Originally created 10/31/06

Falcons feel tested by battles



CINCINNATI - If the Falcons learned anything from last season, it was to not invest too much stock in midseason standings.

Out in 6-2 and in 2-6 left the Falcons without any place to play in the postseason.

With the prospects of reaching 6-2 bright again with the hapless Detroit Lions on the travel menu for Sunday, the Falcons are in a strong position to reach the postseason for the fourth time in nine years. Should they end up playing in January, it will be attributed to what they came through in October.

Responding to a home mauling by the New York Giants, the Falcons and their quarterback Michael Vick came back with two of their finest offensive performances in tight victories over AFC North opponents Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. It was a timely turnaround that moved the Falcons (5-2) from third in the NFC South to tied for first.

"After we had a showing like we did against New York after a bye week, there was a lot of negativity going on on the outside," said veteran linebacker Keith Brooking. "We sucked it up and turned it around and beat two very good football teams. "

It says enough about Atlanta that coach Jim Mora admitted that he believed his team had gone through a critical test and come out better on the other side.

"It's important to get into football games like last week and this week that are barnburners," Mora said after Sunday's 29-27 victory over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

"You must find a way to stick in there and win. Sometimes it hasn't been pretty, but we have found a way to grow these last two games."

Before the last two weeks, Vick had never thrown more than two touchdown passes in a game. He's thrown four and three in the past two games.

"It gives us a great deal of confidence," said Vick of the winning streak. "Playing through adversity, the highs and the lows, and coming out successful builds character and boosts confidence."

The Falcons have faith that these two wins won't ultimately define them but instead lead them closer to their potential.

"Our defining moment will be in Miami in February holding that trophy up," said Brooking of the team's Super Bowl goals. "I believe that with all my heart."

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.