ATLANTA - Most kick returners abide by a simple philosophy.
Catch the ball. Run like a rabid dog is chasing you.
The Falcons' DeAndra Cobb thinks a little more deeply about his craft.
"Don't let nobody catch me," he said. "It's always been one of those things that motivates me to run faster. Never look back, I always say."
Cobb lived up to his motto Friday when he returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown in the Falcons' 24-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans at the Georgia Dome.
The return is the longest in franchise history, although it won't make the record book because it came in a preseason game.
It could count significantly for Cobb, however. The rookie is trying to make the Falcons' 55-man roster.
Cobb's "Never look back" philosophy applies to how he approaches his future with the Falcons as well.
"It's something to build on," he said. "I'll just keep doing my thing and hopefully, it's enough."
The first cuts will come next week following Atlanta's preseason game in Jacksonville, Fla., and Cobb's chances depend on his value as a kick returner. With Pro Bowl return man Allen Rossum likely to see more playing time in the defensive secondary this season, the Falcons' coaches would like to find another gamebreaker for their return unit.
That was Cobb's forte at Michigan State. Cobb made All-American as a junior in 2003, returning three kicks for touchdowns. Cobb averaged 24 yards per return, including one for a touchdown, while also leading the Spartans' offense in rushing.
He's returned four kicks for 156 yards this preseason for the Falcons. But take away the 101-yard return, and he's averaging just 18 yards an attempt.
That's why Atlanta head coach Jim Mora isn't ready to sign off on Cobb just yet.
"One play does not make the player," Mora said. "He's got to be consistent. The other times he's running into white shirts too often."
The members of the Titans' kick coverage team didn't touch him on the touchdown return Friday. Cobb said Atlanta's wedge "cremated" the interior players of the Tennessee's coverage team, setting him up for an easy cutback. That left Titans kicker Rob Bironas as the only tackler Cobb needed to evade.
"And I have a pet peeve about letting the kicker tackle me," said Cobb, who ran right by Bironas and into the end zone.
Joe DeCamillis, the Falcons' special teams coordinator, greeted him on the sideline.
"That's the way you do it," DeCamillis told him.
Cobb then huddled with Rossum for a more in-depth critique, just as has after every return since camp opened.
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.