Dunn-Vick one-two punch KOs the Rams
Dunn-Vick one-two punch KOs the Rams
By Dan O'Neill
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Jan. 16 2005
ATLANTA - The Rams were concerned about Michael Vick getting loose at the
Georgia Dome on Saturday night, as well they might be. The first time the
lightning-quick quarterback ran with the ball, he streaked 47 yards to set up a
But the Falcons have more lightning in the bottle, rather, in their backfield.
And while the Rams concentrated on Vick, the Falcons were unleashing Warrick
"One of the great things about our running game is you get a great runner going
one way and a great runner going the other way," Atlanta coach Jim Mora said.
"And one of them is Warrick or T.J. Duckett and one of them is Mike. And you
have to figure out which one of them has the ball and you have to defend the
whole field ... it's like keep-away."
The choice is obvious, Dunn added.
"When you have a guy like Mike running one way and another guy running
another," he said, "they tend to go with Mike."
The effect was devastating for the Rams, particularly when the diminutive Dunn
had the ball. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer back ran through the Rams' defense
as if he was licensed to do so. With the kind of speed and elusiveness one
associates with Vick, Dunn Vick-timized the Rams for 142 yards in 17 carries,
an average of 8.4 yards per tote.
"For me, this is the best playoff game I've ever played in," said Dunn, who was
playing in his ninth postseason game. "I've played in a lot of playoff games,
but I've never been a huge factor. And tonight, that was one of the things I
said before the game. I wanted to be a factor, I wanted to come out and make
plays and I was just feeling it."
Dunn, in his third season in Atlanta and his eighth in the NFL, even upstaged
his high-profile partner. Less than five minutes after Vick's run set a Falcons
playoff record for the longest run from scrimmage, and only moments after the
Rams' Kevin Curtis scored on a 57-yard pass play to tie the score 7-7, Dunn
produced an even bigger play.
On a second-down play from the Atlanta 38, Dunn took a handoff, scooted past
the line of scrimmage, cut toward the sideline and - as Jackie Gleason might
say, aw-a-a-a-a-y he went. Sixty-two yards later, he handed the ball to a
patron in the stands and handed the Falcons a 14-7 lead.
Dunn was far from done. On the next Atlanta series, he dashed 21 yards to give
the Falcons a first down at the Rams' 48. Seven plays later, Dunn finished the
sequence by sprinting 19 yards into the end zone. The score gave the Falcons a
21-7 lead, a commanding position the Rams never overcame.
By halftime, Dunn had 126 yards in eight carries and two touchdowns. His
electrifying legs had opened the gates against the run-defending impaired Rams.
Everyone got into the act. The Falcons had set a franchise record for rushing
yards in a playoff game by halftime, gouging out 239 yards in 18 carries, an
average of 13.3 yards. And for his part, Vick was more than a distraction. He
finished the evening with 119 yards rushing on 19 carries, setting a playoff
record for single-game rushing yards by a quarterback. Vick, who also completed
12 of 16 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns, said the Rams showed the
Falcons a new look that made them ripe for the picking.
"It hurt them, honestly," Vick said. "They tried to play us in a certain
defense and we were kind of expecting it, and we came out and ran some counters
off of it. That's what Warrick was able to do to get the big run early and
that's why I was able to scramble for the big run early in the game. It just
backfired on them."
Business was good on the ground, and punt return specialist Allen Rossum got
into the act. With 59 seconds remaining in the first half, after the Rams had
failed to convert on a third-and-1 play, Rossum fielded a punt at his 32, faked
a lateral to his right and soared up the middle of the field. Rossum's romp
gave the fleet Falcons a 28-14 lead. The Rams whittled the deficit to 28-17 by
the half. But when they punted on their first possession of the third quarter,
Rossum brought it back 39 yards to set up another Atlanta score. He wound up
with 152 yards in three returns.
Dunn appeared to secure a touchdown hat trick in the fourth quarter, but his
20-yard scoring run was brought back because of a penalty. Nonetheless, the
47-17 victory came on a memorable night for Dunn and his fellow ball carriers
as Falcons wound up with 327 yards rushing as a team, with an average of 8.2
yards per carry.