FRIDAY, 12:46 p.m., Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks meeting room, Flowery Branch, Ga.
Michael Vick is watching the nightmare unfold on the huge video screen, and it's making him sick. "Right here," Vick says, pausing the video with the clicker in his hand. "I am so pissed at myself."
The Falcons have first-and-goal at the Chicago three-yard line. The Bears lead 17-0, but if Atlanta scores a touchdown here, who knows? On the screen Vick, playing in his third NFL game, takes the snap, rolls left and looks for a receiver. The 6-foot, 215-pound passer is Deion-fast (4.3 in the 40, the best ever for an NFL quarterback), but Chicago defensive end Phillip Daniels and linebacker Brian Urlacher are moving faster than any front-seven players have a right to, and they're keeping Vick from turning the corner.
"Throw it away!" Vick says urgently to the screen. "Throw it away!"
Daniels has his arms wrapped around Vick's waist—"Take the sack!" Vick yells at the screen—but he is young and too brave for his own good. Vick cocks his arm, but before he can make the throw, Daniels delivers a jarring hit that knocks the ball loose. Urlacher pounces on it. "It's all over now," Vick says, as he watches Urlacher sprint 90 yards for a touchdown. Game over.
"Last year I underestimated the Bears' speed," Vick, 22, and now a full-time NFL starter, says after the video plays out. "I especially underestimated Urlacher's speed. He makes Ray Lewis-type plays. But now I'm better. That's why Sunday should be so great. He's one of the best. I think I'm going to be one of the best. I can't wait."
SATURDAY 8:58 p.m., Atlanta Hilton, fourth-floor meeting room
"It's funny," Urlacher says, thinking back to that 90-yard fumble return. "I was supposed to be in man coverage on number 43 [ running back Maurice Smith], but I didn't think he was too much of a threat. I left him and chased Vick. There's just something about him. You don't want to let him beat you."
Urlacher, in a white T-shirt and shorts, looks like he should fight Stallone in Rocky VI. At 6'4" and 260 pounds, he has the perfect physique for a middle linebacker and then some—his backside and legs are cut like those of a sprinter. He is made to play in this game, to get after a quarterback who could turn out to be the most electric athlete ever to take a snap in the NFL, and you can see how excited he is about their forthcoming showdown. "My best games come against scramblers," says Urlacher, 24, and in his third year leading the revival of the Bears. "I pretty much have the freedom to run around. What's going to make it such a challenge is that Vick can outrun me; most quarterbacks can't. But I know this: I won't fall for his fakes. I think there will be some big collisions tomorrow."
SUNDAY 1 p.m., Georgia Dome