Falcons face more changes following third straight loss Print
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Monday, 03 December 2007 11:35
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 FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -Season-ending injuries at both tackle positions and the inability of any quarterback to hold the starting job have conspired to send the Atlanta Falcons to their third three-game losing streak this year.
``It's been difficult to be consistent and difficult to score enough points,'' coach Bobby Petrino said Monday as he reviewed Sunday's 28-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams. ``To execute on a consistent basis with that many changes is what has been hurting us.''
In the last six games, Petrino has made four changes at quarterback: from Joey Harrington to Byron Leftwich to Harrington for two starts, to Leftwich and then back to Harrington against the Rams.
Quinn Ojinnaka and Tyson Clabo, second-year players with no previous starting experience, have had to replace injured tackles Todd Weiner and Wayne Gandy.
More changes could be coming.
Petrino benched Harrington in the fourth quarter against the Rams, and backup Chris Redman threw touchdown passes on his first two possessions.
Redman was 16-of-24 for 172 yards with an interception.
After being out of football last season, Redman could make his first start since 2002 with Baltimore on Monday night against the New Orleans Saints.
Petrino didn't announce his starting quarterback on Monday but indicated he might have news later in the week.
``No, because the players aren't here today,'' Petrino said. ``I'd like to visit with the players before we do anything.''
Petrino made other notable lineup changes against the Rams. Jerious Norwood made his first start of the season at running back and led the team with eight carries for 94 yards.
Petrino also benched right guard Kynan Forney, who was inactive, in favor of D'Anthony Batiste. On defense, nickel safety Jimmy Williams lost his job to Antoine Harris.
Other starting jobs could be on the line the last four weeks of the season.
``We are all playing for our future and we will see what happens,'' tight end Alge Crumpler said Sunday. ``This organization is going to find out what works. Whatever that formula is, so be it. We are going to be successful at some point. Right now, we are just having a bad year.''
Norwood is averaging 6.4 yards per carry but hasn't had as many as 10 carries in a game. He has 442 yards rushing on only 69 carries. Former starter Warrick Dunn has 190 carries for 600 yards, for 3.2 yards per carry.
Many observers expected Norwood, a second-year back who also averaged 6.4 yards per carry as a rookie, to assume a lead role at the start of the season. Now it appears his time has come.
``We have to get Jerious touches, there's no question,'' Petrino said. ``When you watch the video he's the most explosive player for us. His speed shows up. He makes big plays whether it's catching the ball or running the ball. It is a situation where we have to get him more touches one way or the other.''
The team's most consistent player with the ball has been receiver Roddy White, who caught 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown against the Rams.
White, a first-round pick in 2005, has four 100-yard games and 62 catches for 920 yards this season. With four games left, White already has the most yards for an Atlanta receiver since 1999, when Terance Mathis had the team's last 1,000-yard season.
White's breakthrough year hasn't been enough to save the Falcons (3-9), who are one loss away from their 20th season with 10 or more losses in 42 years.
The Falcons had extra practice time following their Thanksgiving loss to Indianapolis but were flat in the first half and trailed the Rams 21-0 at halftime.
``I think everyone is just puzzled,'' Dunn said. ``I know we are as players, as to why we cannot just come out here and play well, especially when you have the time off and extra time to prepare.
``It is a little frustrating and mind-boggling. Really, you don't know what to do to fix it. We are still dealing with things that you deal with at the beginning of the season.''
Dunn said Redman ``was definitely a spark.'' ``He came in and he was calm and he understands what we are doing,'' Dunn said. ``He seems to fit well. He is still learning but I thought he executed well and came in and made some big throws with poise. I think we started feeding off of that. I hope we can take that into next week and feed off of what we did in the fourth quarter.''
 

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