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Falcons aren't in panic mode yet

FLOWERY BRANCH — Don’t panic.
    Amid new concerns about Atlanta’s run defense and renewed worries about its passing offense, Falcons coach Jim Mora gave his team that simple advice Monday.
    The Falcons gave up 259 yards rushing, while Michael Vick was sacked seven times and passed for only 106 yards in Sunday’s 27-14 loss to the New York Giants.
    Low passing totals are nothing new for the Falcons, who normally rely on their league-leading rushing game. But Atlanta was second in the league in run defense before Tiki Barber’s 185 yards rushing.
    The Falcons couldn’t hold a 14-3 lead in the third quarter.
    ‘‘You figure we’re at home, top of the third, we’re up 14-3,’’ said Warrick Dunn, whose 90-yard touchdown run gave Atlanta the lead.
    ‘‘After the run we figured we broke their backs a little bit,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘We had them up against the ropes. We figured we had to come up with some defensive stops and put some more points on the board and they came and responded. That’s a championship team. When their backs are against the ropes, they came and they responded by taking over.’’
    The Falcons had no answer to the Giants’ comeback.
    Vick, perhaps rattled by the seven sacks, was 0-for-6 on deep pass attempts on Atlanta’s last two possessions. Vick had to settle for short passes to fullback Justin Griffith and tight end Alge Crumpler that only served to run out the clock.
    Through five games, Vick has been sacked 18 times. He has rushed for 401 yards with two touchdowns, almost matching his 676 yards passing with three touchdowns.
    The challenge from Mora on Monday was to regroup quickly for next Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, another physical team that may try to mirror the Giants’ winning game plan.
    ‘‘You have to realize it’s one game,’’ Mora said of the loss to New York.
    ‘‘You can’t just trash everything and panic and lose perspective on the direction you’re heading. You’ve got to try to find a balance in there. ... You never ignore the deficits that you have or the problems that you have, but you don’t just push the panic button.’’
    The Falcons (3-2) play four of their next five games against AFC North teams. They visit Cincinnati after Sunday’s home game against Pittsburgh.
    ‘‘How you respond to a loss like that defines you as a team,’’ defensive end Patrick Kerney said of the loss to the Giants. ‘‘I look to this week to define us pretty well.’’
    Added Dunn: ‘‘Nothing is getting easier. When you play those types of teams — the Giants, Steelers, Bengals — it’s going to be a physical football game each week.’’
    The Falcons and Giants each rushed for 91 yards in the pivotal third quarter, but those yards did not have an equal impact on the game.
    Dunn’s quick-hit, 90-yard score gave the Falcons a 14-3 lead, but it put an already drained and depleted Atlanta defense right back on the field.
    The Giants’ 91 yards rushing in the quarter included seven carries for 74 yards by Barber and five carries for 17 yards by Brandon Jacobs. New York took control by battering the Falcons with touchdown drives of 84 and 91 yards and holding the ball a combined 20 plays on the two possessions.
    New York’s dominance in the quarter showed in its 13-1 lead in first downs.
    ‘‘Our defense was on the field for 23 plays in the third quarter,’’ Mora said. ‘‘We couldn’t get off the field. That and losing some guys, I think we wore down a little bit against a real powerful football team. It was difficult.’’
    Three-fourths of Atlanta’s defensive line was knocked out of the game.
    John Abraham, playing for the first time since the opener, was limited to 20 plays after his sore groin tightened. Kerney left with a hamstring injury. Defensive tackle Rod Coleman left with turf toe.
    Mora said he hopes Abraham can gradually stay on the field longer and longer each week.
    ‘‘I think that the feeling is that as he continues to play more and more, that it will become less of an issue,’’ Mora said. ‘‘I can’t say that with real certainty. I hope that’s the case.’’
    Abraham, who had a sack and a forced fumble before leaving the game, on Monday called his status day to day.
    Coleman was having his toe checked by team doctors Monday.
    Kerney said he was confident he will play against Pittsburgh.
    ‘‘I’m not worried about it,’’ Kerney said of the hamstring injury. ‘‘I think I caught it in time. I started jogging and I felt I could do a lot more damage if I continued to play. I think I’ll be fine.’’

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