ATLANTA - Sunday's game between Atlanta and New England was a rare opportunity for three players to come home.
Tight end Jermaine Wiggins, defensive tackle Richard Seymour and wide receiver Patrick Pass enjoyed the trip to the Georgia Dome for two reasons. First, the New England Patriots posted a 24-10 victory; second, the game was close to their University of Georgia roots.
"Some fans were up there saying 'Go Dawgs!' It was fine," Wiggins said. "Patrick had some trouble getting family tickets, but not me."
Since all three players are on an AFC East team, the chances they probably won't return for another six years.
"Playing college at Georgia, it always feels good to come back here," Seymour said. "I had a lot of family, a lot of friends, teammates from college and some coaches here today. Anytime I can play in front of the home crowd, it definitely is a big plus."
Seymour, a rookie, only had one tackle, but it was a jarring sack of Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler in the first quarter.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw at Pass on the team's first throwing attempt, but it fell incomplete. Pass didn't get another chance to catch a pass.
But Wiggins, a backup tight end, got most of the playing time. He had one catch for 16 yards.
"We just wanted to come out and play together," Seymour said. "If it wasn't for the offense, it was the defense coming up with big plays. We are happy to get the win and get back to .500."
VICK NOT SO QUICK: Michael Vick, the first overall pick of this year's NFL Draft, graded his performance in relief as "average."
The rookie quarterback completed 2 of 9 passes for 56 yards and he scrabled twice for another 50 yards after replacing Atlanta starter Chris Chandler late in the third quarter.
"It was tough getting in that late, down by two touchdowns," Vick said. "I tried coming in to do as much as I could, but they already had us down so that meant they were only going to bring more pressure. It's tough and it's frustrating, back as a backup you have to be able to go in there and try to make things happen."
Chandler left the game with an injury to his ribs. Coach Dan Reeves said there were no broken bones, but it now appears Vick may be thrust into his first professional starting assignment next week against Dallas.
"I felt like I prepared myself well all week," Vick said. "Whatever Dan would have called, I would have been comfortable with it. It was just all about going out there and executing."
HE SAID IT: Defensive end Patrick Kerney didn't hide his emotions after the dreadful performance by the Falcons.
"It's a shame," he said. "It's one thing to get beat physically, but I feel like that was way too many mental mistakes. I hate to diagnose the game without seeing the film, but it's hard to get a shot at winning with that many mental mistakes. It's disappointing to me."
In a lot of ways, it mirrored the kind of effort put forth by Atlanta in its 31-3 loss to Chicago. For Kerney, however, it seemed far worse.
"This was worse than the Bears loss, I'd say," the third-year player said. "The Bears have proven to be a heck of a team, and while these guys have been playing well, I think they were beatable. It wasn't like they had a bunch of Supermen out there or a bunch of better athletes. We just weren't mentally prepared.
"It's embarrassing and hard."
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Falcons during their week of preparation leading up to Sunday's game, the next two contests would define their playoff hopes.
Now at 3-4, the team is two games out of the wild card race and three games out of first place in the NFC West.
EXTRA POINTS: Atlanta failed to score on its first possession for only the third time in seven games ... After leading the NFL in kickoff returns a year ago, Atlanta's Derrick Vaughn had his best runback of the season with a 57-yard return in the second quarter ... Middle linebacker Keith Brooking had 13 tackles Sunday. It's the sixth time in seven games he's had 11 or more stops ... The Falcons fell to 3-12 in games where quarterback Chris Chandler is forced to leave with an injury ... The Patriots are 3-0 in games where they've scored at least 21 points and they're 0-4 when they don't.