Falcons In Disarray

If Atlanta looks like a team that is ready to fold, you should see what the players are saying as they prepare for the Vikings. Running back T.J. Duckett was about the only bright spot last weekend.

If the Falcons are not in a state of disarray after three consecutive losses, they're teetering on the edge of it.

Collective confidence is at a low ebb, quarterback Doug Johnson continues to play poorly and coaches may not be helping by giving him almost nothing to do beyond simple hitch and quick-out passes, and several players are frustrated with their roles, or by the fact they're not sure what those roles are.

The only good news in Sunday's 23-3 loss at Carolina was that second-year running back T.J. Duckett not only started, but ran the ball effectively while rushing 14 times for 100 yards. The bad news was far more prevalent.

Duckett's running had no impact on the game, as the Falcons (1-3) again struggled on third downs, converting just two of 12.

Meanwhile, offensive captain Warrick Dunn may have seen his ability to serve as a leader - especially important in the absence of injured QB Mike Vick - compromised by his demotion.

"I think guys want to see me make plays and not just sit around and pat somebody on the butt and say, "Hey, let's get something started,' " he said. "I don't think guys can be leaders if they're ... not on the field producing.' The first thing they'll tell you is, 'You're not going through what we're going through.'"

Of course, it's rare for players to suggest that confidence is low, but they dance close to saying it.

"I don't know if doubt gets in guys' minds," said cornerback Ray Buchanan, whose job won't get easier Sunday when the Vikings (4-0) and red-hot wide receiver Randy Moss visit. "It's hard for me to know what's going through other players' heads. All I can think about is what's going through mine."

Dunn, though, has a pretty good feel for where this team is at mentally.

"I think you got a 17-0 lead against Washington [Sept. 14] and you end up losing that football game, that hurts you a little bit," he said. "Then you play the world champions [Tampa Bay Sept. 21], and you don't play well, that destroys you. I think as a team we got really down.


NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

  • SS Cory Hall, who left Sunday's game with a sprained right knee, underwent an MRI. The results were not available Monday afternoon, but where the sentiment a day earlier was that he might miss considerable time, some team officials suggested Monday that he might be day-to-day.

  • SS Gerald McBurrows underwent tests Monday to determine the severity of his strained left shoulder/neck, an existing injury he aggravated in the Falcons' loss Sunday at Carolina. McBurrows said after the game it's worse this time, but it was unclear Monday if he might miss any action.

  • CB Tod McBride, who has been out since breaking his right hand/thumb early in training camp, will try yet again this week to play. He had five pins removed from his hand Sept. 8, but has had problems putting pressure on it.

  • LB Keith Newman returned Monday from a four-game suspension and will immediately go into Atlanta's rotation at OLB, chiefly as the backup SLB behind Matt Stewart. However, if WLBs Sam Rogers (left knee) and Will Overstreet can't play Sunday against Minnesota, he's a candidate to play there.

  • WLB Sam Rogers, who missed Sunday's game against Carolina with recurring problems with his left knee, is actually struggling less with the knee than swelling in the calf below it.

  • WLB Will Overstreet, who sprained his surgically-repaired left shoulder in the Falcons' game Sunday at Carolina, was evaluated Monday but no results were available. Overstreet, who said he thinks he experienced a partial dislocation of the joint, seems almost certain to miss at least one game.

  • QB Mike Vick's limp is improving quickly, and he has suggested -- although not with authority -- that he wants to play Oct. 13 at St. Louis. But he won't practice this week, and the chances of him playing after just a few days practice next week are very slim.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Not only are we emotionally tired, but we're physically tired. It comes down to that. All I'm saying is we're worn down as a group, and we're in a do or die situation. We're worn down. We need something." -- Reserve running back Travis Jervey.



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