ATLANTA – Michael Vick played about 22 minutes Sunday, more than enough for the Atlanta Falcons to beat the hapless Minnesota Vikings.

Vick went down midway through the second quarter with a sprained right knee, watching the rest of the game from the sideline as backup Matt Schaub and the Falcons’ defense finished off a 30-10 rout of the Vikings.

Warrick Dunn rushed for 126 yards, including his 50th career touchdown on a 37-yard run, to lead a 274-yard performance on the ground. Vick ran for 58 yards and threw a touchdown pass before getting hurt. The Falcons’ defense made things miserable for Daunte Culpepper, who was sacked nine times, intercepted twice and lost a fumble.

The Minnesota quarterback has gone down 16 times the last two weeks and looked especially gun-shy on his fumble. Rod Coleman brushed Culpepper’s hip as he drew back to throw, the ball fell out of his hand and Patrick Kerney recovered.

Coleman, Brady Smith and Demorrio Williams had two sacks apiece for the Falcons (3-1), who had their most sacks since a franchise-record 10 against New Orleans in 1997.

Vick guided the Falcons to a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions.

He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler, setting it up with runs of 23 and 24 yards. Then, Vick directed a tedious 14-play drive capped by T.J. Duckett’s 1-yard plunge.

On the first play of Atlanta’s next possession, Vick rolled right to throw and was hit hard by Minnesota’s Erasmus James just after delivering an incomplete pass. The 266-pound James fell on top of the quarterback as they tumbled to the turf. Vick grabbed at his shin and remained down for several minutes, the Georgia Dome fans gasping when they realized who was injured.

Finally, the two-time Pro Bowler climbed to his feet and walked slowly off the field to a standing ovation. The team said he had a strained medial collateral ligament and wouldn’t return, a decision made easier with Atlanta in complete control over the Vikings (1-3).

Schaub took over and led the Falcons to a 24-0 halftime lead. Dunn scored his first touchdown of the season from 37 yards, corkscrewing into the end zone on his back.

Then Schaub led a hurried drive to the first of three field goals by Todd Peterson. The backup QB broke off runs of 21 and 23 yards to set up Peterson’s 38-yard kick with 1 second left in the half.

Schaub didn’t do much the rest of the way, completing only 5-of-14 for 39 yards and underscoring Vick’s importance to the Falcons. His status for next week’s game against defending Super Bowl champion New England wasn’t known, but the injury didn’t appear too serious.

Coleman has four sacks the last two games, quite a showing for an interior linemen who is frequently double-teamed. Keith Brooking chipped in with 11 tackles, a sack and an interception.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta offense, with and without Vick, had its way against the injury depleted Vikings, who played without Darren Sharper, Kenechi Udeze, Brian Williams and Lance Johnstone.

Leading the NFL in rushing, the Falcons had already eclipsed their average by halftime with 205 yards. Even Schaub, who hardly has Vick’s running skills, rushed for 57 yards on three carries.

The Vikings finally reached the end zone with 21/2 minutes remaining when Culpepper hooked up with Troy Williamson on a 16-yard touchdown.

AP-ES-10-02-05 1935EDT


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