Falcons' offense running on empty

Ravens 24 Falcons 10

Ravens Gameday

November 20, 2006|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Reporter

The Incredible Shrinking Offense brought its disappearing act to M&T Bank Stadium yesterday.

The Atlanta Falcons came to Baltimore on pace to set an NFL record for rushing yardage in a season, but Michael Vick and a unit that burned Tampa Bay for 306 yards, Arizona for 262 and the New York Giants for 223 in its first five games continued a midseason swoon against the Ravens.

The Falcons have scored 14, 13 and 10 points in a losing streak that reached three games. The scoreboard wasn't the only place where coach Jim Mora's team bottomed out yesterday; Atlanta's offense gained 186 yards, its worst output in several years.

The Falcons also had season lows for rushing yards (104), third down efficiency (18 percent) and time of possession (23:17). Their net passing yardage (82) was their second-lowest of the season.

Mora could spread the blame to the cover units on his special teams, which are still looking for B.J. Sams, and a defense that got pushed around in the second half, but what did he expect from a patchwork group that had middle linebacker Ed Hartwell and three other starters on the inactive list?

If Atlanta had any designs on pulling off an upset, it had to use Vick and Warrick Dunn to control the clock and take advantage of a Ravens defense that was without Ray Lewis.

Instead, the Falcons' offense acquiesced. They gained 72 yards in the first quarter, when they took a 7-0 lead, but 114 the rest of the way, 49 on a fourth-quarter bit of improvisation from Vick to Roddy White. Dunn had seven carries in the first quarter and eight the rest of the way..

It's a measure of the NFL's parity that the Falcons (5-5) are only one game out in the NFC South. Mora said the team's plan is to "put our playmakers in position to make plays, then have them make plays."

He defended Vick, who last week was criticized by Mora's father, a former NFL coach.

"Michael's doing what Michael's doing," Mora said. "It's a team thing, and I'm never going to come off of that. Every week, someone tries to get me to stand up here and criticize Mike Vick when we don't win. It's not about Mike Vick, it's about the Atlanta Falcons, just like it's not about Steve McNair, it's about the Baltimore Ravens."

Dunn said that Vick "has to rely on the other guys and play within himself," but Mora's stance was not entirely coachspeak.

Yes, Vick threw wide to an open Alge Crumpler in the end zone late in the third quarter, which forced the Falcons to settled for a field goal that tied the game at 10. Mora, however, suggested that a missed blocking assignment allowed the Ravens to disrupt a designed screen on Atlanta's next possession. Trevor Pryce's sack of Vick on that huge third down pushed the Falcons out of field-goal range.

"I just have to make a better throw in that situation, at that point in the game," Vick said of his errant pass to Crumpler. "On the screen, I thought I'd try and just throw it away. I was still in the pocket, so they probably would've called intentional grounding, it was a lose-lose situation. I can't do everything."

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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