ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons could easily explain away their 31-28 loss to the New England Patriots.
They could blame it on quarterback Michael Vick's absence. Or chalk it up to the Patriots, who drove 50 yards for the winning field goal in the final minutes, showing why they've won three of the past four Super Bowls.
But Vick doesn't make tackles or cover wide receivers, and New England looked nothing like a championship team, twice blowing double-digit leads.
The Falcons (3-2) lost a thriller before 71,079 fans at the Georgia Dome because of defensive lapses. Head coach Jim Mora admitted as much afterwards, then made a promise.
"When you're a team that prides itself on playing with great effort and you don't play with great effort, you're disappointed," Mora said. "It won't happen again."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady picked apart Atlanta's secondary, completing 22 of 27 passes for 350 yards. He threw three touchdown passes and drove New England from its own 21-yard line to Atlanta's 11 in the final minutes.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning 29-yard field goal with 17 seconds remaining.
"When you're playing Tom Brady and that group, you have to be right on it, and we weren't right on it," Mora said. "The guy's going to the Hall of Fame. They might as well induct him now."
Atlanta quarterback Matt Schaub is a long way from Brady status, but he played well in Vick's place, throwing for three scores.
Without Vick on the field, New England focused on stuffing the NFL's best rushing offense. Atlanta managed 116 yards on 26 carries.
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.