Dismal season finally will end for Falcons

ATLANTA --- The Seattle Seahawks are expected to be watching the scoreboard as they wait to see if they'll play host to Washington, Minnesota or New Orleans in the playoffs.

The Atlanta Falcons may be more interested in paying attention to the traffic reports, eager to leave town quickly following the end of a disastrous season packed with equal doses of defeat and controversy.

But what's the motivation for players from either the NFC West champion Seahawks (10-5) or the reeling Falcons (3-12) for the last game of the regular season Sunday?

The Falcons' only available prize is a chance for the No. 2 pick in the draft, and that possibility can be kept alive only with a loss.

Seattle, according to coach Mike Holmgren, already "clinched everything that's possible to clinch" in playoff positioning.

The Falcons have lost six in a row, a span that includes the bitter end under former coach Bobby Petrino. The Falcons are 0-2 under interim head coach Emmitt Thomas, who made it clear what's left for his team.

With a new coach yet to be hired, many players won't be back, so their motivation against Seattle should be the basic desire to salvage their careers.

"They're writing a rÃsumÃ," Thomas said. "Like I told them, 'All of us won't be back here in Falcons uniforms next year.' A lot of them are going to be seeking jobs in other places, so they better lay a good product out there because people are watching. I think that's the motivation."

Among the Atlanta players who may be looking for work are veteran quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich. Each failed to hold the starting job when given the opportunity.

The season was a brutal series of letdowns for Atlanta's players and fans, leaving linebacker Keith Brooking and his teammates in a survival mode.

"My only approach is to just grind it out and know tough times don't last, tough people do," Brooking said.

"That old cliche, man, I believe that with all my heart and you get what you earn."

The Seahawks' motivation is the Super Bowl. Like other playoff-bound teams, they must balance the desire to keep the players sharp with the need to keep the stars healthy.

Holmgren announced that he'll open with his starters, but he left open the possibility that top players could leave early.

"We all want the same thing," Holmgren said. "We want to go into the playoffs as strong as we can be, but at the same time, we want to play every game. I think the integrity of game is a little bit at stake."

One year ago, Jim Mora was coaching his final game of his three-year stay as Atlanta's coach. Mora returns to Atlanta as Seattle's secondary coach.

Seattle's hardworking defensive end Patrick Kerney will have extra incentives when he returns to Atlanta, where he played for eight years.

Kerney leads the NFL with 141/2 sacks, giving him only a half-sack lead on Houston's Mario Williams. Kansas City's Jared Allen is only one off the lead.

"I'm going into Atlanta expecting to play the whole game," Kerney said. "If something else is decided, I'm all for it. If I hold onto (the sack title), that will be icing on the cake. If not ... I know there's not a big, silver trophy for that."

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