"He said: `I can't believe it. You guys are fast .... I've never seen anything like this before,"' Sapp said after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had shut down the NFL's most elusive quarterback for a 34-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
|Michael Vick is sandwiched by Derrick Brooks (55) and Warren Sapp (99). (AP)|
Brad Johnson threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns, and the league's top-ranked defense made Vick look ordinary for the second time this season.
The Bucs also ended Atlanta's eight-game unbeaten streak and held on to first place in the NFC South.
"Those guys have speed the other teams don't have," Vick said, comparing the speed of defensive end Simeon Rice to that of a running back.
"We'll just forget about it," Vick said. "What else can we do? As soon as I stepped in the locker room, I put this one behind behind me."
The Bucs (10-3) proved that their success two months ago against the speedy quarterback wasn't a fluke, limiting the Falcons to a field goal until Vick threw a 5-yard TD pass to Alge Crumpler early in the fourth quarter.
Johnson completed 23 of 31 passes, including TD throws of 10 and 13 yards to Joe Jurevicius and 14 and 27 yards to Keenan McCardell. Jurevicius had eight receptions for 100 yards, and Mike Alstott had 95 yards on 13 carries to lead a running game that produced 100 yards for just the fourth time this season.
It was arguably the most impressive performance of the year for the Bucs' offense, and the victory gave them some breathing room in the NFC South.
The Falcons (8-4-1) lost for the first time since being dominated by the Bucs on Oct. 6, falling 1½ games behind in the division.
Atlanta failed to score a touchdown in a 20-6 loss to the Bucs two months ago and didn't have much more success this time. Vick completed just 12 of 25 passes for 125 yards and struggled to run.
Vick ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta's overtime victory over Minnesota last week, but Tampa Bay is better equipped defensively to handle his speed, and the Bucs limited him to just 15 yards and five carries.
The defense also had one interception, setting up a second-quarter touchdown, and sacked Vick twice. Atlanta, which played without injured running back Warrick Dunn, finished with just 181 total yards.
"It's disappointing ... with so much at stake," Falcons coach Dan Reeves said. "We really got dominated."
The Bucs, coming off a 23-20 defeat at New Orleans, have been resilient all season. They bounced back from a season-opening loss to the Saints to win five in a row; they rebounded from a road loss to Philadelphia in October to win four straight.
Tampa Bay moved the ball virtually at will against an Atlanta defense that also played a major role in the 7-0-1 run that ended Sunday. The Bucs gained 421 yards, including 150 on the ground.
Johnson was 16-of-19 for 158 yards in the first half. His second scoring pass to McCardell made it 34-10 and gave him 22 TD passes, a Tampa Bay single-season record. Trent Dilfer set the previous mark of 21 in 1997, then matched that total the following season.
Johnson has thrown 15 TDs and just one interception the past five games. "He's the strength of our offense right now," coach Jon Gruden said.
Vick was 4-of-12 passing for 37 yards and gained 1 yard on his only rushing attempt before leaving the first meeting with a sprained right shoulder. If there was a positive for Atlanta, at least he finished the game this time.
"You can't come into our stadium with one weapon and say you're going to beat us. That normally ain't going to happen," Sapp said. "If that's where you're focusing your energy -- one player, and he's your quarterback -- you've got four mean dogs, rotweilers off the leash ready to hunt, and we hunt all day long."
- Tampa Bay's John Lynch left with a neck strain in the first quarter and did not return.
- Dexter Jackson's second-quarter interception was just the fourth pick Vick has thrown all season.
- The Falcons had one sack after having 14 in their previous two games.
- Jay Feely kicked his 30th field goal for Atlanta, moving within one of the club single-season record set by Morten Andersen in 1995.
The Associated Press News Service
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