Four Atlanta Falcons players – LB Keith Brooking, TE Alge Crumpler, DE Patrick Kerney and QB Michael Vick – were named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl squad, according to an announcement by the NFL on Wednesday.
Atlanta’s four Pro Bowl selections represent the highest number of Falcons selected to play in the NFL’s annual all-star game since 1998 when six Falcons players made the trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.
Brooking will be making his fourth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl after leading the Falcons in combined tackles (130) for the fourth consecutive season in addition to tallying 2.5 sacks and tying his career-best in interceptions with two. Brooking has played a central role in the Falcons’ defensive turnaround from last season. In 2004, the Falcons defense has given up 7.4 fewer points per game and 54.5 fewer yards per game than it did after 14 games in 2003. Seven times this season, the Falcons defense has limited the opposition to 17 or fewer points.
After being named to his first Pro Bowl in 2003, Crumpler will be returning to Honolulu for the second straight year after a season in which he broke the single-season franchise record for the most receptions by a tight end (Junior Miller, 46 receptions in 1980). Currently leading the Falcons in receiving with 48 receptions for 774 yards, Crumpler has led the Falcons (or shared the lead) in receiving nine times this season. Twice this season he has eclipsed his career high in receptions. He caught six passes for 82 yards at San Francisco (Sept. 12) and then caught a career-best seven passes for 86 yards at Denver (Oct. 31). Known for his big-play ability, Crumpler has caught 17 passes of 20 or more yards, which leads all tight ends in the NFL. He also leads all tight ends who have at least 30 receptions with a 16.1-yard per-catch average, and has had at least one reception of 20 or more yards in 11 of 14 games this season.
The Falcons most consistent pass rusher the last three seasons, Kerney will be making his first trip to the Pro Bowl following the third double-digit sack season of his career. Earlier this season, the NFL recognized Kerney in naming him the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Month (September). Kerney’s play was a key during the season’s opening month as he tallied five sacks in helping the Falcons get off to a 3-0 start. In the Falcons’ 6-3 win against Arizona (Sept. 26), Kerney posted a career-high 3.0 sacks and seven tackles. In a 34-17 win against St. Louis in the 2004 home opener, Kerney posted 2.0 sacks and six tackles, as the defense limited St. Louis to 280 total yards. In addition to leading the team in sacks (10), Kerney is also third on the team in combined tackles (75) and also has three passes defensed and one interception to his credit. Kerney’s 10 sacks have quickly moved him up on the Falcons’ all-time sacks list. At the outset of the season, Kerney was eighth on the Falcons’ all-time list. Kerney needs four more sacks to pass former Falcons DE John Zook (47 sacks from 1969-75) for third on the team’s all-time list.
Vick came out in 2004 and led the Falcons to a 4-0 start despite learning the intricacies of a new offense. Vick’s play would eventually help the Falcons clinch their third division title in team history. Three times this season, Vick rushed for more than 100 yards – 109 vs. St. Louis, 115 yards at Denver, and 104 yards at N.Y. Giants – tying the modern-day single-season record for the most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback. The three 100-yard outings gave him five for his career, which set a record for the most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback in NFL history. Currently second on the Falcons in rushing with 889 yards, Vick needs 80 more yards (40.0 yards per game) to set the NFL single-season record for the most yards rushing by a quarterback (Bobby Douglass 968 yards rushing for Chicago in 1972). Twice this season, Vick was named the NFC’s Player of the Week after leading the Falcons to wins vs. St. Louis (accounted for 283 yards in total offense – 174 passing, 109 rushing) and at Denver, becoming the first quarterback ever to throw for more than 250 yards and rush for more than 100 yards in the same game.
In addition, Vick has led the Falcons to comeback victories when they were either tied or behind in the fourth quarter, most recently last week’s 34-31 overtime win over Carolina in which Vick forced an extra period when he scrambled 12 yards for a touchdown on fourth and goal to tie the game at 31-31 with 1:37 remaining. The Falcons are 9-0 in games they have led at the half in 2004, due in large part to Vick’s efficiency. In the first half of games this season, Vick has completed 58 percent of his passes (99 of 171) for 1,223 yards with eight touchdowns and a 81.1 passer rating. In addition, Vick has also rushed 64 times for 524 yards (8.2 avg. per carry) in the first half of games this year.