PHILADELPHIA - Michael Vick ran out of dazzling plays, and the Atlanta Falcons ran out of any chance to save their season.
With all the pressure on him to carry the Falcons, Vick instead was downright mediocre. The relentless Eagles defense sacked Vick four times and shut down his running lanes, making those ordinary-into-spectacular bursts nonexistent.
Warrick Dunn was neutralized, too, and the Falcons offense could do little else in their 27-10 loss to Philadelphia in the NFC title game Sunday.
“We are a new football team and we’re still learning this offense together,” Vick said. “It’s going to take time, but next year, I promise, it’s going to be a better year and I’m excited about it.”
Coming off a strong effort in a win last week against St. Louis, Vick hardly posted numbers good enough to get the Falcons to a Super Bowl. Vick was 11-for-24 for a modest 136 yards and an interception, and was held to 26 yards rushing on four carries.
Defensive end Derrick Burgess harassed Vick mercilessly, and Vick seemed rattled while looking for receivers who were rarely open. Burgess sacked him twice, and Hollis Thomas and Jevon Kearse also got sacks for a total loss of 33 yards.
Eagles linebacker Keith Adams added seven tackles and a deflected pass.
“Nobody respected us as a defense. Give me some respect right now,” Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said.
Vick was shaken up early in the first quarter when Burgess crushed him after an incomplete pass. The Eagles mixed up their defenses, using everything from a spy, to putting cornerback Sheldon Brown at safety and Dawkins at linebacker. Dawkins also had an interception and leveled Alge Crumpler on a hit over the middle.
Vick had his fewest yards rushing in an entire game since Week 1 against San Francisco, when he ran for 10 yards. In the season finale when he barely played against Seattle, Vick ran for 13 yards.
“They had Jevon Kearse on one end and another good defensive lineman (Burgess) on the other end keeping good containment and making sure that I didn’t get outside the pocket,” Vick said. “They did a great job doing it, and the coverage they played in the secondary, they didn’t allow our receivers to get off blocks and get downfield.”
Vick gained half of his yards rushing against the Eagles on one play — his only dazzling run of the game.
After an interception by Brown was wiped out on a holding penalty, Vick’s legs looked as though could again be enough to lead the Falcons. Vick dashed right, eluded Burgess and Kearse on the outside, then cut back up toward the middle for a 13-yard gain.
That was about the only highlight. Eagles quarterback Koy Detmer as many yards passing on a fake field goal attempt in the first quarter (3) than Vick (3).
“I thought we were moving the ball well, we just couldn’t sustain the drives and couldn’t score touchdowns,” Dunn said. “In these games, you have to score touchdowns.”
Vick — who led the Falcons to a road playoff win two years ago in cold Green Bay — again simply couldn’t win in Philadelphia.
Two years ago, the Falcons’ surprising postseason run also ended here with a 20-6 loss in now-demolished Veterans Stadium. In that one, Vick threw two interceptions and the Falcons failed to score a touchdown.
Fast forward two years and Vick again had little help in pulling off the upset.
Last week against the Rams, Dunn rushed for 142 yards and Allen Rossum set a playoff record with 152 yards on punt returns. Dunn and T.J. Duckett did little, with Dunn running for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Still, the Falcons perhaps had a chance to turn the game around late in the third quarter.
Safety Bryan Scott had plenty of room in front of him when he dropped a pass from Donovan McNabb near the Falcons 5-yard line in the third. Scott dropped to the ground and pounded the turf, and the Eagles got a field goal on the next play for a 20-10 lead.
The Falcons did little after that.
“There is a lot we can take away from this season,” Vick said. “Overall, we had a great season, a great year for a team that is just a first-year team playing together.”
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