ATLANTA (AP)—The Detroit Lions have learned to win on the road.
Michael Vick is still trying to get a handle on the West Coast offense.
After going three years without a road victory, the Lions made it two in a row Sunday with a 17-10 victory over Vick and the previously unbeaten Atlanta Falcons.
Detroit (3-1) harassed Vick into three turnovers, including a fumble in the final minute that sealed the victory.
“This is a whole different team,” cornerback Fernando Bryant said. “We don’t care what happened in the past.”
Joey Harrington threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Az-Zahir Hakim on fourth-and-5, and Artose Pinner scored on a 1-yard dive with 1:57 left in the first half, the Lions’ first rushing TD of the season.
Detroit set an NFL record by losing 24 straight road games over the previous three years, but opened the season with a 20-17 victory in Chicago.
Now, it’s getting to be a habit.
“I love the resiliency of this team,” coach Steve Mariucci said.
The Falcons (4-1) were denied the first 5-0 start in franchise history, along with Jim Mora taking the first loss of his head coaching career. The only other time Atlanta began 4-0 was 1986.
“We’ll handle this like we handled the wins,” Mora said. “You’re going to have some adversity in the NFL.”
Just ask Vick. Once again, he looked uncomfortable in the Falcons’ new West Coast offense. He fumbled three times, losing two of them, and also threw an interception that led to Detroit’s go-ahead touchdown.
“I was caught up looking for receivers and got careless with the ball,” Vick said. “The bottom line is I should have had the ball tucked away.”
Late in the first half, he threw an interception that linebacker Alex Lewis returned 33 yards to the Atlanta 2.
Even Detroit’s running game could handle it from there. Pinner, in his first career start, was stuffed twice before plunging into the end zone for a 14-7 lead.
The Falcons had not been behind all season, and they didn’t react well to the situation.
The Falcons had one more chance to force overtime, driving again to the Detroit 21 in the final minute. Vick completed three passes, including a 24-yarder to Alge Crumpler, but the Lions turned up the heat again.
Vick was sacked by Shaun Rogers for a 5-yard loss. Then, as Vick was trying to get away from Jared DeVries, the quarterback’s arm hit teammate Todd Weiner and the ball popped free. Hall gobbled it up to seal the victory.
“Those are the situations I love the most,” Vick said. “Everybody’s watching. The pressure is on. That’s when I feel I’m at my best. I handled it fairly well until the end.”
Vick completed 18 of 29 passes for 196 yards and ran five times for 29 yards. But, for the third week in a row, he didn’t do a whole lot of positive things for the Falcons.
“Who knows? Maybe in the 10th or 11th year I’ll be comfortable with it,” Vick said of the new scheme. “But for now, I’ve got to keep working, keep working.”
Mariucci won the first matchup with his former assistant. Mora was on Mariucci’s staff in San Francisco for six years and the two are still close friends.
Pinner carried 23 times for 68 yards. Harrington played it safe in the Detroit passing game, completing 16 of 24 attempts for 146 yards.
The Falcons scored their lone touchdown off a fake punt in the second quarter. Initially, they had kicked the ball away, but offsetting penalties forced them to line up again. This time, Chris Mohr lobbed a pass to Brian Finneran breaking free down the middle for a 39-yard gain.
Finneran wasn’t done. On fourth-and-5 at the Detroit 33, the second-string receiver kept the drive going by hauling in a 10-yard pass from Vick. Warrick Dunn finished it off with a 2-yard touchdown run—his sixth TD of the season.
Otherwise, Dunn struggled to find running room. His longest run was for 7 yards; he finished with 44 yards on 18 carries.
“The first thing we wanted to do was stop the run,” DeVries said.
Another bit of Atlanta chicanery didn’t work so well. The Falcons set up for a 30-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half, but kicker Jay Feely took off into the left flat to take a pass from Mohr. Terrence Holt read it all the way, tripping up Feely for a 2-yard loss.
The Lions lost a couple of players. FB Cory Schlesinger went out in the first half with a hamstring injury, and WR Roy Williams hobbled off in the third quarter with a gimpy ankle. … Atlanta backup TE Eric Beverly went out with a shoulder sprain on the first possession. … In 1986, the Falcons failed to make the playoffs after starting 4-0. They finished 7-8-1 and coach Dan Henning was fired.