Originally created 11/09/99

Falcons hope time off will improve miserable season



SUWANEE, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons are getting away from each other during their bye week.

With the season virtually devoid of hope after a 23-point loss to Jacksonville, coach Dan Reeves said the Falcons (2-7) will practice only once before taking off the rest of the week.

"I think it is best just to get away from it," Reeves said at his Monday news conference, one day after Atlanta was routed by the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-7.

Following normal routine, the Falcons were at team headquarters to watch film of their dismal performance. But their practice schedule is limited to a Wednesday workout.

"It's going to be a welcome relief to get away from each other for a while," receiver Terance Mathis conceded.

Bob Christian was taken aback when told by reporters there was only one practice this week. But, agreeing with Mathis, the fullback said it would be helpful to get some additional time off.

"We spend so much time here anyway, and when you're not rewarded for your effort, it's depressing," Christian said. "I know I'm looking forward to getting any little bit of rest."

The Falcons, whose next game is Nov. 21 at Tampa Bay, were thoroughly dominated by Jacksonville, demonstrating just how far they have fallen since winning the NFC championship 10 months ago.

Atlanta managed only 10 first downs and 182 yards, going three-and-out -- or worse -- on six of their 11 possessions. The Falcons suffered four turnovers and gave up nine sacks, a franchise record for the Jaguars. Tim Dwight provided the most exciting play with a 99-yard kickoff return, but it was called back for an illegal block.

"We played poorly in all phases of it," Reeves said. "When you do those things, you are going to get beat, particularly against a good football team."

The bye week should allow the Falcons to heal some injuries. Offensive guard Gene Williams sat out against the Jaguars because of a sprained ankle, while fellow guard Greg Bishop didn't start because of a sore knee. The Jaguars took full advantage of two new starters, Calvin Collins and Bob Hallen, on the interior of the line.

But Reeves said there was plenty of blame to go around for the miserable offensive performance. He blamed two of the sacks on the tight ends, four on missed blocks by the running backs, two on the line and one on the quarterback failing to get rid of the ball quickly enough.

"I know we are better than we are playing," he said. "As a coach, you can take losses and so forth as long as you know you are playing as well as you are capable of playing. ... We aren't doing that."

Reeves didn't limit his scathing critique to the players. He said all of the coaches -- including himself -- have to do a better job with the game plan.

"Preparation, to me, is the greatest motivator of all," he said. "I would always have a football team that when they walked on the field, they were going to feel like they were prepared and they weren't going to be surprised by anything.

"Apparently, I didn't do a good job of that because we handled some things as if we weren't prepared. That is coaching."

Don't expect any dramatic lineup changes.

"We are going to evaluate and see," Reeves said. "But overall, we've got the people that have got to get the job done on the field (already). We have just got to get them playing better."

It may be too late. The Falcons need only one more loss to assure no better than a .500 season, which would extend the franchise's 34-year streak of failing to put together consecutive winning records.

"Heck, yeah, I need a break," cornerback Ray Buchanan said. "Everybody needs to sit back, look in the mirror and find out what they can do so the season doesn't deteriorate any more."