- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

Michael Vick’s magic sometimes extends beyond the playbook of the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons quarterback gave his team its first lead over the Washington Redskins yesterday with a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Jenkins in the third quarter.

The play, Vick said, wasn’t scripted.

“He actually wasn’t even in the read,” Vick said. “You know, sometimes you have to overcome coaching — the great ones do. I told him to run his route to win, and he did. Nobody on the field knew what I was going to do but me and him.”

What Vick did was look left, then throw right to a secondary target, Jenkins, on a post route over the middle.

The result was a 24-14 victory for the Falcons that kept their playoff chances alive and extinguished any faint hopes held by the Redskins.

There’s only one key to beating the Falcons — contain Vick — and the Redskins failed to do that. Vick lived up to his reputation as a double threat, dancing, dodging and throwing darts through the Redskins’ defense. Vick accounted for 181 yards of offense, rushing for 59 and passing for 122.

Vick was the target of strong criticism over the past month. The Falcons had lost fourth straight. Vick was booed by the home fans after a loss to the New Orleans Saints last week, and he responded with an obscene gesture that resulted in a fine from the league.

Falcons coach Jim Mora strongly disagreed after yesterday’s win that Vick should bear the brunt of criticism with the Falcons on the verge of playoff extinction.

“I don’t know if it’s true that he has taken a lot of heat, and if he has, he shouldn’t have because he’s played stellar,” Mora said. “I thought he played well again today.”

Vick, at any rate, played well enough to beat the Redskins. He didn’t post staggering passing numbers (8-for-16 with two touchdowns), but what made him so effective was his third-down conversion rate. Whenever the Falcons’ offense needed a big play to keep a drive alive, Vick delivered with his arm or his legs.

With Atlanta holding a 17-14 lead at the end of the third quarter, Redskins punter Derrick Frost pinned the Falcons at their own 2.

On third-and-4 at the Atlanta 8, Vick hit Ashley Lelie on a post for an 8-yard gain and a little breathing room at the 16. Three plays later, the Falcons went up by 10 points when Jerious Norwood ran 69 yards to the end zone.

Instead of giving the ball back to the Redskins in decent field position, Vick’s third-down play led to Atlanta’s knockout blow.

“He played great,” Jenkins said of Vick. “He was out there doing everything he could — running and making throws, making the right calls. You can’t deny him what he did today.”

Vick’s vertical game didn’t get off to a great start. His first two passes were dropped by his favorite target, three-time Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler. Crumpler made amends by snagging a 16-yard touchdown pass from Vick just before halftime.

Crumpler’s sixth touchdown in seven games put the Falcons right back into the game at 14-10 and provided a huge momentum boost after the Redskins essentially dominated the entire first half.

The Falcons’ electrifying quarterback believes yesterday’s performance should silence his critics, at least for the time being.

“But they are going to [criticize] week in and week out, and I’m going to continue to prove them wrong,” Vick said.

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