On a night where the City of Atlanta, the State of Georgia, and The Nation was watching, the Atlanta Falcons refused former quarterback Michael Vick as a starter and ruin their 2011 Home Opener before a sellout crowd of 69,608 in the Georgia Dome. Check out the picture of the traffic jam below - almost 70 thousand people filed out onto Northside Drive trying to get to the nearest interstate.
The game was hyped with the return of MV7: the spectacular, electrifying quarterback who, for 6 seasons, was the face of the NFL franchise before falling into disgrace after being convicted on federal animal fighting charges. Vick spent 18 months in federal prison.
After he left prison, Michael Vick was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. He made a return in 2009 within a reserve role. Vick returned as a starter for the Eagles on the Sunday Night Primetime game against the Falcons. Vick played for 3 quarters and threw for 242 yards but accounted for 3 costly Philadelphia turnovers. He would later leave the game in 4th Quarter after he collided with one of his offensive lineman Todd Herremans. Vick would suffer a concussion and leave the game. The Falcons’ quarterback, Matt Ryan – who is trying to escape the shadow of Vick's years with the team - was more than up to the challenge. Ryan threw for a career high 4 touchdowns (TDS) with 17 of 28 for 195 yards. Tailback Micheal "Cornbread" Turner ran for 114 yards and 2 TDS, and All-Pro tight end and future NFL Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez caught 7 passes for 83 yards and 2TDS.
It was a GREAT night for YOUR Atlanta Falcons as they exorcised the ghosts of MV7 to the tune of a 35-31 thrilling victory. Atlanta’s record is 1-1 on the year. Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White spoke after the game about Michael Vick’s return, and the importance of the victory in the team's home opener.
The Falcons travel to Tampa Bay on Sunday to face the Buccaneers in the NFC South opener for both teams.