Petrino puts pressure on Harrington's game

Morris News Service
Jaguars defensive tackle Rob Meier tried to sack Falcons quarterback Joey Harrington during Sunday's loss in Jacksonville. The Falcons have an NFL-worst 13 sacks allowed this season.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Joey Harrington, who has been sacked 13 times in his first two starts for the Falcons, was feeling more heat on Monday - this time from his coach.

Bobby Petrino said it's not fair to blame the offensive line for the high sack totals - including seven in Sunday's 13-7 loss at Jacksonville. He said Harrington is holding the ball too long.

"I think right now Joey is playing a little bit conservative, a little bit not to throw the interception," Petrino said. "Therefore it is causing him to hold the ball. He just needs to open it up more with confidence and play to go win the game."

Harrington was sacked only 18.4 times per season in his first five years in the league with Detroit and Miami. He avoided sacks with quick passes in Detroit's West Coast offense but now is taking deeper drops in Petrino's scheme.

Harrington was 12-for-20 passing for 200 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions against Jacksonville as the Falcons fell to 0-2.

The Falcons are lapping the NFL field in sacks allowed. Through Sunday's games, no other quarterback had been sacked more than seven times.

In Monday's press conference lasting about 7 minutes, Petrino made four statements about Harrington holding the ball too long. The coach also said the line, backs and receivers also share blame.

"I'm certainly concerned about our passing game, I would say our protection in our passing game," Petrino said, adding "It's not all on the offensive line.

"Anytime you're getting sacks, it's the quarterback's responsibility to get us in the right protections and to get the ball out of his hands, it's the receiver's responsibility to get open on time and the offensive line, running back, tight end's responsibility to protect and do their assignment with their job."

"It's not a sack issue, an O-line issue, a receiver issue," Harrington said Sunday. "It's everybody's issue."

The Falcons, who play Carolina in Atlanta on Sunday, have scored only 10 points in two games.

Tailback Warrick Dunn, who scored Atlanta's only touchdown of the year last weekend, said Harrington and others are still adjusting to the new offense.

"I think it's just guys being comfortable," Dunn said. "You can't just blame Joey on the sacks. Sometimes Joey drops back and may hold the ball a second too long.

"I think it's a matter of being comfortable in the offense and understanding where everybody is going to be. He knows that, but to me I don't think it's second nature to where he's reacting to what he sees. I think everyone is still thinking a little bit instead of just truly reacting."

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