Slick Vick sends Packers packing

Posted: Sunday, January 05, 2003

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It looked so perfect for Green Bay. Snow falling. Packers in green and gold. Lambeau Field in January.

Only it wasn't Brett Favre making all the plays.

It was Michael Vick who looked right at home.

Undaunted by the storied stadium where his own coach lost in the ''Ice Bowl'' 35 years ago, Vick made history of his own Saturday night.

The 22-year-old improvisational genius led the Atlanta Falcons to a shocking 27-7 upset of the Packers in a wild-card playoff before a record crowd of 65,358 stunned souls.

''We were underdogs. We wanted to show 'em we had the potential to come out and make history,'' Vick said after his first NFL playoff game.

The Packers (12-5) were the only team to go unbeaten at home during the regular season. And they had never lost a home playoff game since the NFL instituted a postseason in 1933 in going 13-0 -- 11 of the wins coming at Lambeau and two more in Milwaukee.

''That's what we were talking about all week, the winning streak in the playoffs. It had to come to an end,'' Vick said.

The closest the Packers had come to losing in the land of Lombardi was on New Year's Eve 1967, when Bart Starr knifed into the end zone with 13 seconds left to give Green Bay a 21-17 victory over Dallas in the coldest game in NFL history.

Falcons coach Dan Reeves threw a 50-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option that gave the Cowboys a 17-14 fourth-quarter lead in that game.

''Thirty-five years ago and they're still showing that. And all I did was complete one little old pass,'' Reeves said. ''To be the first team to win a game up here, they'll be showing this for a long time.''

Favre had built a reputation as the game's greatest cold-weather quarterback, winning all 35 of his starts at home in which the temperature was 34 or below.

And what did Favre think of his second straight thumping in the playoffs?

Who knows.

For the first time in his career, he bolted without a word.

It was an unseasonably warm 31 degrees at kickoff. By the time snow began falling at halftime, the Falcons had an astonishing 24-0 lead.

Favre was without Pro Bowl running back Ahman Green (knee) and leading receivers Donald Driver (shoulder) and Terry Glenn (concussion) in a futile second-half comeback attempt.

Vick's numbers weren't great -- 117 yards passing, 64 rushing -- but he was his usual phenomenal self. Over and over, he turned broken plays into big ones.

''He's amazing,'' Reeves said. ''It seems the tougher the situation the better he is.''

The Falcons (10-6-1), who had backed into the playoffs after losing three of four in December, will travel to Philadelphia for a divisional playoff next weekend.

The Packers, who just one week ago still had a shot at the home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, began their offseason much sooner than anyone expected.

''To say this is disappointing is as big an understatement as I could ever make,'' an incensed Packers coach Mike Sherman said.

''Michael Vick's a great player, he made some great plays, we couldn't tackle him,'' Sherman said. ''But their whole team played well. It wasn't just Michael Vick.''

Still deflated from their 42-17 defeat to the New York Jets last week that cost them a first-round bye, the Packers received a series of rapid-fire jolts in the first night playoff game in their history.

First, Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper (knee) was unable to play, leaving the Packers without their fastest defender to help contain Vick.

Their next best bet was a snowstorm, but it arrived too late.

''We were expecting bad weather, and it didn't happen,'' Vick said.

Atlanta, which hadn't reached the end zone on its opening drive all season, went 76 yards in 10 plays, the payoff coming on Shawn Jefferson's 10-yard touchdown catch.

Falcons linebacker Mark Simoneau beat Matt Bowen and blocked Josh Bidwell's punt out of Green Bay's end zone and Artie Ulmer smothered the loose ball for another Atlanta touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Then, Kevin McCadem pushed Tyrone Williams into Green Bay punt returner Eric Metcalf, and Falcons fullback George Layne recovered the muffed punt at the Packers 21.

Sherman didn't challenge the call -- and a review would have given Green Bay possession because the punted ball clearly bounced off McCadem's left shoulder.

Sherman said he spoke with an official on the field, ''but he (mistakenly) led me to believe it would not be reviewable.''

Four plays later, the Falcons made it 21-0 when T.J. Duckett carried the pile 6 yards into the end zone as a shocked Sherman crouched on the sideline.

The fervent Falcons then stopped the Packers with a goal-line stand with nose tackle Ellis Johnson dumping Green for a 4-yard loss on fourth down. Over Favre's career, the Packers had scored 48 touchdowns and one field goal when they had faced first-and-goal.

As the much-awaited snow began falling, the exhilarated Falcons didn't flinch. Vick led them 90 yards in 16 plays for Jay Feely's 22-yard field goal on the final play of the first half for a 24-0 lead.

Favre, who had two interceptions and a fumble, hit Driver with a 14-yard touchdown on the first drive after halftime, but Driver re-injured his dislocated shoulder on the play and the Packers were done.

''We did a lot of things right this year in the regular season,'' Sherman said. ''We didn't do them right in the postseason.''

Notes: The Falcons' victory was their first in the playoffs since they upset Minnesota in the 1998 NFC title game. ... Packers NT Gilbert Brown injured a hip. ... The Falcons had no injuries of note.

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