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Bucs hold Vick in check again

12/8/2002

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- A harried Michael Vick took a moment to
confide in Warren Sapp.

Question on the Falcons: Do they have enough offensive targets to make a long playoff run?
Michael Vick is good enough to make up for lots of Atlanta's offensive deficiencies. But when you face a defense as strong as the Bucs, you'll have problems. Tampa Bay's defense is so balanced and disciplined, it makes lots of offenses look less than they are. Looking long-term, the Falcons need to upgrade their wide-receiving corps.

Question on the Bucs: Do you see them riding this victory to home-field advantage in the NFC?
Yes. The Bucs played inspired football today, led by their defense. When you do that in December, it gets you ready for the postseason. If the Bucs can get home-field, they won't have to worry about playing in the cold. And that could propel them a long way in the playoffs.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"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.

"I looked at him and said: 'And we've never seen anything like
you, either.' It's just one of those things where you give him the
respect and we'll earn his, because he's young right now. And when
you're young, you don't feel like you can be stopped. That's the
way all of us are when we're young.''

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, Rottweilers off
the leash ready to hunt, and we hunt all day long.''

Game notes
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.