TAMPA, Fla. - In an era of instant messaging and Internet searches, it shouldn't have been that difficult for the Atlanta Falcons to know about their playoff position during Saturday afternoon's game at Tampa Bay.
Coach Jim Mora even made a call on his cell phone from the sidelines during the 27-24 overtime loss, presumably to find out the ramifications of a win, loss or tie against the Buccaneers.
As it turned out, the Falcons were misguided. They believed they remained in the playoff hunt with a loss, although they really were eliminated with a loss or a tie.
Apparently the information superhighway made a detour around the team's training camp.
After punting the ball with 68 seconds remaining in overtime - kicking away any playoff hopes - Mora was led to believe his team still had a chance with a victory next Sunday against Carolina. Team representatives in the press box said the same thing.
Mora was so sure, he got upset when he was asked why he wanted to punt on fourth-and-two at the end of overtime. When asked about the punt by the team's radio network, he left the interview.
It didn't matter after Tampa Bay took the punt, drove 26 yards in five plays and won the game on Matt Bryant's 41-yard field goal.
"We couldn't come up with a solid, solid answer, and I'm not really one to play for ties," Mora said.
If a team can't even figure out the playoff scenario - and it was posted on at least 50 different Web sites, including NFL.com - it's no wonder they talked of lost direction after the game.
"Things are not going the right way for us," Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick said. "We just need to get back to the drawing board and everybody needs to work hard in the off-season so next year will be totally different. We have to re-evaluate a lot of things around here."
Vick said he didn't want to point fingers at primary source of Atlanta's problems in the past seven games, but then he did exactly that.
"When you go up with four minutes left, you have to have somebody step up and make a play on defense," he said after the Bucs drove 65 yards in 11 plays at the end of regulation to tie the game, then put together the game-winning drive in the final minute of overtime.
"I'm not trying to point fingers, but we didn't play championship football when we needed to."
- Falcons general manager Rich McKay said Sunday it's too early to tell if the team will discipline coach Mora for his tirade during the postgame radio show.
According to several team and radio station employees, Mora abruptly removed his headset after hearing analyst Dave Archer's question and threw the headset to the ground.
Three team employees and two with the radio station, all of whom requested anonymity because they said they feared alienating the coach, said Mora was so angry that he also threw a microphone - which almost hit Nicole Watson, a sideline reporter with the radio station, in the head.
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