Will Atlanta ever have back-to-back winners?

Reporter
Posted Dec 9, 2005


As playoff hopes fade with each loss, the Falcons could soon enter that unpleasant zone that's so familiar to fans of the 40-year-old franchise, but one that coach Jim Mora never imagined as recently as four weeks ago:

Will these guys ever manage consecutive winning seasons?

Keith Brooking deserves better, particularly after he played so effectively and passionately in last week's 24-6 loss at Carolina. Nobody in the locker room is more qualified, however, to speak about the team's inability to stop one of the most dubious streaks in professional sports.

Playing his entire football career in metro Atlanta - beginning at East Coweta High School, advancing to Georgia Tech and continuing when the Falcons made him the 12th overall pick of 1998 - means very little to Brooking right now.

Just as he insists Atlanta never considered its 12-2 mark in its last 14 games against the Panthers, Brooking considers such talk nothing more than trivia.

"I don't think that meant anything," Brooking said. "I guarantee you this - when that ball was kicked off and we were out there on that field of battle - that's the last thing that you're thinking about. You can't think about that. We didn't think about that in our preparation. We definitely didn't think about it when we were out there on the field."

The team has too much at stake for its longest-tenured player to pontificate. Against the Panthers, Brooking had arguably one of the top five single-game performances of his eight-year career, but the four-time Pro Bowl selection says his effort wasn't enough.

The defeat, their third in four games, has affected the Falcons' chances in the NFC playoff race. Their 4-4 record against conference opponents ranks ninth.

Beating New Orleans could restore some confidence, but much like the win at Detroit, it would guarantee nothing. Atlanta's last three games are tough: at Chicago, at Tampa Bay and home against Carolina on Jan. 1.

"One, we can't look ahead," said Brooking, who has 76 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and two interceptions in 13 career games against the Saints. "Two, we can't keep saying that we'll get them next week. When things are going really tough, you don't look at the other guys for the answers. You don't point the finger. What you do is look yourself in the mirror and you're accountable for your actions and you figure out what you can do. We'll get the job done."

SERIES HISTORY: 73rd meeting. Atlanta leads 42-30 after quarterback Michael Vick improved to 4-0 against the Saints with a 34-31 win two months ago in San Antonio. Vick has passed for five touchdowns, run for four and posted an 80.3 passer rating when facing New Orleans. Falcons head coach Jim Mora is 2-1 against the Saints. His counterpart, Jim Haslett, is 6-5 against Atlanta.


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