Joe Horn swallowed his pride and admitted he was wrong. Yes, the Falcons have a pretty good team, a worthy rival to his Saints.
"It's a rivalry now," Horn said after firing up the Falcons by arguing to the contrary.
Michael Vick flew through the air on a touchdown run and Atlanta slowed the New Orleans offense for a 24-17 victory Sunday, their second win over the Saints in four weeks.
"They whipped us twice," Horn said. "They beat us. We are 0-2 against the Falcons. I'm a man. I can admit that."
Atlanta extended its unbeaten streak to six and crept within a half-game of New Orleans for second in the NFC South. The Saints trail the Bucs by a game.
The Falcons were fired up by Horn, who claimed the Falcons were lucky to win the first meeting 37-35 on a field goal as time ran out. He also said the Falcons were basically a one-man team, relying on Vick to carry them.
"He was disrespecting a lot of people on our team," defensive end Patrick Kerney said. "Mike is a great quarterback and he's doing a lot of things. But a lot of people are contributing."
The Falcons haven't lost since Oct. 6, when the Bucs dropped them to 1-3. Since then, the only blemish is last week's 34-34 tie against Pittsburgh. Even that felt like a win because Atlanta rallied from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Vick put on another dazzling performance before a raucous Georgia Dome crowd of 70,382, the second-largest in Falcons history.
He threw two touchdowns but the most amazing play came on a short run in the third quarter.
On third-and-goal from the New Orleans 7, Vick took a shotgun snap, tucked the ball under his right arm and took off for the right corner. With several Saints closing in, he didn't appear to have room to score.
Not so fast. Vick switched the ball to his left hand, planted his right foot at the 2, inches from the boundary, and launched his body toward the goal line. He stuck the ball across before a defender sent him sprawling out of bounds.
The play gave Atlanta a 14-0 lead.
Vick ran seven times for 55 yards and was 11-of-23 passing for 160 yards.
In the second quarter, Vick ad-libbed a play that resulted in a 74-yard touchdown to Trevor Gaylor. Rolling left to escape pressure, Vick motioned to Gaylor to go deep, then hit him in stride more than 50 yards down the field. Jay Bellamy fell down trying to keep up, allowing the Atlanta receiver to high-step the final 10 yards.
Atlanta's defense had a lot to prove after giving up a franchise-record 645 yards in the tie at Pittsburgh. New Orleans, leading the league in scoring, didn't reach the end zone until Aaron Brooks threw a slant to Horn that turned into a 57-yard touchdown with 11:54 left.
That cut Atlanta's lead to 17-10, but Vick finished off the Saints with a 4-yard touchdown to Alge Crumpler with 3:56 left, set up by Juran Bolden's interception.
The superlatives keep rolling in for Michael Vick, none more consistently emphatic than from his teammates. "We need to start calling him Houdini," said Trevor Gaylor, who caught a 74-yard touchdown pass from Vick. "He can find a way to get out of any situation. He's selling himself out to get us the win. He's not worried about getting hurt."
Deuce McAllister, who ran all over the Falcons in the first meeting on Oct. 27 (115 yards, two touchdowns), was held to 43 yards on 13 carries. He didn't play for much of the fourth quarter after spraining his right ankle. "They did a pretty good job of stopping our offense," McAllister said of Atlanta. "They did a great job on me."