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VICK'S FLEET FEET PUT HIM IN LEAGUE OF HIS OWN AMONG QBS

If Michael Vick were like almost every other quarterback on the planet, people would be talking about him being an example of how challenging it is to adjust to the West Coast offense.

Vick's passing numbers are mighty ordinary this year, which is what one would expect since his Atlanta Falcons are in their first season of running the West Coast style.

However, Vick's feet are the X-factor that have made the Falcons' attack more potent than their passing statistics suggest.

Vick is on pace to set the NFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. He has 640, which ranks him 18th in rushing in the league. He's on pace for 1,024, which would shatter Bobby Douglass' record of 968, set in a 14-game season for the Chicago Bears in 1972.

The Falcons are 8-2 and cruising to the title in the NFC South thanks largely to the fact their rushing attack ranks second in the NFL. Vick is averaging 64 yards rushing a game, Warrick Dunn is at 58 and T.J. Duckett is at 30.

Meanwhile, Atlanta ranks 30th in the NFL in passing yards. Vick has nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's completing 58 percent of his passes, a figure that should rise as the Falcons get more adept at the short, rhythm-passing style. Brett Favre, by comparison, is completing 65 percent in Green Bay's West Coast offense. Atlanta has the fewest passing attempts in the NFL.

Last week's 104-yard rushing outing against the Giants gave Vick three 100-yard efforts this season and five for his career. That broke the record of four he shared with Billy Kilmer, who quarterbacked Washington to a Super Bowl appearance in 1972. Kilmer came out of UCLA in 1961 as a single-wing tailback and ran the ball in the NFL almost exclusively out of the shotgun. Kilmer was used at tailback during his second season but broke his leg that year -- Vick broke his leg his second year, too. Thereafter, Kilmer stayed at quarterback.

Said Denver's Champ Bailey after Vick threw for 252 yards and ran for 104 in a win over the Broncos: "Are you serious? Is there anybody else like him?"

The answer is a resounding no.

The top rushing seasons by quarterbacks: Douglass (1972) 968 yards; Philly's Randall Cunningham (1990) 942; Vick (2002) 777; Tennessee's Steve McNair (1977) 674; Vick (2004) 640.

NFL versus NASCAR

There's no doubt that NASCAR is hot, but further proof the NFL is king of the airwaves was seen last Sunday in Charlotte, N.C.

The Panthers' game whipped NASCAR's Ford 400 in the local television ratings despite the fact Carolina (then 2-7) was playing Arizona (then 4-5) in an irrelevant game while the race was NASCAR's equivalent of Game Seven of the World Series. And despite the fact North Carolina is an auto racing mecca.

The Panthers got a 15.3 rating, meaning 15.3 percent of the households in the Charlotte area were tuned to the game on Fox. The race on NBC got a 12.4 rating in Charlotte, more than twice the overall national rating, which was a 5.5. The national rating was up 45 percent over the same race in 2003 and up 22 percent from the 2002 numbers, according to preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research.

Arizona QBs

It will be interesting to see how Arizona's Shaun King plays at home against the Jets today. King's promotion to the starting lineup last week raised eyebrows because Arizona had won three of its previous four with Josh McCown. Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson ripped the move, saying, "You've won three of your last four. Why upset the chemistry now?"

The Cards responded by laying a 35-10 egg against Carolina. King, a sixth-year journeyman, threw for 343 yards but tossed three picks and had four fumbles. Cards coach Dennis Green has made many correct calls on quarterbacks in his career. So by benching McCown, he seemed to be admitting he overestimated the quarterback's potential. Last spring, Green eschewed the chance to draft a quarterback, saying McCown was his guy. The Cards are 25th in scoring and 26th in yards.

Clutch kicking

The NFL has seen remarkably good clutch kicking so far this year. Through 11 weeks, there have been 20 game-tying or game-winning field-goal tries (in the last two minutes of regulation or in overtime) and 18 have been made. The only misses were Mike Vanderjagt's 48-yarder when the Colts lost on opening night in New England, and Titans punter Craig Hentrich's desperation 52-yarder as time expired in Tennessee's loss to Chicago. Hentrich's kick was blocked.

Overall, kickers are making 82.1 percent this season, up slightly from last year's 81.1 percent clip.

Onside kicks

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger appeared Tuesday on "The Late Show with David Letterman." It was the highest-rated Letterman show ever in Pittsburgh. It carried an overnight rating of 18.2 and a 36 share, beating the "Tonight Show" by 13 ratings points.

The Steelers' average time of possession, 35:02, is on a pace to rank second in the NFL since the league adopted the 16-game schedule in 1978. The Bears had the best of 35:08 in 1984.

Here's the run-defense ranking over the past five years of the teams for which Sam Adams has played: Bills-'04, sixth; Bills-'03, eighth; Raiders-'02, third; Ravens-'01, fourth; Ravens-'00, first.

The Bills are the third team since 1964 to have punt returns for scores in back to back weeks. The others were the Bills in '66 (Ed Rutkowski versus Kansas City and Butch Byrd versus Miami) and the Broncos in '03 (Deltha O'Neal versus the Pats and Rod Smith versus the Chargers).

When the Jets visit the Cardinals, Emmitt Smith (18,076) and Curtis Martin (12,741) will make history. Their combined rushing yardage of 30,817 is the most by opposing running backs going into a game.

The Chiefs have produced a club-record 400 yards or more of total offense in five straight games. And they've lost the last three of them.

After never being a double-digit underdog during his first 12 1/2 seasons, Washington's Joe Gibbs has been a 10 1/2 -point underdog in each of the last two weeks.

If they win today, the Eagles will become only the third team since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 to clinch a division title after 11 games. The 1985 Bears and '97 Niners did the same.
e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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