Originally created 10/03/00

Falcons have long way to go



FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There are a lot of problems and no easy cures for the Atlanta Falcons offense, coach Dan Reeves said Monday afternoon. But a day after his team was pummeled 38-10 by the Philadelphia Eagles, the coach was forced to admit the obvious:

"Right now, we're not a very good football team."

He also said there's no quick cure.

The causes for failure are many and, in many cases, microscopic. But together, they continue to add up to a breakdown that has reached colossal proportions.

"It's weird," running back Jamal Anderson said. "Usually you can feel (a beating) come on. It didn't feel that way (Sunday) night. There was a lot of energy in the huddle. Guys were playing hard and everyone was upbeat."

Then why can't the Falcons move the ball on offense?

"I don't know," Anderson said. "That's the weird part."

Atlanta, now 2-3 heading into Sunday's home game against the New York Giants, managed only 200 total yards against Philadelphia. Even worse, the Falcons converted only two of 13 third-down situations into first downs or touchdowns.

"I am very disappointed," Reeves said. "Particularly when you play that poorly, it's usually an indication you're not very well prepared. Perhaps the most disappointing thing was, offensively, we didn't adjust to their (defensive) schemes."

Reeves said Sunday the continued failure of the offense -- Atlanta has scored only four offensive touchdowns in its past four games and just six offensive touchdowns all year -- is the combination of a lot of factors, including the team's philosophy that has become far too predicable: Establish the run early, then throw play-action passes.

The offensive line, which featured its fourth combination of players in the starting lineup in five games, has yet to create the kind of running lanes Jamal Anderson needs to get on track. When Atlanta can't run, defenses don't have to respect the play-action pass.

The result: Games like Sunday, where the only touchdown was a 70-yard punt return by Tim Dwight.

"You can't change your philosophy; you change the way you set it up," Reeves said. "I thought we'd be a lot better offensively in all areas (when the season started). I thought we'd be real good on offense. A lot has happened. Execution is so difficult. You don't have very many opportunities where somebody can overcome somebody else's mistakes.

"Instead of taking care of your job, you worry about everything else around you."

Rookies Travis Claridge and Michael Thompson started Sunday on the offensive line, as did Calvin Banks, an offensive guard who was claimed off waivers just days before the regular season started.

Reeves said another rookie, Maurice Smith, could get some playing time at running back because the 6-foot-2, 236-pound free agent has the size and speed to make things happen without a lot of help.

"Maurice has a chance to make some yardage on his own," Reeves said. "He's pretty close to understanding our offense. He might be able to make some yards when there isn't anything there."

Anderson said the most frustrating aspect of the offense's failures is not being able to identify a single cause. Every play seems to offer a new excuse.

"You can't pinpoint one reason why it's going like this," he said. "You get this feeling it's going to happen, it's going to happen, and you keep waiting for it to happen, but it doesn't. I don't have an answer. I know we're playing hard, but for some reason we're not executing."

Instead of getting better, the Falcons have become stagnant. Three-and-out has become an all-too-familiar routine on game days.

"Everybody's playing hard; we're not making the plays when we were in position to make plays," Reeves said. "We had our chances, but when it came down to crunch time, we couldn't get the job done. There's no way we're going to get this thing turned around immediately. We just have to keep making improvements week by week.

"We've got a long way to go."

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@mindspring.com