Inside slant: Atlanta Week 15 Review

Here's the "Inside Slant," your twice-weekly source for news about the Bucs' NFC South rivals. Today's edition wraps up Week 15's games, including personnel news and exclusive unit grades for the Atlanta Falcons. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

Interim Falcons coach Emmitt Thomas said the goal over the final two games is for players to regain their dignity and character. While that sounds ideal, it could be tougher than it seems.

In moving forward from the Michael Vick saga and Bobby Petrino's abrupt resignation as coach, things remain bizarre.

The coaches that Petrino left high and dry are starting to make contacts to find jobs elsewhere after the season, figuring they won't be retained. Players have no idea what their status will be after the season, and while some of them aren't looking that far down the road, some of them are.

The distractions only continue.

"It's been a long season for us and people are finally starting to show their frustrations," wide receiver Roddy White said. "It's tough to go out there and want to win so much and not get any breaks. It just continues to get worse."

The Falcons' Achilles' heel is their offense and there is little that can be done to make it better other than players executing like they haven't done for much of this season. Atlanta is the NFL's lowest-scoring team (13.4 points per game) and the Falcons have had seven turnovers returned for touchdowns.

Thomas said the team is sticking with Chris Redman as the starting quarterback even though he completed just four of 15 passes for 34 yards in a 37-3 loss to Tampa Bay Sunday. Redman is the team's best option, Thomas said. So much for Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich.

Nothing will change in terms of personnel. Thomas said he is hoping that a more normal week will allow for emotions to settle and for players and coaches to be able to focus on football. The Falcons have been hoping for that for months.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The NFL fined five Falcons players for violating uniform rules because of their recognition of recently sentenced quarterback Michael Vick in last Monday night's loss to New Orleans.

Tight end Alge Crumpler, cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Chris Houston, and wide receiver Roddy White were fined $10,000 for uniform violations. Hall and Crumpler wore black eye strips with writing on them recognizing Vick. White displayed a "Free Mike Vick" T-shirt under his jersey after scoring a touchdown.

Wide receiver Joe Horn was fined $7,500 for pulling up White's jersey to display the message. Houston's violation is unknown.

Vick was sentenced to 23 months in jail on federal dogfighting charges the morning of Atlanta's game with the Saints.

--One of the changes offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has made is more frequent use of the zone-blocking schemes that are more appropriate for the personnel. The majority of linemen on the roster were acquired when the Falcons used the zone-blocking schemes but former coach Bobby Petrino tried to implement a more traditional in-line blocking style.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The Ws and Ls are not going to be the most important thing for us the next two games. We've got to get our character back. Our team lost its character out there; its passion. What we're going to do is go back and prepare and come out and play professionally." -- Falcons interim coach Emmitt Thomas.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--CB Lewis Sanders is done for the season after tearing a pectoral muscle. An MRI exam revealed the damage to the one-time starter. Brent Grimes will be promoted off the practice squad to fill the void on the roster. Rookie David Irons will take Sanders' place as the No. 3 corner and possibly as nickel back.

--DE John Abraham underwent an MRI exam on his left knee Monday. Results were not disclosed. He injured the knee in the second half of the loss to Tampa Bay and did not return. The fact that he had to have an MRI is not encouraging.

--Pro Bowl results will be announced Tuesday afternoon and the Falcons are hoping that OLB Michael Boley gets, at the least, serious consideration as an alternate. Boley entered Sunday's game at Tampa Bay with a team-high 115 tackles and he has seemingly earned a lot of respect from players and coaches around the NFL.

--CB DeAngelo Hall, who has gone to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons, arguably has had his best season to date but he could be overshadowed because of the Falcons' record and his composure meltdowns --- especially his three-penalty blowup against Carolina early this season.

--TB Warrick Dunn will start Sunday at Arizona but his usage could continue to be minimal. Dunn had eight carries for 32 yards vs. Tampa Bay and was not pleased that he was used so sporadically.

REPORT CARD VS. BUCCANEERS

PASSING OFFENSE: F-minus -- It can't get worse than this. Chris Redman completed half as many passes to Tampa Bay (2) as he did for the game (4). And the Bucs managed to score off one of theirs. A 0.0 passer rating? 'Nuff said.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Jerious Norwood (73 yards) and Warrick Dunn (32 yards) played fairly well, seeing as though many of their yards came on their own effort. But their gains were rather hollow after falling behind 27-3 at halftime.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- No big plays and DeAngelo Hall's fifth interception. The blown coverage on a fourth-quarter Anthony Becht catch with 7:42 left in the blowout was one of the few breakdowns. Hall nabbed his fifth interception.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Falcons kept Earnest Graham in relative check but backups Michael Pittman and Michael Bennett were able to churn out pretty big chunks after the defense had been worn down. MLB Keith Brooking (15 tackles) had a monster game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- Though the overall performance wasn't terrible, the fact that the coverage team was undisciplined and allowed Tampa Bay's Michael Spurlock to return the first kickoff for a touchdown in the Bucs' 32-year history earns them this dubious grade.

COACHING: C -- Interim coach Emmitt Thomas was put in as awful a spot as anyone. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had everything in place as his unit played exceptionally well until running out of gas at the end. The offense, though, was beyond terrible.


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