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Aug. 11, 2003: No sophomore slump for Michael Vick
Sophomore slump? Based on Michael Vick's first preseason game, it doesn't seem likely.
Vick, who was voted to the Pro Bowl in his first year as a starter, picked up right where he left off in one stellar quarter for the Atlanta Falcons.
He completed his first six passes, directed two touchdown drives and even scooted down the sideline on one of his trademark runs (certainly giving the coaches a scare in a game that didn't count). By the time Vick left, the Falcons were up 14-3 on the Green Bay Packers.
"No need to be greedy," he said, flashing a confident grin in the Georgia Dome locker room late Saturday.
Never mind that Green Bay's scrubs were better than Atlanta's, overcoming a 21-3 deficit to beat the Falcons 27-21. Vick was the star of the night.
"What can you say?" Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie said. "The world sees what the rest of us see: one incredibly smooth, composed individual."
Vick hopes to be even better than a year ago, when his dazzling mix of passing and running amended the prototype for NFL quarterbacks. He's working with a new position coach, Mike Johnson, who wants to tighten up Vick's footwork and give him a more consistent motion on his passes.
"I really didn't feel that much different," the pupil said. "I don't want to be out there thinking, 'I've got to do this, I've got to do that.' It has to be natural so I can just go out there and play my game."
He certainly didn't look much different from the guy who, seven months earlier, led the Falcons to a playoff victory at Green Bay, making them the first visiting team ever to win a postseason game at Lambeau Field.
Vick started off at the Green Bay 49, set up by Allen Rossum's 49-yard kickoff return. The first play from scrimmage was a quick 13-yard pass to Peerless Price, who signed a $37.5 million contract during the offseason to provide the missing piece -- a big-time receiver -- in the Vick-led offense.
"We got that first one over and done with," Price said.
Vick wasn't done. On third-and-6 at the Packers 20, Jacoby Shepherd jumped offsides but Vick kept the play going with a sprint around right end, tiptoeing along the sideline for an extra split-second to make sure he had enough yards for the first down. He finally stepped out with a 9-yard gain. Two plays later, Warrick Dunn cruised into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown.
"We stacked up real well," Vick said. "I'm very comfortable with our No. 1 offense and the people we have out there."
After the Packers went three-and-out, the Falcons got the ball back at their own 33. Dunn ripped off 21 yards on a draw, then Vick provided his most memorable play.
Vick dropped back and looked briefly to his right, luring the safety out of the middle of the field. Brian Finneran sprinted straight for the end zone with linebacker Nick Barnett in futile pursuit. Vick lofted an effortless, towering spiral that landed in the receiver's arms for a 43-yard touchdown.