BY JEFF GORDON
Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
Sunday, Sep. 19 2004
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick re-established himself as one of the
NFL's most electrifying threats Sunday.
The Rams would have preferred that he wait another week to do that.
Vick led the Falcons to a thorough 34-17 victory over the Rams in Atlanta. He
demolished the Rams defense with his arm and feet. He threw short and long. He
scooted downfield on impromptu scrambles and designed runs.
He made great use of running back Warrick Dunn, tight end Alge Crumpler and
receiver Dez White in the new Atlanta offense – forcing the Rams to play
catch-up all afternoon.
And the sloppy, penalty-plagued Rams weren't up to that challenge in Atlanta.
Quarterback Marc Bulger was able to play pitch-and-catch with Isaac Bruce and
Torry Holt, but the offensive line failed to establish consistent run blocking
and then broke down against the Falcons pass rush in the second half.
In the tactical showdown between head coaches Jim Mora and Mike Martz, Mora won
by a TKO. All in all, this was not a pleasant afternoon for the Rams.
* Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa led a four-man charge on Vick on Atlanta's first
third-down attempt, resulting in a huge early sack.
* Third and short, a hand-off to Marshall Faulk, he muscles forward for a
first down . . . that's an excellent early sign. Too bad it wasn't a sign of
good things to come.
* On a fourth-and-one play at the Atlanta 10, rookie running back Steven
Jackson lunged for the first down with a nice second effort.
* On a fourth-and-goal play at the Atlanta 1, the Rams went for it – and Faulk
walked into the end zone on a successful sweep left. Fullback Joey Goodspeed
delivered the key lead block.
* Wow! Holt went up and got a Bulger long ball for a 33-yard touchdown
reception. Holt was well-covered on the pump-and-go pass, but he adjusted to
the ball and two Falcons defensive backs didn't. That play got the Rams back
into the game . . . briefly.
* Defensive end Leonard Little broke up an end-around play in the third
quarter, leading to an intentional grounding penalty and, one play later, a
* With the Rams moving back into scoring position, Faulk danced for a
first-down on a third-and-one play. Yes, he can still make men miss in the open
field – and miss badly.
* That led to Jeff Wilkins' 46-yard field goal, which tied the game 17-17 in
the third quarter. How nice to have a place-kicker that makes 46-yarders
* Edgy in the face of a threatened blitz, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna took a
false start penalty on the Rams' second possession.
* The Rams defense seemed to have receiver Peerless Price corralled for a
massive loss in the second quarter, but he reversed his field on an end-around
run and gained nine yards. That kept the Falcons rolling toward their second
* Goodspeed committed a holding penalty on a second-quarter kickoff return,
putting the Rams in a hole at their 13-yard line. Then guard Chris Dishman
backed the team up another five yards with a false start penalty.
* Bulger got away with a huge mistake when his touchdown pass to Falcons
linebacker Matt Stewart was negated by a defensive holding penalty that didn't
affect the play. Whew!
* What's with all these illegal motion penalties? Tight end Cam Cleeland
committed one the moment the Rams reached the red zone for the first time.
* Jackson couldn't hold off Bryan Scott on a corner blitz; the result was a
* After the Rams crept back in the red zone, Orlando Pace committed an
unfortunate holding penalty.
* Goodspeed took another special teams holding penalty, this time on a punt.
The Falcons got a 22-yard return on the do-over, allowing them to maintain the
upper hand in the field position war.
* Here was another inexplicable penalty: Jackson got flagged for taunting
after a kickoff return, moving the Rams back to their 10 after the Falcons took
a 24-17 lead.
* Then defensive end Patrick Kerney moved the Rams another nine yards back by
waltzing around Manumaleuna to sack Bulger.
* The Rams' kick return and coverage teams were badly outplayed by the
Falcons, giving Atlanta a significant field position advantage.
* Add a facemask penalty by Grant Williams to the fiasco that was the
offensive line play. Yikes!
* Safety Adam Archuleta failed to tackle fullback Justin Griffith at the
corner – allowing him to take a swing pass 62 yards and set up a three-yard
touchdown pass to Griffith. That was NOT a good defensive sequence for the Rams.
* Not only did the Rams allow Falcons kicker Jay Feely to recover his own
onside kick in the first quarter, but then Martz squandered a timeout with a
no-chance replay appeal. Nice.
* Falcons defensive end Brady Smith walked around Pace as if he were a pylon,
stripped the ball from Bulger's hand in the end zone and then grabbed it for a
touchdown himself. That was NOT a Pro Bowl moment.
Martz wanted to appeal the play, but the officials reminded him that the ball
never hit the ground so there was nothing to appeal.
* Bulger threw a strike to Falcons cornerback Aaron Beasley with 10 minutes
36 seconds left to kill what little hope the Rams had.