in the tie at Pittsburgh.

New Orleans, leading the NFL in scoring, didn't reach the end zone until Aaron Brooks threw a quick slant to Horn that turned into a 57-yard touchdown pass with 11:54 remaining.

That cut Atlanta's lead to 17-10, but Vick finished off the Saints with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler with 3:56 remaining, set up by Juran Bolden's interception. Crumpler hauled in a perfectly placed pass from Vick with time to drag both feet in the end zone.

The Saints raced down the field for a touchdown, Brooks connecting with Donte Stallworth on a 12-yard scoring play with 47 seconds left. It didn't matter. Crumpler pulled down the onside kick to secure the victory.

Vick ran seven times for 55 yards. He was only 11-of-23 passing, but that included a schoolyard play in the second quarter that resulted in a 74-yard touchdown to Trevor Gaylor.

Rolling left to escape pressure, Vick motioned to Gaylor to go deep, then hit him in stride more than 50 yards down the field. Jay Bellamy fell down trying to keep up, allowing the Atlanta receiver to high-step the final 10 yards on his way to the end zone.

Horn didn't catch a pass until the second half, but he finished with 134 yards on just three receptions. That included a 63-yard play that set up a field goal.

Still, the Saints were held to their lowest-scoring game of the season. They were averaging more than 32 points a game.

Deuce McAllister, who ran all over the Falcons in the first meeting, was held to 43 yards on 13 carries. He didn't play for much of the fourth quarter.