The hamstring injury that kept Michael Vick out of Saturday night's preseason game might not have kept him out of a regular-season game.
Even so, what once was a minor injury downplayed by Vick and Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora is becoming a more pressing concern even though Vick's
backup continues to excel.
Rookie Matt Schaub threw three touchdown passes for the second straight week, leading the Falcons past the Cincinnati Bengals and their young
quarterback, Carson Palmer, 37-10, Saturday night.
Vick was held out after aggravating the injury during pregame warmups.
"It's been bothering me for a while, and that's why I think they made the decision to sit me down," Vick said. "I don't want to tweak it again and
have to worry about this on a week-to-week basis."
Added Mora: "We feel having a healthy Michael Vick going into the regular season is the way to go."
"He's like one of those great sprinters or a fine race car. If they are not perfectly tweaked there is no sense in putting them out on the track,
especially if it's a game that has nothing to do with the standings or with the regular season," Mora said.
For the second straight week, Schaub was a winning backup plan, throwing touchdown passes to Alge Crumpler, Peerless Price and Dez White.
Guiding the Falcons to a 27-7 halftime lead, Schaub completed 14 of 20 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns.
"He's taken another step," Mora said. "He can start a game and be productive."
Schaub, a rookie from Virginia, completed his first six passes, but said he wasn't satisfied with his effort.
"There are still some things I need to clean up, and I'm going to work this week to clean those things up," Schaub said.
Playing behind Vick in last week's 27-24 preseason win over Minnesota, Schaub passed for 205 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but he
didn't expect to see as much playing time Saturday night.
"Our offense has done a great job, and that's how we've got to play as a team," Mora said. "And that's what it's all about, it's a team sport no
matter who's pulling the trigger and who's catching the ball."
Vick is only 5-of-9 for 35 yards in limited preseason action. The Falcons (2-1) play their final preseason game at Washington on Friday night.
Vick first strained the hamstring on Aug. 5, and he irritated the injury against Minnesota. He admitted it was difficult to just watch Saturday
night's win, when the offense was so successful, compiling 364 yards with no turnovers.
Palmer completed 12 of 26 passes for 171 yards with one interception.
"They came after us," Palmer said of the Falcons. "They didn't do anything spectacular. They just won. On our part, it was a lack of execution and not
playing hard enough while we were out there."
Schaub led the Falcons on a four-play, 83-yard touchdown drive on their opening possession. Schaub passed for 36 yards to Crumpler to open the drive
and finished with an 18-yard TD pass to White.
"It didn't matter," said Bengals linebacker Kevin Hardy of the decision to hold out Vick. "They made the plays, and it didn't matter if it was Vick or
Schaub or whoever."
The Bengals' first possession ended when safety Bryan Scott sacked Palmer, forcing a fumble that set up a Falcons field goal.
Palmer directed an 87-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. The big play was a 52-yard completion to T.J. Houshmandzadeh that set up a 2-yard
touchdown run by Rudi Johnson.
Following Jay Feely's second field goal, the Falcons pushed the lead to 20-7 when Schaub connected with Crumpler on a 14-yard pass. Crumpler knocked
cornerback Tory James backward at the goal line.
Crumpler's touchdown was set up when Aaron Beasley intercepted Palmer's pass and returned the interception 32 yards to the Bengals 16.
Schaub's third scoring pass was a 53-yarder to Price, who beat James for a 27-7 halftime lead.
T.J. Duckett scored on a 6-yard run early in the third quarter, pushing the Falcons' lead to 34-7. Cincinnati's Shayne Graham and Atlanta's Damon
Duval traded field goals to end the scoring. Duval's 29-yard field goal came after a lost fumble by Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna.