It looks like something straight off the playground, but it gave the Atlanta Falcons another win.
Moving to the brink of just their third division championship, the Falcons rallied to beat the New Orleans Saints 24-21 when Vick threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Crumpler with 1:22 remaining Sunday.
Vick scrambled out of trouble and found Crumpler at the pylon, battling with cornerback Jason Craft. The Pro Bowl tight end boxed out the defender like a basketball player going for a rebound, and easily made the catch when Craft fell down.
“Me and Mike have a great connection,” said Crumpler, who had four catches for 103 yards. “We work on that all week in practice—the scramble drill. Mike put the ball in a great spot.”
Just another Sunday for No. 7.
On the game-winning play, he looked to his left, cut to the right to avoid the rush, then darted back to the left to get away from more pressure. A Saints player sprawled on the turf took a swipe at Vick’s legs as he went by, but the quarterback managed to rifle the pass to Crumpler.
“I always feel like we’re going to score a touchdown,” Vick said. “I have confidence I can do almost anything when I step out there.”
The Saints knew what they were up against with Vick.
“Hey, the Falcons have a secret weapon over there who is the league’s worst-kept secret,” cornerback Mike McKenzie said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to the guy. He’s from another world.”
The Saints (4-7) went three-and-out, and Atlanta took over at the New Orleans 47. Vick had nearly 2 minutes to work with, but he and Crumpler needed only two plays to get the Falcons into the end zone. Crumpler got things started with a 27-yard catch.
“The defense just fell apart,” said Vick, who had a hand in all three Atlanta touchdowns.
He passed for two scores, completing 16-of-29 for 212 yards. He also ran for a 16-yard TD, leading the Falcons with 69 yards on 10 carries.
Vick certainly atoned for an interception that set up New Orleans’ go-ahead touchdown.
“When you have those situations late in the game, you want guys who want to make big plays,” Crumpler said. “We’re not sitting around waiting for someone else to make the big play.”
The Saints looked much better than a high school team—the comparison owner Tom Benson made after an ugly 34-13 loss to Denver last week. But it didn’t stop New Orleans from its sixth loss in eight games.
“Gosh, we played out hearts out,” defensive end Charles Grant said. “When they find a way to win like that, it’s a heartbreaker.”
Atlanta is virtually assured of the third division title in franchise history, leading the other three teams in the NFC South by five games with five to play.
“We’re 9-2 and we’re for real,” Crumpler said.
The Saints fell behind 14-0 early in the second quarter and were down 17-6 at the half before Aaron Brooks rallied his team. He scored on a 1-yard sneak and threw to Joe Horn on a 2-point conversion, pulling the Saints within 17-14.
Vick then made a huge blunder. Trying to set up a screen, he threw the ball right to Grant. The 290-pounder rumbled 8 yards to the Atlanta 30.
New Orleans passed up a chip-shot field goal that could have tied the game, going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Atlanta 9. Brooks plunged headfirst into the line, making the first down by about the length of the football.
Then, on third-and-goal from the 7, Brooks found Horn alone in the middle of the end zone, rifling a low pass that the receiver caught on his knees with 11:56 remaining.
It was the first time all season that Atlanta had given up a lead in the fourth quarter.
Deuce McAllister ran 23 times for 100 yards for the Saints, while Horn made nine catches for 101 yards.
The Saints fell behind early, which was nothing new. They have been outscored 84-10 in the first quarter, their only points coming way back in Week 2.
Falcons FB Stanley Pritchett, who filled for the injured Justin Griffith, was denied his first Atlanta touchdown when a 55-yard pass from Vick was negated by a penalty. But Pritchett wound up scoring anyway, getting in on a 1-yard reception. … John Carney kicked field goals of 48 and 38 yards for the Saints, but he had another attempt blocked by Ed Jasper.