Defense has shown it can contain Vick
By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 8, 2002
Behind a furious pass rush, the Bucs held Michael Vick to 37 passing yards (4-for-12) and 1 yard rushing, both season lows for the Falcons quarterback, en route to a 20-6 victory Oct. 6 at the Georgia Dome.
Tied 3-3 at halftime, the Bucs took control in the third quarter when Keyshawn Johnson caught a Brad Johnson pass behind the secondary and sprinted 76 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Johnson had six catches for 131 yards and Martin Gramatica kicked two field goals.
The victory was punctuated in the fourth quarter when defensive tackle Warren Sapp intercepted a pass from backup Doug Johnson and lateraled to Derrick Brooks, who ran 15 yards for the touchdown.
"It was the worst game we played offensively," Falcons coach Dan Reeves said. "Our defense played well enough to give us a chance to win. The turnover where Brooks took it in was certainly big, a huge play, and Keyshawn made a difference in the game.
"Hopefully, we're a better team now than we were then."
SOME INSIDE STUFF
How impressive has Vick been running the ball? Vick has 648 yards rushing in 11 games, an average of 58.9. At that pace, Vick will finish with 942 yards. The record for rushing yards by a quarterback is 968 by Chicago's Bobby Douglass in 1972. The next three season highs are 942 by Randall Cunningham (Eagles, 1990), 674 by Steve McNair (Titans, 1997) and 629 by Donovan McNabb (Eagles, 2000).
While much of the attention has been focused on the Atlanta quarterback, the defense has played a sizable role in the impressive season. It is fourth in the league in points allowed (17.6 a game) and 15th overall (326.8 yards per game).
The Bucs are averaging 87.4 yards rushing, 31st in the NFL. That would be fourth worst in team history if the season ended today. The Bucs rushed for 80.6 yards in 1993, 84.6 yards in 1983 and 85.7 yards in 2001.
The Bucs motto has been "Pound the Rock," and it's been symbolized by the 200-plus-pound slab of granite that has become a team mascot. Well, the Falcons have their motto: "Spread the Magic."
"That's the players, they started that," Reeves said. "I would like them to act like they have done this before, but the guys are having fun. I don't think they are taunting anyone with it, and that was my concern."
2.5: sacks Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice (14.5 sacks) needs to set a single-season franchise record (Sapp in 2000).
4: rushing touchdowns for Bucs.
22: rushing touchdowns for Falcons.
38: sacks by Bucs.
39: sacks by Falcons.
218: receiving yards by Atlanta's Brian Finneran in past two games.
THE LAST WORD
"The thing I notice around here is that guys respond to challenges. They seem to thrive on it. That was the thing after the loss to the Saints the first time. That was the thing about Michael Vick the first time. Everything was Michael Vick, Michael Vick, Michael Vick. I think our defensive line took it personally and wanted to get after him. I believe it's going to be the same this time." -- Bucs cornerback Dwight Smith
-- Compiled by Roger Mills.
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