Originally created 11/12/06

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Football and golf.

Bit of stretch, linking those two sports. But Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler managed to do just that Wednesday.

He called November "moving month" in the National Football League.

"You know," Crumpler said, "kind of like Saturday's moving day in golf."

At this point, midway through the season, the Falcons are trying to figure out exactly which way they're heading.

After a 30-14 thumping in Detroit, they're already in a hole to start "moving month."

But, at 5-3, Atlanta is still tied for the fourth-best record in the NFC, with 2005 Super Bowl representative Seattle.

And the Falcons are just a game behind New Orleans for the division lead.

But just where they'll head today against Cleveland, the team they'll play at 1 p.m. inside the Georgia Dome, no one really knows. A lot of that has to do with the team's offense.

One week, it's a running juggernaut. The next, elusive quarterback Michael Vick turns into Dan Marino with his arm and becomes the passing star everyone has been awaiting. Then, the next, it's pretty much nonexistent.

Against Detroit, Vick passed for just 163 yards and threw two interceptions - one that led to a Lions touchdown.

Vick led the team with 80 rushing yards. And he lost a fumble in the first quarter, leading to Detroit's first touchdown.

Many are wondering, in particular, what's going to come of Atlanta's ground game - the match-up with Cleveland being the first real litmus test.

After he tried to play through a shoulder ailment, the Falcons were forced Wednesday to place guard Kynan Forney, a key force in the running game, on the injured reserve list and end his season.

Also, the 1-2-3 punch of Vick, Warrick Dunn and speedy rookie Jerious Norwood will be reduced to 1-2, because of Norwood's sprained knee.

Tackle Matt Lehr is finishing out his four-game suspension this week for violating the NFL's steroids policy.

Vick's hope is that the team manages to find holes - through the air or ground - in Cleveland's 3-4 defense the way it did Pittsburgh's 3-4 three weeks ago in a wild, high-scoring win.

Offensively - and defensively, for that matter - there seems to be no feeling inside the locker room that there's an identity crisis with this still-above water group.

"I don't think there's any kind of crisis," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "There's a reason to be urgent in what we're doing, but not to panic.

"We're 5-3 and I don't think we've come even close to realizing our full potential. And that's a positive."

But will this be a week for a step forward, or a step back?

Reach Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.


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