Petrino looks for answers on Falcons' offense Print
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Monday, 10 September 2007 10:35
NFL Headline News

 FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -The numbers didn't mesh for Bobby Petrino in his first game as an NFL head coach.
The Minnesota Vikings beat Petrino's Atlanta Falcons 24-3 Sunday. On Monday, the coach said the final score didn't match two key statistics.
``The thing that bothers me a little bit,'' said Petrino, ``if you would have said we were 71 percent (passing) and 50 percent on third down, I would say we have a win. That didn't happen and that's concerning to me.''
Numbers that Petrino normally expects to add up to a win instead were offset by a wave of six sacks and Minnesota's two interception returns for touchdowns.
The Falcons converted eight of their 16 third-down plays, but were shut out until midway through the final quarter.
Petrino sought an encouraging perspective on Monday. He said the Falcons ``battled'' and ``were right in the game'' until the Vikings scored two touchdowns in the final 8 minutes.
The unspoken concern: What happens next Sunday at Jacksonville if quarterback Joey Harrington falls back to his career completion percentage (55.2) and the Falcons return to their 2006 average of converting only 36 percent of their third-down plays?
Harrington was 23-for-32 (71.9 completion percentage). He passed for 199 yards, but his two interceptions were returned for touchdowns, including one off receiver Michael Jenkins' hands.
The other interception came on a botched trick play, as an attempted quick-count pass from Harrington turned into six quick points for the Vikings.
The Falcons were held to 96 yards rushing, but finished with a 17-15 edge in first downs.
Harrington said the players' morale Monday was good. ``Frustrated, but good.''
``It's one game,'' Harrington said. ``It's one game with a new offense on the road against the best run defense in the league.''
Harrington faced constant pressure in his debut as the successor to Michael Vick, whom the NFL suspended indefinitely following his guilty plea on a dogfighting charge in federal court last month.
The Falcons started four veteran offensive linemen: tackles Todd Weiner and Wayne Gandy, center Todd McClure and right guard Kynan Forney. Rookie left guard Justin Blalock is the new starter, and the Vikings' pass rush focused on Blalock and Gandy on the left side.
Petrino said Blalock ``had his hands full. ... We've got to hope he learns something from it.''
Sacks are not a new problem. Vick last year became the first quarterback in league history to run for 1,000 yards, but he was sacked 45 times.
Six sacks are a high number - no team allowed more Sunday - but Vick was sacked seven times in a game by the New York Giants last year.
Harrington has been sacked only 18.4 times per season in his first five years in the league, including 15 times in 11 starts for Miami in 2006.
Petrino said the six sacks allowed Sunday did not cause new concerns about the lack of experienced depth at quarterback. Even so, no quarterback can be expected to withstand that many hits every week.
``I'm not overly concerned,'' Harrington said Monday. ``I'm not overly worried, and most importantly I'm not overly bruised.''
There are other concerns:
- Joe Horn, signed to lead the receivers, had only one catch for 14 yards. ``We had other plays called to him,'' Petrino said.
- Running back Jerious Norwood, perhaps the team's biggest threat for big plays, had only seven touches. He had five carries for 33 yards and two catches for 24 yards, including a 15-yarder for Harrington's longest completion.
Starter Warrick Dunn gained only 55 yards on 22 carries.
Petrino hinted Norwood would have more opportunities next week at Jacksonville.
``We certainly want to get the ball in his hands,'' Petrino said. ``He's the guy who has the speed and can make big plays for us. He showed that.''
- Jenkins, a 2004 first-round pick who appeared on the verge of a breakthrough when he had seven touchdown receptions last year, had two drops while making only two catches for 13 yards.
Jenkins, beaten out by Roddy White during the preseason, could lose playing time as the No. 3 receiver to rookie Laurent Robinson, who had three catches for 32 yards.
``I thought he played pretty well,'' Petrino said of Robinson. ``He definitely was not intimidated out there. He did look like his speed showed up on the field.''
 

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