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ATLANTA 34, ST. LOUIS 17

Defense Makes Big Play

September 20, 2004|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — Standing in his end zone, looking for a receiver, Marc Bulger had big plans.

"I was going for a home run," Bulger said.

Atlanta defensive end Brady Smith had other ideas, stripping the ball from Bulger and catching the fumble in the air for a touchdown to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the St. Louis Rams, 34-17, Sunday.

"That's one of my favorite takeaways of all time," Falcon defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said.

Said Bulger: "I was a half-second away from letting the ball go.... It could have been a touchdown the other way."

Instead, Smith beat Ram left tackle Orlando Pace and then reached with his left hand for Bulger, knocking the ball loose before the quarterback began to bring his arm forward in a passing motion.

"I wish they were all that easy," said Smith, who was credited with a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery in addition to what he said was his first touchdown since high school.

"It's a dream play for a defensive lineman because usually you have to run 80 yards to get in the end zone. It was just right there."

The Falcons' front four had four sacks, including two by end Patrick Kerney. Cornerback Bryan Scott had another sack. Bulger wasn't sacked in the Rams' season-opening win over Arizona.

Led by quarterback Michael Vick's 109 yards running, the Falcons (2-0) outgained the Rams (1-1) on the ground, 242-30.

Bulger passed for 285 yards. Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce combined for 17 catches for 223 yards, but Marshall Faulk was held to 20 yards in 12 carries.

Warrick Dunn rushed for 43 yards and two touchdowns before leaving because of a sprained left knee in the fourth quarter.

Vick recorded the third 100-yard rushing game of his career, and the Falcons ended a seven-game losing streak in the series with the Rams, their former NFC West rival.

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