DENVER (AP)—Michael Vick made all the players around him look better— even the other team’s quarterback.
Vick accounted for 367 yards in offense Sunday to help the Atlanta Falcons to a surprisingly easy 41-28 win over the Denver Broncos, who got a record day from Jake Plummer in his futile attempt to play catch-up.
“If I had thrown for 2 yards and we’d won, I’d be the happiest guy in here right now,” said Plummer, who instead threw for 499 yards and lost.
The 499 yards were his career high, a Denver franchise record and the best mark in the NFL this season. Rod Smith had a career-high 208 yards receiving and an 80-yard touchdown, one of four Plummer threw. The Broncos also set a record with 567 yards in offense, but none of it was enough to overcome Plummer’s three interceptions and the stellar performance from Vick.
“Is there anybody else like him? Come on, now,” Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said.
Vick threw two touchdown passes to Peerless Price and had 252 yards passing and 115 rushing—both season highs—to help the Falcons (6-2) set aside their 56-10 embarrassment at Kansas City last week.
“It would be a big understatement to say that was a nice win for us,” Falcons coach Jim Mora said.
The Broncos (5-3) were upset for the second straight week, this coming after their 23-10 loss at Cincinnati.
“It’s been rough,” Broncos linebacker Al Wilson said. “We’ve got to find some way to regroup, get this back on track.”
They should be glad this was their only meeting with Vick, who got things going early by turning what looked like a sure loss into a 44-yard run down the middle of the field, a play that “kind of set the tempo,” Broncos cornerback Kelly Herndon said.
Vick’s two TD passes to Price were beautiful. One dropped perfectly over the receiver’s shoulder on a post pattern for a 17-14 lead in the second quarter, the other Price snatched out of Herndon’s hands in the corner of the end zone to make it 34-14 in the fourth.
Atlanta gained 467 yards against a defense allowing less than 240 a game. Vick, who went 18-for-24 for a passer rating of 136.1, led the Falcons to scores on six of their first nine possessions; the stat would have been better if not for a missed field goal and a lost fumble in Denver territory.
“We didn’t do anything wildly different,” Mora said. “It was in our plan to get (Vick) going a little bit, but we still called our game.”
Just as noteworthy was the revival of the defense. Although Atlanta’s ranking surely won’t rise due to Denver’s big gains during the comeback effort, this hardly looked like the same unit that was humiliated last week, allowing 271 yards rushing and an NFL-record eight TDs on the ground.
Atlanta held Reuben Droughns to 49 yards, the first time he’s failed to gain 100 since he became Denver’s featured runner four games ago.
“This week we had the mind-set that we were going to stay focused and learn from the film and put it behind us,” Brooking said. “We did that today. We fought back and won convincingly, and that just shows the heart we have on this club.”
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan admitted his team was ill-prepared for last week’s game, which made a repeat seem unlikely. But Denver had no answers for the Falcons and it led one to wonder if Shanahan’s outspoken defense of his team’s oft-criticized cut-blocking techniques—including a video presentation to the media on Wednesday—got in the way of this week’s preparation.
In addition to getting outschemed, the Broncos were sloppy. They committed nine penalties for 70 yards, including a defensive holding call that wiped out Wilson’s third-quarter sack of Vick on one of the few times the Broncos touched him in the backfield. Five plays later, Warrick Dunn scored for a 27-14 lead.
Later in the third, the Broncos had a 24-yard gain to the Atlanta 15 wiped out by a tripping call. That was followed by a holding penalty. Three plays later, the Broncos punted, and when they got the ball back, they were trailing by 20 thanks to Vick’s second touchdown pass to Price.
Notes:@ Denver S John Lynch left with a hip injury in the second quarter. Shanahan said he didn’t know the severity of the injury. … Alge Crumpler caught seven passes for 86 yards for Atlanta. … Falcons first-round draft pick CB DeAngelo Hall made his first start and finished with four tackles.