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Long day for Falcons


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Long day for Falcons

Redman no remedy in ugly loss

By STEVE WYCHE

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 12/11/07

The Falcons can change the quarterback, shuffle the offensive line and pull out all the motivational ploys they want. It's all nothing more than rotating the bald tires on an engineless car with no steering wheel.

In an embarrassment to top all of this season's embarrassments, the Falcons fell 34-14 to the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. It was certainly the last time they'll be scheduled to play on the nationally televised Monday Night broadcast for at least a year and they should be thankful for that.

"The beauty of the National Football League is that seasons come to an end," team owner Arthur Blank said before the game.

On a day suspended quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison, DeAngelo Hall carried a Vick poster onto the field during pre-game introductions. Roddy White wore a "Free Michael Vick" T-shirt under his jersey. It didn't work.

However, in the game the finish line was crossed just about halftime. There are three games left, but those are mere exercises in futility.

"It was a bad day for us," Falcons coach Bobby Petrino said. "It is a hard thing to take. That's not normally us. We haven't been like that. Like I told the team that's not what we're about. That's not what we normally have.

"We've got to take a good hard look at ourselves. A good hard look at how we're going to finish this season."

Atlanta's tank finally got to empty during a day in which their former franchise player, Vick, donned a black and white prison jumpsuit, stood before a judge and was sentenced to prison for dogfighting.

Players and coaches might not want to pin anything that transpired on the football field on the drain Vick's saga levied on the franchise. But the months of off-field turmoil and the rampant disharmony throughout the team finally came to a head in their fourth straight loss.

"That's a cop out," Hall said of the lingering Vick saga of the day being a distraction. "Some guys just didn't come out and play to the best of their ability."

The Falcons' offense was as disjointed as ever and the defense was at its worst as Atlanta yielded its season high in points. Over the past four games, it has been outscored 124-50.

Quarterback Chris Redman wasn't bad in his first start since 2002. He completed 23-of-40 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns.

But he was pressured and hit hard the same way Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich were in their failed stints as starters. He completed passes on routes that frequently were yards short of needed first-down yardage and he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

More than anything, the Falcons scored 14 points, their season average, which rates among the NFL's worst.

"You've got to be able to put the ball in the end zone and we didn't get there enough," Redman said. "We're just not there yet."

The protection offered Redman might not have been as solid as the insurance he sold last season when he was out of football. He was sacked three times and hit repeatedly.

It was a wreck.

Defensively, the Falcons (3-10) allowed 301 first-half yards (473 overall) and allowed touchdown drives of 99 and 94 yards as New Orleans took a 17-7 halftime lead.

Though the score was close enough to suggest the game was competitive, Atlanta's body language was enough to turn the annual fan ritual of raiding the concession stands and restrooms at intermission into an exodus for the exits.

There was no hiding where things were headed.

For good measure, the Saints drove 80 yards on the first drive of the third quarter to go up 24-7 following a two-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Brees to wide receiver Marques Colston. Two plays later, Redman's pass for Michael Jenkins was intercepted by Roman Harper and returned 31 yards for a touchdown.

Atlanta's effort and performance left little to enjoy.

The Saints, meanwhile, elevated themselves back into playoff contention by improving to 6-7. It's been and up-and-down ride for the defending NFC South champions but the Falcons were gracious enough to provide some hope.

Redman got his introduction to the Falcons early as the Saints tattooed him time after time for much of the first quarter. He didn't buckle, though, even after his counterpart, Brees, dissected Atlanta's defense on a 99-yard touchdown drive that put the Saints up 7-0 following a 25-yard completion to David Patten.

Redman led the Falcons on an 80-yard touchdown drive that featured a 41-yard completion to Laurent Robinson on third down and ended with a 33-yard touchdown completion to Roddy White down the left sideline.

Following the acrobatic score, White lifted up his jersey to display his Vick T-shirt

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