Inside slant: Atlanta Falcons Week 6 Wrapup

Here's the "Inside Slant," your twice-weekly source for news about the Bucs' NFC South rivals. Today's edition wraps up Week 6's games, including personnel news and exclusive unit grades for the Carolina Panthers. It's a premium service from

For the second consecutive week the Falcons regressed, particularly on offense, and now must regroup after a weekend in which all three of their NFC South foes won.

Though Atlanta fell further behind division leaders Tampa Bay and Carolina, its more immediate concern is that New Orleans, it's next opponent, finally got into the win column and did so by blowing things open offensively and finding traction on defense.

Falcons players said they can't worry too much about what other teams have done, though, because their house is in such disarray after getting drilled 31-10 by the New York Giants to fall to 1-5.

"Right now looking at Carolina, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, that doesn't matter," wide receiver Joe Horn said. "We have to correct what's going on with our team."

Atlanta's inability to physically duel for four quarters is becoming more apparent as opponents are succeeding at wearing the Falcons down in second halves by overwhelming both lines of scrimmage.

The Falcons are trying to become more of an in-line, power offense under new coach Bobby Petrino, but the team is not built for that style of play. The linemen may have added some size but they are getting knocked off the ball, which has not enabled them to establish any semblance of a running game.

As a result, the Falcons are throwing the ball way more than they'd like and they are leaving the defense on the field too long. The Falcons ran the ball a season-low 15 times vs. the Giants.

It was the first of at least two games they played with new starting tackles because of knee injuries to regulars Wayne Gandy and Todd Weiner. The problems up front could not solely be placed on Tyson Clabo and Renardo Foster, who received help from tight ends but also held their own against Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.

"We came out and competed, held our own for awhile but they definitely separated from us. They were the better football team," Petrino said. "They started to dominate the line of scrimmage. We had a good opening script and moved the ball and only got a field goal -- again. We couldn't sustain the run and execute the passing game."

Quarterback Joey Harrington was sacked four times to bring Atlanta's season total to 21 sacks allowed. Falcons receivers also dropped an abundance of passes against New York.

Though much of the mess with Atlanta's offense isn't Harrington's fault, players do not seem to be rallying around him on the field and the change to Byron Leftwich could come this week. Petrino said he would not make a decision on any personnel changes until later in the week but he did not rule anything out.


--PK Morten Andersen's 47-yard, first-quarter field goal vs. the Giants, was the first time the Falcons scored on their opening drive all season.

--QB Byron Leftwich was demoted to the No. 3 quarterback for Monday night's game with the Giants because of the 1 1/2 practices he missed last week with a mildly sprained right ankle. Leftwich was dressed and appeared healthy enough to play against New York. Joey Harrington mildly injured his right ankle late in the first half and considered coming out of the game. Both Leftwich and Chris Redman warmed up -- Redman would have filled in -- but Harrington stayed in the game.

--The Falcons have not scored a fourth-quarter touchdown and have just one second-half touchdown.

--OT Wayne Gandy is expected to have surgery this week to repair the torn ACL in his left knee.

--For the first times in weeks, the Falcons did not suffer an in-game injury and should be fully healthy entering Sunday's game at New Orleans. Safety Chris Crocker aggravated a knee bruise and DE John Abraham took a serious blow to the head that temporarily kept him out of action vs. New York, but both finished the game.


--SS Lawyer Milloy's 11 solo tackles vs. the Giants gave him more than 900 solo stops for his career.

--DT Rod Coleman made his season debut as the starter and he finished with three tackles. Coleman, coming off right thigh and knee operations, was not much of a factor against the pass, his specialty, but he played a heavy dose of snaps without any physical problems.

--WR Michael Jenkins recorded his 100th career catch with two receptions vs. the Giants.

--Though RCB Lewis Sanders started, rookie Chris Houston saw the majority of playing time against the Giants. It is not known if the Falcons will start Houston vs. the Saints, but Houston had his best game of the season and he likely will continue to see increased playing time.

--RB Jerious Norwood's 67-yard touchdown run was the third-longest run of his two-year career. Norwood had a 78-yard touchdown run (vs. Arizona) and a 69-yard touchdown run (vs. Washington) as a rookie.


PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Joey Harrington got battered. Joey Harrington threw incompletions. Receivers dropped balls, drives stalled. WR Roddy White continued to play well (four catches, 64 yards) but even he had one of several dropped passes.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The only reason this is not a failing grade is because Atlanta surpassed the 100-yard mark for the first time, courtesy of a dazzling 67-yard run by backup tailback Jerious Norwood. Warrick Dunn has 15 yards on eight carries. Atlanta only ran the ball 15 times and the inability to gain anything on the ground makes them incredibly easy to defend, especially in the red zone.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- With very little pressure, Atlanta allowed Eli Manning to carve it up (27 for 39 303 yards, two touchdowns). DeAngelo Hall and Lawyer Milloy both got beat for touchdowns and rarely were receivers blanketed. OLB Michael Boley had his second interception in two games and Hall, after getting picked on in the first half, played like a Pro Bowler in the second half, nabbing his second pick of the season.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Anytime two defensive backs lead the team in tackles (Hall and Milloy had 11) that means the guys up were physically handled. MLB Keith Brooking had his best game but any time the Giants needed to pound the ball, they did.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The coverage teams were okay but there was still nothing out of the punt return game and the place-kicking situation remains a crapshoot. Morten Andersen converted a 47-yarder but he must have exhausted the gunpowder in his leg because he fell well short on a 48-yard attempt.

COACHING: C-minus -- Bobby Petrino called plenty of good plays but players didn't block or catch or run well enough. Adjusting to defensive changes is still a work in progress, though. The decision not to get Norwood the ball more is becoming more perplexing by the game.

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