ST. LOUIS - The Atlanta Falcons' monthlong slump mystified offensive tackle Bob Whitfield so much that he tried hypnosis last week.
Unfortunately, even if the 12-year veteran can break some poor techniques with a snap of his therapist's fingers, similar tactics won't save the Falcons. There are no such gimmicks to make the right leg of quarterback Michael Vick heal itself before they face the St. Louis Rams tonight (9 p.m., ABC-Ch. 6).
Without Vick's ability to exhaust defenses and dazzle fans, Atlanta has lost four straight and collapsed under the weight of expectations. Now, it seems that only a miracle can save the Falcons against St. Louis, which was off last week after its 20-point win over Arizona in Week 4.
The Falcons have a chance to win if Vick's backup, Doug Johnson, stops throwing interceptions and the offensive line puts together four quarters of competent play. But Atlanta's defense has been even worse, dropping to last in total yardage allowed after a 39-26 setback against Minnesota.
Nothing has doomed the Falcons more than their second-half meltdowns. Against the Vikings, T.J. Duckett and Warrick Dunn combined for seven yards rushing on two carries, and Johnson increased his NFL interception lead to nine with a pair of third-quarter picks.
"We've just got to go out in the second half and play to win instead of playing not to lose," Johnson said. "That's our biggest deal. Coming out with the same intensity and putting people away. That's what we've struggled with. We did that in Dallas, and we've struggled with it since then."
The defense is lucky that a broken hand and injured knee will sideline Marshall Faulk. When they last visited the Edward Jones Dome on Jan. 6, 2002, the Falcons lost 31-13 as Faulk pushed his six-game totals against them to 810 yards rushing, 381 receiving and six touchdowns.
"They got other weapons, though," Atlanta nose guard Ed Jasper said. "They keep finding ways to win."
He's right. Even though concussions, injuries and interceptions cost two-time NFL Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner his job, the Rams have won eight of quarterback Marc Bulger's 10 career starts. Bulger doesn't try to impersonate Warner, who passed for 1,500-plus yards and 18 touchdowns in a six-start stretch against the Falcons that began in 1999 and ended with the 2002 game in St. Louis.
"We've got to put together a whole game," inside linebacker Chris Draft said. "We're playing the Rams. It's a perfect game to do it."
BOLDEN ARRESTED: Falcons cornerback Juran Bolden was arrested and charged with marijuana possession and driving a stolen car.
The sport utility vehicle Bolden was driving Saturday night had been stolen, and the license plate didn't match the vehicle, police said. The player had less than an ounce of marijuana, Atlanta police Sgt. John Quigley said.
Bolden is on the physically unable to perform list. He had reconstructive knee surgery after an injury during the team's January playoff loss in Philadelphia.
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