FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Dan Reeves, the Atlanta Falcons' executive vice president and head coach, added a title in sales Monday.
Though he knows a sellout is unlikely for this week's game against St. Louis, Reeves was begging for a good turnout at the Georgia Dome. Approximately 24,000 tickets are unsold for the 4:15 p.m. matchup with the NFC West leaders.
"That's unbelievable to me when you've got a team that's in contention playing a team that's leading our division," Reeves said. "Hopefully our fans will respond and come out and help us win this thing. I'll get down on my knees if you want me to, but I would like to encourage them to come."
For the first time since 1998, Atlanta (6-4) enters December fighting for a playoff spot. A 10-7 victory at Carolina Sunday gave the Falcons a three-game winning streak.
At home, where Atlanta is 2-3, only three games have sold out since the 1999 season opener. In each case, the opposing team proved to be the difference. The Falcons were blown out in a '99 meeting with Jacksonville, and last year's 27-14 loss to Tampa Bay was not as close as the score might indicate.
A visit from the Dallas Cowboys sold out the most recent home game Nov. 11, and the Falcons responded with a 20-13 victory. Against the Rams, the Falcons lost 41-20 at home last year and 41-13 in '99.
"We need to be as loud as we can, because they're in a hurry-up offense all the time, and we can cause them problems at the line of scrimmage that would really help," Reeves said. "So we need our fans to come out . . . and you're going to see one of the more explosive offensive football teams in pro football right now, playing against a team that has a chance."
The Falcons are coming off a lackluster win over a Carolina team that's lost 10 straight. Atlanta's offense was lifeless in the second half - managing just three first downs in the second half, punting on each of its six possessions and venturing into Panthers territory just once.
Running back Maurice Smith rushed 21 times for 57 yards, but he gained only 11 yards on 11 carries in the second half. Quarterback Chris Chandler was sacked four times by a defense that ranked last in the NFL and entered with only 13 sacks this season.
"Any offense, any defense can play outstanding - above their heads - any given week," Chandler said. "They did a good job. We played awful and we were lucky."
Notes: Reeves indicated Chandler's backup, No. 1 draft choice Michael Vick, will play against St. Louis. Vick has not played since splitting time with Doug Johnson against Dallas three weeks ago. "We'll probably have some in there for him this week. (Bill) Kollar will have to worry about all of those stunts he's pulled. They better keep him contained," Reeves said. ... Kollar was a longtime Falcons defensive line coach before leaving in January to take the same position in St. Louis. ... Reeves said rookie Kynan Forney has won the job at right guard, beating out Travis Claridge. ... Strong safety Gerald McBurrows, who missed the Carolina game with a sprained knee, did some light running Monday but said he'll probably need another week before he can play. ... Johndale Carty will start again in McBurrows' place.
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