On Friday Packers running back Samkon Gado said he had never lost a football game on his birthday.
Happy 23rd birthday, Mr. Gado.
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 33-25 on Nov. 13 to keep Gado's undefeated record in tact.
Gado played a major role in the victory rushing 25 times for 103 yards -- the first time a Packers running back topped 100 yards all season.
"His performance was unbelievable," fullback William Henderson said. "He just did a phenomenal job today."
The Packers performed as impressively on run defense as run offense. Although the Falcons gained 133 yards on 29 carries, the Packers prevented the big play from a team who entered the game as the league's No. 1-ranked rushing offense. Their longest run was 15 yards.
"We did a great job of tackling today," Head Coach Mike Sherman said.
The Green Bay run defense held Warrick Dunn to 76 yards and the always elusive Michael Vick to 24 yards on seven carries -- an impressive showing against a transcendent player.
"He's the best that ever played," defensive coordinator Jim Bates said. "He's a remarkable athlete and he'll make you look bad."
The Packers, however, looked pretty good, limiting Vick through excellent teamwork. Each player concentrated on containing their gap and being aware of where their teammates were.
In the first quarter defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila exemplified that approach during a 3rd-and-10 play at the Packers' 36-yard line. Instead of going for the sack of Vick, he occupied his lane and let cornerback Al Harris pursue from the outside. Harris sacked Vick for a two-yard loss, created a fumble and forced the Falcons to punt instead of attempt a field goal.
"Vick was going out of bounds, and I saw him. I just kept him in front of me, and Al came in," Gbaja-Biamila said. "It's not about me getting sacks. I just wanted to win."
The same teamwork occurred when defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins forced Dunn inside, and Gbaja-Biamila stripped him at the Atlanta 21-yard-line with 9:30 left in the first quarter.
"We were just playing off each other, working together," Gbaja-Biamila said.
Safety Mark Roman recovered the fumble on Atlanta 21-yard line. The Packers took advantage of that field position with a three-play, 21-yard drive, culminating in a Gado one-yard touchdown reception. That play gave the Packers a 14-0 first quarter lead.
Marching out to a lead served as a nice change of pace for the Packers, who have played from behind for most of the year. They, however, learned from the one game in which they took a seemingly commanding lead. The Packers led 17-0 against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 23 before the Vikings stormed back and won 23-20.
"It's nice to have such a lead," Henderson said. "But you've got to maintain it. ... We knew we couldn't lay down with a 14-point lead. I'm really proud of the way the guys hung together."
Indeed the Falcons came back in this game, too, tying the game at fourteen in the second quarter.
But the Packers never trailed because of their ability to force turnovers. Defensive lineman Kenny Peterson stripped Vick as he went past left tackle in the third quarter. Linebacker Nick Barnett recovered that ball and would snatch his second fumble in the fourth quarter with 3:51 left in the game.
"I just saw the ball drop, and tried to make something happen," Barnett said.
One play after Barnett's second recovery, Gado would score his second touchdown of the game, icing the game and capping a triumphant day by the rookie runner in his first start.
"It was surreal," said the Nigerian-born Gado, who has lived in Columbia, S.C. since the age of nine. "I couldn't believe it was happening."
Gado's mother, three younger sisters, two high school coaches, agent, best friend and trainer all witnessed his career day at the Georgia Dome.
"This is the closest we're going to get to home," he said.
Gado received a game ball for his effort in the crucial win for the 2-7 Packers.
"It's just one win," Sherman said. "But it's one we certainly needed."