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Taking a Giant step forward

Manning impresses, but Falcons prevail

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The day belonged to Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons. The New York Giants have every right to believe the future belongs to Eli Manning.

Vick ran for 104 yards and threw two first-half touchdown passes to Alge Crumpler to lead the Falcons to a 14-10 win over the Giants yesterday, spoiling Manning's first start.

Vick and Manning held a meeting of No. 1 overall draft picks shortly after the clock expired.

"I just told him he played a great game," Vick said after leading the Falcons (8-2) to their third straight win. "His first game, there is a lot of hype, a lot of pressure on him. He came out and played with poise. He made some plays you can't expect a rookie quarterback to make. I told him he's going to be just like his brother in due time."

Manning did not put up big numbers like his older brother, Peyton, of the Indianapolis Colts. However, he overcame a shaky first half and showed why the Giants (5-5) mortgaged their future on draft day, leading two second-half drives that turned a one-sided game into a thriller.

"I was disappointed the way I started the game," said Manning, who finished 17 of 37 for 162 yards in a performance that included several drops by Giants receivers. "I was better in the second half."

A 6-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey got New York within 14-7 in the third quarter and another long drive set up a 24-yard field goal by Steve Christie with 6:29 to play. Manning had one final shot to stage a remarkable comeback after the Giants took over at their 25 with 1:52 to play. Passes to Shockey and Ike Hilliard and a 13-yard run by Tiki Barber got the Giants to the Atlanta 42, but linebacker Keith Brooking broke up a fourth-down pass to seal the win.

"As a quarterback you want to have the ball in your hands with a chance to win the game," Manning said. "We just didn't get it done."

The loss was the third straight for New York and its fourth in five games.

Manning, the top overall pick acquired from San Diego in a trade during the draft, also threw two interceptions starting in place of Kurt Warner, who was benched Monday. The second interception hurt, with defensive end Brady Smith picking off a pass at the Falcons 28 late in the third quarter.

Each quarterback excelled for a half. Vick, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft, did his damage in the opening half, finishing the game 12 of 20 for 115 yards. He also carried 15 times for his third 100-yard rushing game this season and fifth overall, a league mark. Vick drove the Falcons 84 yards in 11 plays on their opening possession. He carried four times for 53 yards and completed 3 of 4 passes for 24 more, capping the drive with a 6-yard pass to Crumpler.Two series later, Vick stretched the lead to 14-0. A 14-yard third-down toss to fullback Justin Griffith and passes of 21 yards to Crumpler and 16 to Dez White set up a 2-yard TD lob to a wide-open Crumpler.

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