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
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.