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FALCONS 47, RAMS 17

Multifaceted Falcons run over the Rams

ATLANTA -- Michael Vick rolled to the left, brushed aside a rusher like a pesky gnat and took off the other way.

He didn't stop until 47 yards later.

The Atlanta Falcons were off and running -- and their one-of-a-kind quarterback had plenty of teammates along for the ride.

Warrick Dunn ran for a 62-yard touchdown, Allen Rossum set an NFL playoff record for punt return yardage, and the Falcons routed the St. Louis Rams, 47-17, last night.

Vick was right in the middle of things, of course, throwing a pair of touchdown passes and running for 119 yards to break Donovan's McNabb's year-old record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a playoff game.

But Vick's teammates managed to escape his considerable shadow, putting Atlanta within one win of the Super Bowl.

"You saw a team that plays together," rookie coach Jim Mora said. "You saw a team that's pretty complete. We like to say in the locker room that the best player on our team is our team. We proved that with the way we played." The Falcons advanced to the NFC Championship game for only the second time in the franchise's 39-year history. They will either host Minnesota or travel to Philadelphia next weekend.

The only other time Atlanta made it this far was the 1998 season. In the Super Bowl, the Falcons got blown out by Denver in John Elway's final game.

Vick's big run came on Atlanta's third offensive play, setting up an 18-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler just three minutes into the game. The Falcons led, 28-17, at halftime, the teams combining on the second-highest scoring half for a divisional round game in league history.

Rossum, a 5-foot-8-inch specialist, returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown with less than a minute to go in the first half. He set NFL playoff record with 152 yards on three punt returns.

"I truly left it all out on the field," Rossum said. "I'll have no trouble going to sleep tonight."

He had returns of 39 and 45 yards in the third quarter, setting up Vick's 6-yard touchdown pass to Peerless Price and Jay Feely's 38-yard field goal to give the Falcons a comfortable 38-17 lead.

Dunn rushed for 142 yards on just 17 carries, including the 62-yard touchdown that quickly eclipsed Vick's scamper for the longest run in Falcons' playoff history. By the time he was done, Dunn had eclipsed Jamal Anderson's franchise record of 113 yards in a playoff game. The Falcons looked every bit like the league's top running team, finishing with 327 of their 397 yards on the ground -- one of the greatest rushing games in playoff history.

Vick passed for only 82 yards but was an efficient 12-of-16.

"This is a very exciting time for us," Vick said. "The whole world is watching. This is something we've worked for all year. Why not go out there and enjoy the moment?"

The Falcons exposed one of St. Louis' biggest weaknesses, an atrocious special teams unit. The Rams ranked at or near the bottom in every return category -- 30th in defending the punt. Jeff Wilkins did give the Rams a glimmer of hope with a 55-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, but that was St. Louis's last hurrah.

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