FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -The elusive quarterback drops back, throws the ball more than half the football field and watches the receiver catch it near the goal line.

Michael Vick 2005?

How about Doug Flutie 1984?

That’s the year Flutie won the Heisman Trophy – helped by his rollout 48-yard scoring pass to Gerard Phelan that beat Miami 47-45 the day after Thanksgiving. Now the former Boston College star who heaved that ball 63 yards is two weeks shy of his 43rd birthday and marvels at Vick’s athletic ability.

“He can do some things that just make you shake your head,” Flutie said Wednesday.

The veteran of the U.S. Football League, Canadian Football League and NFL will be backing up pocket passer Tom Brady on Sunday when the New England Patriots (2-2) try to rebound from a 41-17 loss to San Diego as they visit the Atlanta Falcons (3-1).

Vick is expected to start after a mild ligament sprain in his right knee knocked him out of last Sunday’s 30-10 win over Minnesota. He is listed as probable.

Flutie’s job this week is to play the role of Vick in practice so the Patriots defense has a better chance of stopping a player who, at times, seems unstoppable.

“I think it’s actually easier for me to simulate him than it would be a Peyton Manning,” Flutie said, “but you can’t do it to the full extent. You can’t stand there flat-footed and sling the thing 65, 70 yards off your back foot, or when you take off and run.”

In the Falcons 14-10 season-opening win over Philadelphia, Vick threw a 58-yard completion to Michael Jenkins that set up their first touchdown and ran for 68 yards and the other touchdown.

“I’ve got a little bit of a burst but I can’t run a 4.2 (40-second dash) that’s for darn sure,” Flutie said. “You see guys on film just take the wrong angle on him all the time because he’s so fast. He’s got a little extra in his step. They know he’s fast, but you don’t know how fast until you watch him in person.”

Vick is one reason that Atlanta leads the NFL in rushing with 209 yards per game. Take away his yardage and the Falcons still would be second with 151 yards per game.

Atlanta’s biggest running threat is Warrick Dunn, who leads the NFL with 5.6 yards per carry.

“As a defense, you stop the run and then you try to get off the field on third down and limit his amount of plays,” linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said.

That tactic failed last Sunday when the Chargers converted seven of 12 third downs.

“It’s way too early in the season to say the sky is falling,” linebacker Chad Brown said, but “no one likes to try to tackle somebody and come up with nothing. That’s a personal embarrassment.”

Against Vick, there could be a lot of red faces.

He rushed for 902 yards and three touchdowns last year and has 233 yards and one touchdown on the ground in four games this year.

“He can beat you in a lot of different ways,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Somebody has to be conscious of him on those bootlegs. That’s one less guy that can be involved in (stopping) the running game. He demands a lot of attention.”

Just like Flutie did in college.

Running quarterbacks were “frowned upon” in the NFL when he left Boston College, he said. He spent one season in the USFL, played 22 games in the next five seasons in the NFL, then was a star in the CFL before joining the Buffalo Bills in 1998. Three years later Vick was an NFL rookie.

Now that he has developed into an all-around quarterback who can read defenses and make good decisions, he’s “scary,” Flutie said. “He’s amazing. When he decides to turn it on, he turns it on.”

AP-ES-10-05-05 1836EDT


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