American Football: Vick shines as Falcons rally to earn historic tie

By Nick Halling
Tuesday 12 November 2002 01:00
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They don't generally appreciate the value of a score draw in American football, where winning is everything and a draw is merely a statistical anomaly. However, on Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Atlanta Falcons battled to a 34-34 tie in a contest which may go down as the most dramatic game of the season, if not the decade.

The Steelers appeared to be romping home with a 17-point lead with less than eight minutes remaining. Their unlikely quarterback hero Tommy Maddox, who had been out of the game for three years selling insurance, continued his remarkable story with four touchdown passes, two of them snared by the emerging superstar, Plaxico Burress.

However, the Falcons boast the extraordinary Michael Vick, a young quarterback who, in his first season as a starter, looks marked out for greatness.

In the face of a blisteringonslaught, he masterminded drives which set up Bob Christian's one-yard run, Jay Feely's 40-yard field goal and Vick's own 11-yard scoring run with less than a minute remaining to send the game into overtime.

It was thrilling stuff, but the drama had barely begun. In the sudden-death extra session, Pittsburgh's kicker Todd Peterson saw his 48-yard field goal attempt blocked. Then with time running out, Feely's 56-yard potential game-winning kick suffered the same fate. In one final play, Maddox somehow found Burress with a 50-yard pass, but he was dragged down with the ball inches from the line.

The teams had combined for more than 1,000 yards of offence, while Maddox and Burress both shattered previous Pittsburgh passing and receiving records in the first tied game since November 1997.

The Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears definitely lost, but both teams are probably still wondering how. The Eagles entertained the notoriously erratic Indianapolis Colts, who were without their leading running back, Edgerrin James.

No runner has gained 100 yards against them this year, but James's replacement, the unknown rookie James Mungro, managed it in the first half alone, ending with a pair of scoring runs while the Colts' quarterback, Peyton Manning, finished off the stunned Eagles with three touchdown passes in the 35-13 upset.

Chicago's 30-19 lead over the New England Patriots with less than three minutes remaining looked unassailable.

In the final minute, Bryan Robinson appeared to have made it safe for the Bears with an interception of Tom Brady, but that was overturned with video evidence. The defending champions took full advantage, Brady throwing to David Patten with only 21 seconds remaining.

The quarterback Marc Bulger tossed two late touchdowns as the St Louis Rams, the pre-season Super Bowl favourites, won their first game in six by beating the San Diego Chargers 28-24.

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