Bills look to extend Falcons' streak of futility

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ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills might wish they could have switched divisions this season.

The Falcons, already eliminated from the playoffs, improved to 2-1 against the AFC East with last week's win at the New York Jets. The Bills, overwhelmed by a staggering list of injuries that grew longer this week, have somehow managed a 2-1 mark against the NFC South in their 5-9 season.

Buffalo quarterback Brian Brohm is expected to make his NFL debut Sunday against the Falcons. Ankle injuries to Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick have given Brohm a possible opening to start.

Brohm will be a part of history if he completes two passes to Terrell Owens. Owens is two catches away from becoming the sixth player with 1,000 career receptions.

"There's got to be a comfort level for him and so I think I'm pretty sure he may have a few jitters here and there with it being a new situation for him, so we have to help him out," Owens said. "So as a team, and as a receiver, yeah we have to be on the same page, and I want to be able to communicate and let him know that we're going to be there to make plays for him and try not to put too much on his shoulders."

Brohm, from Louisville, was a second-round pick by Green Bay in the 2008 draft. The Bills signed Brohm from the Packers' practice squad on Nov. 19 - two days after Dick Jauron was fired as head coach and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was hired as interim coach.

"I think this will be the first time that anybody from the Bills sees me out there in live action, so it's an opportunity to go out there and make a good first impression, and hopefully play well," Brohm said.

"No matter what the circumstance, it doesn't matter that this is my first week getting reps in this offense. None of that matters. I think I need to seize the opportunity and try to make the most of it."

Fewell said Brohm made a good impression by learning quickly in his first month with the team.

"The one thing that we noticed when he first came was that he's a sharp guy," Fewell said. "He's a very intelligent guy. ... It won't limit what we do. We'll do what Brian does best if that's the way we choose to go. He's already had his training camp because he's been here a month."

Owens has 47 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns.

"I haven't really played up to my standards," Owens said, adding he has "tried to remain focused and positive" with the hopes of ending the season with two wins.

"That's about the best you can do at this point because you know you're not going to the playoffs," he said.

The win against the Jets left the Falcons (7-7) with a chance to become the first team in franchise history with back-to-back winning seasons. The Falcons, 11-5 in their 2008 playoff season, must beat the Bills and win at Tampa Bay next week for a 9-7 finish.

With the dream of consecutive playoff appearances lost, the Falcons have embraced the lesser goal, which has eluded this franchise since its 1966 inaugural season.

"It's huge," said tight end Tony Gonzalez. "We're talking about history here. Since this organization has been here they've never had back-to-back winning seasons and I think it's real important that we go out there and try to get that done."

While the Falcons run from their inglorious past, the Bills will be trying to avoid more injuries.

Buffalo placed rookie safety Jairus Byrd, who leads the NFL with nine interceptions, and starting cornerback Terrence McGee on injured reserve this week. Byrd is the 18th Bills player to go on the season-ending list this year.

If linebacker/safety Bryan Scott cannot return from a head injury, the Bills may be without five defensive starters.

Safety George Wilson said he is leaning on cornerback Drayton Florence's call to "be a pro."

"That's what it's all about," Wilson said. "It's easier to say than to do it, but it's a mindset, it's an attitude.

"Yeah, we're more banged-up this week than we were a week ago, but there's no pity parties in this league. Nobody's going to take it easy on us because they're feeling sorry because we have some guys banged-up."

The Falcons have had difficulty overcoming injury problems, especially on offense.

Quarterback Matt Ryan returned last week after missing two games with turf toe, but he missed more practice time this week. Leading rusher Michael Turner managed only one carry against the Jets before aggravating his ankle injury. He has missed three full games with the injury.

If Turner can't play, the Falcons would again turn their running game over to Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood.

The Falcons knew they were out of the playoff hunt before last week's game against the Jets. Ryan's fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Gonzalez rallied Atlanta to a 10-7 win.

"I think it says a lot about the character of our locker room and our coaching staff to continue to fight," Ryan said. "We obviously understand where we're at in the season and all the things that go along with it, but with that said it didn't make a difference to anyone. That says a lot about the guys we have who will continue to go out and battle no matter the down and distance or the score or anything like that.

"Guys will just play hard and play the right way and when you do that you've got a chance every week."


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