Final

Falcons 14

(7-8, 4-3 away)

Dolphins 21

(10-5, 6-1 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 30, 2001

 

1 2 3 4 T
ATL 7 0 0 714
MIA 7 14 0 021

By a foot, Dolphins boot Falcons

MIAMI (AP) -- The Miami Dolphins kept chasing Michael Vick and finally stopped the Atlanta Falcons with a foot to spare.

Oronde Gadsden

Dolphins receiver Oronde Gadsden grabs the TD catch in the second half.

Miami made two goal-line stands, stuffing Bob Christian on fourth down from the 1-foot line with 47 seconds left, and survived a dazzling but erratic performance by Vick to win 21-14 Sunday.

The result clinched a playoff berth for Miami, eliminated Atlanta, and gave Tampa Bay the final NFC wild-card spot.

But most of the talk in the Dolphins' locker room focused on Vick, who threw for 214 yards and ran for 63 in less than 2 1/2 quarters.

"He's a freak of nature," cornerback Sam Madison said. "It's hard to contain a guy of his caliber."

Are the Dolphins a threat to go deep in the playoffs?
I don't think so.

The Dolphins aren't good enough on offense. They don't have a running game at all, and Jay Fiedler isn't good enough to beat you by himself consistently. So offensively, they're not built for a long playoff run.

If the Dolphins have to go on the road, they should have an especially tough time. I just don't see an extended playoff stay for Miami.

ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.

The Dolphins forced four turnovers, including Brock Marion's 26-yard interception return for a touchdown. They also made four sacks, knocked quarterback Chris Chandler out of the game in the second quarter and then hung on against the scrambling Vick, who threw for a score but also committed three turnovers.

"That's what you get with a young quarterback," Atlanta coach Dan Reeves said. "He's got unbelievable talent, but he's going to do some things like turn the ball over."

Miami's Jay Fiedler threw two touchdown passes, both in the final 1:02 of the first half.

Breaking a two-game losing streak, the Dolphins (10-5) became the only NFL team to make the playoffs each of the past five years. They'll win the AFC East title next Sunday if they beat Buffalo, and New England loses to Carolina.

"We're going to the playoffs," linebacker Zach Thomas said, "but we've got to get to playing better."

Atlanta (7-8) lost for the fourth time in five games. The Falcons were all but eliminated from playoff contention when Tampa Bay beat Baltimore on Saturday night.

But with Vick emerging, the Falcons' three-year playoff drought since losing the 1999 Super Bowl might soon be over.

He drove the Falcons 76 yards in the final 5:22, and they had a first down at the 4. But Christian was stopped for no gain on third-and-goal, and again on fourth down.

"I knew they knew it was coming," Christian said. "It was like a wall of bodies. Something big hit me."

Thomas tackled Maurice Smith for no gain on fourth down at the 1 in the third period, when the Falcons trailed 21-7.

Reeves admitted that allowing Vick to keep the ball in those situations might have been wise, and the coach also second-guessed the officiating. Reeves argued that Christian scored on Atlanta's next-to-last play -- which was reviewed and upheld -- and contended that the Dolphins fumbled just before their touchdown at the end of the first half. That play wasn't reviewed.

Chandler, who threw for a team-record 431 yards last week, left when he hurt a nerve in his right elbow with the score 7-all in the second quarter.

"We were joking last week, saying, 'If you sack Chris Chandler, help him up, because we don't want Michael Vick in there,' " Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain said.

Vick enlivened what had been a dull game, scrambling for 30 and 23 yards. The Dolphins chased him for perhaps 60 yards on the latter play.

"They were huffing and puffing," he said.

The top pick in last April's draft threw a 48-yard laser on the run to Shawn Jefferson, setting up a 1-yard touchdown pass to Derek Rackley with nine minutes left to make the score 21-14.

Vick finished 11-for-20 and called the performance his biggest day in the NFL. But he also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.

"It's tough in this league. It's not like in college," Vick said. "You've got to be precise with the ball. That's what I'm learning."

Game notes
Chandler was knocked out of a game for the fourth time this season. He has also been sidelined by a concussion, a sprained ankle and a rib injury. Reeves declined to say whether Vick might start even if Chandler is healthy Sunday at St. Louis. ... Miami's injuries: Thomas strained his neck, C Tim Ruddy sprained his right knee, S Shawn Wooden sprained both ankles and WR James McKnight suffered a concussion and cut his lip. ... With Miami's two touchdowns at the end of the first half, the Falcons have now allowed 12 scores in the final two minutes of a half. ... Fiedler became the second Miami quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. Dan Marino did it an NFL-record 13 times.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERATLMIA
miaTD1:50Touchdown
Drive info: 1 plays, 21 yds, 0:00
76
mia1:50
Drive info: 1 plays, 21 yds, 0:00
77
FOURTH QUARTERATLMIA
atlTD10:00Touchdown
Drive info: 2 plays, 49 yds, 0:20
1321
atl9:16
Drive info: 2 plays, 49 yds, 0:20
1421
FIRST QUARTERATLMIA
atlTD9:20Maurice Smith, 2 yd run
Drive info: 5 plays, 29 yds, 2:00
60
atl9:02
Drive info: 5 plays, 29 yds, 2:00
70
SECOND QUARTERATLMIA
miaTD0:08Touchdown
Drive info: 4 plays, 30 yds, 0:38
720
miaTD1:10Touchdown
Drive info: 9 plays, 67 yds, 2:30
713
mia0:08
Drive info: 4 plays, 30 yds, 0:38
721
mia1:10
Drive info: 9 plays, 67 yds, 2:30
714