Falcons No Longer Desperate; They're Done

The Atlanta Falcons were big fans of the Washington Redskins Saturday night, but their team let them down. Had the 'skins beaten the New York Giants, the Falcons would still be alive for a playoff spot, although it would have remained a longshot. Now, they're just ready to fold and wait for the trouble to start.

With his job security very much in question thanks to a second consecutive late-season disintegration, as well as self-inflicted off-the-field embarrassments, Falcons head coach Jim Mora went on the defensive Tuesday.

It'll be interesting to see if the man who's been perceived as a "player's coach" will get their full support and effort when the 7-8 Falcons finish the regular season - and maybe Mora's reign - in Philadelphia on Sunday.

On two separate occasions Mora went into full-blown damage control by citing the positive aspects of his three years at the helm. Among the items he mentioned: his 26-21 regular season record is the best in the NFC South, and the fourth best in the conference, since he became Atlanta's head coach; the team's divisional title and trip to the NFC championship game in 2004; and consistent involvement in the playoff race down to the final weeks the past two seasons.

But without question, Mora suffered a severe blow to his cause when the undeniable face of the Falcons - quarterback Michael Vick - expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of Atlanta's offense immediately following Sunday's crushing 10-3 loss to the Panthers, openly questioning the game plans established by Mora and his coaching staff.

Mora tried to downplay those comments as no more than post-game frustration, and mentioned the fact that Vick had set career highs in touchdown throws and rushing yards this season in an offensive scheme that he has grown in to.

But the very fact that Vick went public with his criticism can't sit well with team owner Arthur Blank, who's been unhappy with his head coach ever since a recent interview with a Seattle radio station in which Mora "jokingly" said he'd leave the Falcons in a heartbeat to take the head job at his alma mater, the University of Washington.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall sees it differently. "If they can sit here and say that Coach Mora is the reason why we're losing games, then guys are just kidding themselves. It's me giving up deep balls, other guys dropping passes, missing blocks. That's the reason we're losing games. Point blank. Until we take the onus upon ourselves, it don't matter who they bring in here, or if they keep the same coaching staff. It'll still be the same situation," stressed Hall.

Despite last season's disappointing 8-8 result, Blank displayed his faith in Mora by giving him an extension through the 2009 season. The only coaching change the organization required him to make was to fire quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson, and hire the more-seasoned Bill Musgrave as a replacement.

This time around, things could be very different.

If Blank still believes in Mora, but wants more drastic changes enacted as a result of another promising campaign gone wrong, he could ask for offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's head on a platter. For Mora, who brought his good friend Knapp along with him from San Francisco upon getting the Falcons job in January of 2004, it would be an extremely bitter pill to swallow.

Should the Falcons beat the Eagles - and that would be an enormous accomplishment considering Philly has won four straight games and needs one more victory to clinch the NFC East title - Atlanta would finish at the .500 plateau for a second consecutive season. That might not be good enough for an owner who told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month that finishing 8-8 without a playoff berth would be unacceptable.

However, lose and close the season with a trio of ringing defeats to finish at 7-9 after starting the year with a solid 5-2 record, and Mora may need to hire a defense attorney to plead his case.

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