SUWANEE, Ga. -- Fame is fleeting, especially for a kicker.
Just ask Atlanta's Morten Andersen: hero of the NFC championship game, goat of the season-opening rematch against Minnesota.
"It's either-or," said Andersen, who missed two kicks inside 40 yards Sunday as the Falcons lost 17-14 to the Vikings. "It's like a closer in the ninth inning or a player taking a penalty kick in soccer."
On Monday, Andersen was anxious to analyze the tape of his two botched kicks and locate the flaws that caused him to hook a 35-yarder left of the upright in the second quarter, then push a 39-yarder wide right with 3:38 remaining.
"It was just something mechanical," he said casually, knowing that a kicker can't dwell on his mistakes for too long. "I'm sure it won't be a big secret. It will be something simple."
The explanation from coach Dan Reeves, who had viewed tape of the game, would hardly classify as rocket science.
"He just pulled the first one, then he overcompensated with the second one," Reeves said.
Such moments of glaring failure have been rare for the 38-year-old Andersen, whose 25-game winning kicks are the most in league history. His most memorable moment, of course, came eight months ago in the NFC championship game, when his 38-yarder in overtime sent the Falcons to their first Super Bowl.
Even with his two misses Sunday, Andersen has made 401 of 512 attempts (78 percent) during his 18-year career. He's virtually automatic from inside the 40 with a 91 percent accuracy rate (265-of-290).
"He's the same guy who got us to the Super Bowl," said cornerback Ray Buchanan, who took his share of the blame for a 52-yard pass interference penalty that set up a Vikings touchdown. "He just had a bad day. We're not complaining."
The Falcons seemed just as stunned as Andersen when his second kick fluttered wide of its target.
"That's a situation he's been in plenty of times before," Tim Dwight said. "He said it looked good, then all of a sudden it just tailed to the left. That's the way the ball flies, but I think we might have another crack at these guys (in the playoffs)."
In fact, the Falcons could take some solace in rallying from a 17-0 deficit and shutting out the explosive Vikings in the second half. Last year, Minnesota set an NFL record with 556 points and scored at least 24 in every game.
"Our football team hung in there, played hard and showed some poise," Reeves said. "We had a chance to win at the end. That's encouraging."
Especially when the Falcons failed miserably in trying to follow their 1998 game plan for success. They lost three fumbles and failed to force a turnover after leading the NFL with a plus-20 ratio. They allowed the Vikings to hold the ball for more than 33 minutes after topping the league in time of possession. They rushed for just 81 yards after ranking sixth a season ago with an average of 131.3.
"There's not any moral victories," said running back Jamal Anderson, held to 50 yards on 16 carries. "We can't get to the point where we're 0-2. You give up a lot when you go down two games."
The Falcons have an extra day of practice this week since their next game is Monday night at Dallas. The Cowboys rallied from a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit at Washington, beating the Redskins 41-35 in overtime.
"Dallas has got a lot of momentum," Anderson said. "And since we're the defending NFC champion, everybody comes at you a little harder."
Andersen didn't plan to fret over his missed kicks for very long.
"It takes a little time to get over, but tonight I'm going to put it behind me," he said Monday. "We have an off day tomorrow and when I come to work Wednesday, I will be looking forward."
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