Originally created 09/17/02

Falcons ponder second close loss in a row



FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Despite back-to-back losses to start the season, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves isn't ready to give up on his team.

"It is frustrating to be 0-2, but I will go to battle every week with this football team that we have got," Reeves said Monday, a day after a one-point loss to the Chicago Bears. "I like what I see and I know we are going to be better."

There is reason for his optimism. The Falcons easily could be undefeated, having lost both of their games by a total of four points. On Sunday, Jay Feely missed a 45-yard field goal in the final minute which would have given Atlanta the lead.

In the opener against Green Bay, dropped passes and other missed opportunities helped the Packers win 37-34 in overtime.

"I like the way our football team works, I like the way we play," Reeves said. "There is not one change that I would make. I like what we've got."

Still, that hasn't yet translated to a victory.

"We're close, but a loss is a loss," cornerback Ashley Ambrose said. "As a team, we've just got to start finishing things. We've got to figure out how to get a win."

That winning attitude - or lack thereof - cost the Falcons against the Bears, who in the past two seasons have won nine straight games decided by seven points or less. Chicago rallied for a 27-23 win over Minnesota in this year's opener before holding off Atlanta.

The Bears' latest escape further feeds that confidence, while the Falcons are left searching for it.

"The bottom line is Chicago comes out of the game figuring that they can continue to win," Reeves said. "We come out of the game hoping that we are going to start making those plays and get this thing turned around."

But there were mistakes on the field by the Falcons. Three turnovers in a span of 3:48 in the third quarter helped turn the game around, with a fumble by rookie punt returner Kahlil Hill leading to the winning touchdown.

And during their final drive, they squandered two chances on second-and-1 from the Chicago 28 with more than a minute left, failing to get a first down and settling for Feely's missed field goal.

"We put ourselves in the right situation at the end of the game, but I don't think it should've come down to that," wide receiver Brian Finneran said. "We dominated them in the first half, but we let them stay in it. That's how you lose games in this league."

Even in defeat, the Falcons excelled in a couple of areas. The defense rebounded from a poor effort against Green Bay to hold the Bears to 242 yards of total offense, and Michael Vick had his second straight solid game, completing 17 of 28 passes for 166 yards and rushing for another 56.

Vick was especially effective running the 2-minute drill, setting up a field goal by Feely at the end of the second quarter and leading the final drive. That's the fourth straight time the second-year quarterback had led the Falcons to a scoring opportunity at the end of half.

That doesn't mean Atlanta plans to use more no-huddle, though.

"I just don't want to put that kind of pressure on him," Reeves said. "He handles the 2-minute aspect better because he gets short plays that we run and short plays that we use in a hurry-up kind of situation, but that is still not the ideal situation you want to be in offensively."