After struggling for three quarters, Vick rallied Atlanta from a 10-point deficit with an electrifying display in the fourth. He ran for one touchdown, threw for another and then helped run out the clock in the Falcons’ 21-20 victory Sunday.
“I feel like I can do almost anything,” he said.
Vick could have been with the Chargers, but they traded the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft to the Falcons.
San Diego did just fine on its end, winding up with LaDainian Tomlinson and others. And, in the first meeting between the teams since the deal, the Chargers had the upper hand for 45 minutes.
But, as the final period unfolded, they probably wished they had kept Vick.
“It was time to step up and forget everything that happened beforehand,” Vick said. “I knew what the situation was. I had to come back and make some plays.”
Vick threw for 130 of his 218 yards in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons (5-1) matched their win total from all of last season, when they struggled to 5-11 with Vick missing most of the year with a broken leg.
San Diego (3-3) led 17-7 when the Falcons got the ball in the opening minute of the final period.
To that point, Vick had given scant evidence he would be able to bring them back. Even with his first touchdown pass in four weeks, he was just 7-of-16 for 88 yards at that point, and had two carries for 7 yards.
Suddenly, No. 7 came alive, needing only four plays to reach the end zone. He threw a 50-yard pass to Peerless Price, then broke off an 8-yard run. Finally, Vick broke loose around left end and scooted 14 yards for his first TD rushing of the season.
The Chargers went three-and-out and Vick trotted back out at the San Diego 47, the good field position resulting from Allen Rossum’s 17-yard punt return.
Vick ran for 6 yards and drew a facemask penalty. Two plays later, he pump-faked and lofted a 32-yard touchdown pass to Dez White, who beat two defenders in the left corner with 10:12 remaining.
San Diego drove to the Atlanta 10, but settled for Nate Kaeding’s second field goal, a 28-yarder with 6:04 remaining. Kaeding also kicked a 53-yarder in the third quarter, the longest of the rookie’s career.
The Chargers were out of timeouts, and they couldn’t get the ball back from Vick. He threw a 20-yard pass to Alge Crumpler, then sealed the victory with a 24-yarder to Justin Griffith. Vick rolled to his left as if going to run, luring in two defenders before flipping the pass to a wide-open Griffith.
“We were on the sideline telling Vick to be Vick,” teammate Chad Lavalais said. “He may look bad at the beginning, but he always finishes strong. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Coach Jim Mora did his best to deflect the attention away from his quarterback, even growing a bit testy at the repeated questions about Vick.
“With all respect, it’s not about Michael Vick,” Mora said. “Too much is made about No. 7. It’s not all about No. 7.”
That’s not how the Chargers saw it.
“The sleeping giant awoke,” said receiver Tim Dwight, who also went to San Diego in the Vick trade. “All it takes is one play to ignite your football team, and that’s what he brings.”
Atlanta ended the Chargers’ two-game winning streak and kept them from matching their win total from last season.
While Vick has struggled to adjust to the Falcons’ new West Coast offense, he seemed to freelance more in the fourth period. It worked.
“What they did is what they always were capable of doing, but didn’t choose to do until late,” San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer said. “Michael Vick did what Michael Vick can do, and that’s run all over the place with the ball and create first downs.”
San Diego lost a couple of players in the first quarter. Receiver Reche Caldwell was taken off on a cart after hurting his right knee, while backup defensive end Dave Ball went out with a toe injury. … The Falcons were missing DT Rod Coleman, injured Saturday in a car wreck, and LB Chris Draft (toe). Backup DT Travis Hall (shoulder) also missed the game.