Vick impresses in Falcons debut

Posted: Sunday, August 05, 2001

ATLANTA -- Thousands of fans lined up outside the Georgia Dome to buy tickets for a preseason game. In the past, people came there to get away from the crowds.

Such was Michael Vick's impact on the Atlanta Falcons.

Some of the Vick watchers didn't reach their seats until the second quarter. By then, he already had provided a tantalizing glimpse of the talent that persuaded the Falcons to trade for the No. 1 pick in NFL draft and dole out $62 million to sign him.

''I wanted to get off the field so I could just watch him,'' Falcons running back Jamal Anderson said. ''He's going to be exciting.''

Vick, who played only 22 games at Virginia Tech before leaving for the NFL, hardly looked overmatched in his pro debut Friday night.

He completed 5-of-7 passes for 75 yards, got to run a little bit and directed a scoring drive in Atlanta's 17-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

''I knew I wouldn't go out there and dominate,'' Vick said. ''It's just my first game. I'm still learning.''

Overall, though, he was pleased with his performance. Vick played five series and only had a couple of plays he wanted to do over.

''When I came over to the sideline, I realized what I did wrong,'' he said. ''That's what this position is all about. You have to learn from your mistakes. That's how you become a great player. Next week, I won't make the same mistakes.''

Chris Chandler is still firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback. He guided the Falcons to a touchdown on their first possession, then spent the rest of the game tutoring Vick.

''There is an awful lot going through a young man's mind,'' coach Dan Reeves said. ''We understand that. But I thought he had a grasp for what we were doing.''

Reeves had promised to give Vick a majority of the snaps, which lured 44,275 to the Georgia Dome. Fewer fans showed up for the final regular-season game a year ago, when the Falcons capped a dismal 4-12 season.

Vick trotted on the field to a standing ovation when Atlanta got the ball back after its touchdown drive, but the cheers quickly turned to groans.

Two short runs sandwiched around a false start by offensive tackle Bob Whitfield backed the Falcons up, and Vick overthrew Bob Christian on third-and-13.

''I jumped offsides when he didn't do the cadence right,'' Whitfield quipped. ''Other than that, he did a great job.''

Vick was more upset about the overthrown pass, realizing that he checked off his primary receiver too quickly. The only other play that bothered him came in the third quarter, when Vick held the ball a little too long and took a 10-yard sack.

''This is a good format for him to learn,'' Reeves said. ''That's the thing about Michael. He will make some errors, but he won't repeat them.''

Bears 16, Bengals 13, OT

CHICAGO -- Paul Edinger kicked a 48-yard field goal with 41 seconds left in overtime -- atoning for an earlier miss -- as the Chicago Bears opened the exhibition season with 16-13 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday night.

Edinger missed from 39 yards with 4:46 left in overtime. But the Bears got the ball back and moved into range, thanks to a 31-yard pass from fourth-string quarterback Danny Wuerffel to Dustin Lyman.

The Bengals appeared on the way to victory in the final seconds of regulation when cornerback Robert Bean intercepted Wuerffel's pass at the Cincinnati 25 and was racing toward a game-winning TD.

But Glyn Milburn, the intended receiver, and Anthony Thomas overtook Bean and stripped him of the ball after he'd run 66 yards. Bernard Robinson recovered for the Bears at the 9 with eight seconds left and Chicago ran out the clock, forcing overtime.

Akili Smith, the Bengals' third quarterback, drove Cincinnati on a game-tying, 85-yard, nine-minute drive, carrying the final 8 yards for a TD with 1:53 left.

Raiders 21, Cowboys 14

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jerry Rice made his preseason debut with the Oakland Raiders on Saturday night, but former San Francisco teammate Charlie Garner caught the first pass.

Rice, the NFL's most prolific receiver, never did get his hands on the ball as the Raiders beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-14 in their exhibition opener.

Chris Howard's 8-yard touchdown run with 2:52 left broke a 14-all tie.

Rookie Quincy Carter, the Cowboys' top draft pick and 53rd overall, threw a pair of scoring passes in his pro debut. It was Dallas' seventh straight preseason loss.

After 16 seasons, Rice was let go by the salary cap-strapped 49ers in June. He signed with the Raiders the next day.

Rice, wearing his familiar No. 80, gamely shook hands with the fans in the Raiders' notorious Black Hole end zone section before he was introduced to a standing Coliseum crowd.

On their first possession, the Raiders opened with a four-receiver set featuring Rice, 12-year veteran Tim Brown, James Jett and Jerry Porter.

But quarterback Rich Gannon aimed for running back Garner, who also left the 49ers for the Raiders in the offseason.

Gannon's first pass to Garner fell incomplete, but then he hit him with an 8-yard toss.

Rice, who holds NFL records for career receptions (1,281) and touchdowns (186), was only on field for two plays, then watched the rest of the game from the sidelines.

Gannon, who led the Raiders to a 12-4 record and the AFC championship game last season, played for just the first series, completing 2-of-4 passes for 15 yards.

Tony Banks made his debut for the Cowboys, completing 5-of-9 passes for 36 yards. He was replaced in the second quarter by Carter.

Banks, who started for the Baltimore Ravens in their first eight games last season, signed with Dallas after Troy Aikman's retirement

Running back Emmitt Smith and receivers Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail were all declared inactive for the game as Cowboys coach Dave Campo put the emphasis on scouting his less experienced players.

Campo also moved Larry Allen from left guard to left tackle.

The Raiders went up 7-0 with 3:36 left in the first half on Bobby Hoying's short 3-yard TD pass to tight end Mondriel Fulcher. Hoying, Gannon's backup, completed 9-of-10 passes on the 15-play, 86-yard scoring drive.

The Cowboys tied it with 9:59 to go in the third quarter on Carter's 56-yard pass to Chris Brazzell. Carter put Dallas ahead with an 18-yard scoring pass to Bashir Yamini early in the fourth quarter.

Not to be outdone, Oakland second-round pick Marques Tuiasosopo found fellow rookie Ken-Yon Rambo in the end zone with a 40-yard pass to tie it up.

The Cowboys, who went 5-11 last season, have lost 15 of their last 16 preseason games. They haven't had a winning record in the preseason since going 3-1 in 1989, when they went 1-15 in the regular season.

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