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Falcons getting back to basics

POSTED: December 29, 2007 5:02 a.m.

FLOWERY BRANCH — One game as interim head coach was all Emmitt Thomas needed to evaluate the Atlanta Falcons.

It’s obvious that the players have forgotten how to block, tackle, follow assignments and protect the football.

Coming off their fifth straight loss and first game following Bobby Petrino’s resignation, the Falcons looked as bad in person as they did on film.

Thomas, a 29-year coaching veteran and former standout cornerback with Kansas City, believes the Atlanta players have strayed far from the basics.

"Don’t try to do anything you’re not capable of doing," Thomas said Monday. "Take care of your responsibilities first and then run to the football. That’s all football is. Blocking, tackling, running and catching. We’ve got to get back to that."

Thomas replaced Petrino when his former boss left to take the Arkansas job last week. Though he’s working his first job as a head coach, Thomas has been in the league long enough to know the Falcons (3-11) are plagued with other problems, most of them on offense, entering this weekend at Arizona (6-8):

Opponents have scored seven defensive touchdowns, including two by Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber

Quarterback Chris Redman had a 0.0 passer rating in his second start for the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense. Even so, Thomas confirmed that Redman will start against the Cardinals

Defensive end John Abraham is awaiting results of an MRI taken Monday on his left knee. Running back Jerious Norwood (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (knee) joined Abraham in the training room Sunday at Tampa Bay. Thomas expects Norwood and Houston to play against Arizona

Reserve cornerback Lewis Sanders (torn pectoral muscle) has been placed injured reserve, making him the 13th Falcon whose season ended early.

And in a season of unlimited distractions, cornerback DeAngelo Hall keeps causing problems.

Hall was penalized for unnecessary roughness after hitting a midfield pile of players and nearly injuring Buccaneers right tackle Jeremy Trueblood. Tampa Bay scored a touchdown on the next play, but on the Bucs’ next drive, Hall was penalized for pass interference.

During halftime speech with the Falcons trailing 27-3, Thomas criticized the players, but didn’t appear to single out Hall. After the game, Hall talked as if Thomas was also referring to a poor overall effort by the entire team.

"We had a bunch of brawls going on, you know, and that’s definitely not the way football is supposed to be played," Hall said. "But that’s probably the main thing he was talking about. We have a certain standard that we play with and we definitely didn’t live up to that in this game."

In a Week 3 loss to Carolina, Hall was penalized three times on the Panthers’ game-tying, third-quarter drive. A month later, Petrino fined Hall $100,000 for criticizing the team’s sudden release of nose tackle Grady Jackson.

Before Atlanta’s blowout loss to New Orleans last Monday, Hall was one of four Falcons fined $10,000 by the NFL for violating the league’s uniform code. Hall, who carried a poster of Michael Vick during team introductions, joined tight end Alge Crumpler in wearing eye blacker to support the imprisoned quarterback.

Thomas has worked as Hall’s position coach since the Falcons drafted him No. 8 overall in 2004, but he indicated the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback is too talented to keep off the field.

"We’ve talked to him, and he’ll come to the sideline and apologize," Thomas said. "He’ll go two or three games and do all right, and then all of sudden he’ll explode again. ... When we played the first Carolina game, the thing that was really lost in that game was that he really whipped Steve Smith ... but because of his outbursts, (that was) passed over. He’s a good football player. He really is."

But when the players return to practice on Wednesday, Thomas will remind Hall and his teammates about the necessities of playing with more integrity.

"I just think it’s putting a hat on a hat and blocking people and running hard and being tough," Thomas said. "I think that’s what we’re going to stress this week."



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