ATLANTA -- Bob Whitfield wanted to accept blame for the Atlanta Falcons' problems along the offensive line than offer praise for the St. Louis Rams Sunday following a 41-20 loss inside the Georgia Dome.
He offered his version of a sack he allowed to defensive end Grant Wistrom, saying it was a breakdown in his willingness to engage in hand-to-hand combat, not Wistrom's ability to get around the hulking offensive tackle.
"It wasn't even a good move," Whitfield said with his head slowly shaking. "He just got by me. I don't know what happened. I can't believe I let something like that happen."
And it was contageous.
Quarterback Chris Chandler was sacked seven times. His backup, Danny Kanell, was thrown to the carpet once. And the number of times both were hurried or hit as they threw the ball was too many to count.
"We've got to win our individual battles," Whitfield said. "There's a time in this offense when you have to be a man and go one-on-one. You've got to be a man and win those battles. We didn't do a good job of that today. I'm really disappointed."
Rookie Travis Claridge, the team's second-round pick six months ago from Southern Cal, had a terrible time figuring out the St. Louis defense. Although the Rams were ranked 30th of 31 teams in the National Football League in total defense, they forced Chandler to operate from the shotgun and utilize a moving pocket. The St. Louis defense also choked off Atlanta's runnning game to 68 yards on 21 carries.
Claridge was twice called for offensive holding. He also had a false start penalty.
"If you don't capitalize on your own opportunties, you're not going to win," Whitfield said. "It was a big-play day. St. Louis made big plays; we didn't. We messed up our chances and that's the difference between winning and losing."
One problem Atlanta had was on first down. The Falcons became predictable by running Anderson between the tackles seven times on its first 16 first-down plays. On the other first-down plays, Chandler threw five incomplete passes and was sacked twice. The only real success on first down came on a 5-yard completion to Terance Mathis and a 9-yard throw to Bob Christian.
Third-down effeciency, which had been a problem for the Falcons all year, got better. Atlanta converted six of 14 third-down situations into first downs. Before Sunday's game, the Falcons had converted only nine of 38 third-down conversions.
Anderson, however, finally gave Atlanta its first touchdown inside the 25-yardline with his three-yard run around right end. The Falcons' other two ventures inside the 25 resulted in a 37-yard field goal by Morten Andersen and a lost fumble by Anderson.