Falcons Trying to Right Defensive Ship

Coach Jim Mora was delighted to see the "swarm" return to his defense in the second half of a 19-point win over New Orleans.

Yes, the Saints ran only six times in the second half, but they managed just 15 yards -- a far cry from the atrocious 6.1 yards New Orleans averaged on 18 attempts, including Antowain Smith's six-yard touchdown, in the first two quarters.

Comparing the differing results of the two halves hardly puzzled Mora.

"I think guys were trying to do too much," he said. "They were popping gaps, and when I say that I mean that they were leaving their gaps open. At halftime, it wasn't like we made a bunch of adjustments. I think guys settled down."

Ed Donatell, for the umpteenth time since he became coordinator 24 months ago, reminded his players not to make assignments too difficult.

"His message to them was, 'Do your job on that play and go to the next play,'" Mora said. "If everyone does what they are supposed to do, then we will be OK. To see them coming to the ball gives me goose-bumps."

As simple as it sounds, fundamentals were a major flaw, particularly in the Falcons' poor work against the run since Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams ran so easily through tackles during Atlanta's seven-point victory at Miami in Week 8.

The problems are far from solved, and this defense hasn't showed enough consistent progress to make any realist believe it not only can earn a playoff spot but go far in postseason, either.

To Mora's credit, the staff isn't addressing anything beyond the immediate responsibilities that affect this week's trip to Chicago. It helps immensely to have established veterans like Patrick Kerney, Keith Brooking and Jason Webster to engage peer-to-peer accountability with young players.

"They are supposed to get people refocused," Mora said. "I thought that they did a good job of that last night. In the second half we played well on defense.

"Just having a guy be able to pull the young guys aside and tell them that that this is about pride, and that there are 90 million or so people watching -- or however many are watching -- so autograph your performance."


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