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Dunn, Brooking worried over dismal home record
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    ATLANTA — Warrick Dunn and Keith Brooking need nobody to remind them of Atlanta’s poor record at the Georgia Dome over the final two months of 2005-06.
    If the Falcons lose this weekend to Carolina, they would own a 1-7 home record during November and December of the last two seasons.
    Dunn, a 10th-year running back in his fifth season with the Falcons, and Brooking, whose career as an NFL linebacker began when Atlanta drafted him 12th overall in 1998, know the team hurt its playoff chances with a 38-28 loss to Dallas on Saturday night.
    ‘‘If you look at all the teams that have won Super Bowls and played in Super Bowls, guys have excelled in November and December,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘And if you can do that, you put yourself in a real good situation. We just haven’t done that.’’
    Brooking had difficulty describing why the defense allowed the Cowboys to convert three of five third-down chances in the second half and seven of 12 overall.
    The Falcons were equally deficient on offense, going three-and-out on the three possessions that followed Justin Griffith’s 5-yard touchdown reception, which gave Atlanta a 28-21 lead early in the third quarter.
    ‘‘We’re executing in September and October and not doing it in November and December,’’ Brooking said. ‘‘That’s the bottom line. I couldn’t tell you, man. I don’t know what it is. I don’t have an answer for you.’’
    Entering Week 16, Atlanta (7-7) must beat Carolina to stay even with the New York Giants (7-7) and one game back of the Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) in the race for the NFC’s two wildcard spots.
    The Falcons, who lost to Giants in Week 6, end the regular season at Philadelphia, where they dropped the 2004 conference title game and a 2002 divisional playoff matchup.
    New Orleans, despite losing to Washington, clinched the NFC South after the Panthers suffered a 34-point meltdown against Pittsburgh.
    Chicago owns homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Cowboys, who lead the East by one game, are guaranteed one of the six postseason spots, and Seattle is close to earning its third straight title in the West.
    Carolina, San Francisco and Minnesota are outside the playoff picture, but not eliminated, with 6-8 records.
    The Panthers will bring a four-game losing streak to the Dome, where they ended the ’05 regular season with a 44-11 victory.
    Brooking puts little stock in Atlanta’s win over the Panthers in September. After all, Carolina was without leading receiver Steve Smith, who missed the game with a strained hamstring.
    ‘‘This game is really simple, man,’’ Brooking said. ‘‘You can sit here and make all kinds of excuses, but the bottom line is when we’re out there in crucial situations in a game defensively we get in a position where we’re not executing. It’s not the play-calling. It’s not the coaching, so you can’t point your finger at any of that. It’s the players — all 11 guys out there — we’re not getting it done.’’
    Regarding the bizarre comments Mora made to a Seattle radio station on Friday, Dunn credited his coach with addressing players before the game and diffusing potential resentments in the locker room.
    Mora essentially told the show’s hosts that he would leave the Falcons for the head coaching job at the University of Washington. Though Tyrone Willingham holds the job, Mora subsequently apologized to him, Atlanta owner Arthur Blank and the team’s fans.
    Dunn, who considered the pregame remarks appropriate, discounted any effect that Mora’s radio interview had on the players’ performance against Dallas.
    ‘‘The coaches are preparing us, I feel, the right way, and I’ve been around a long time,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘Sometimes it comes down, at the end of the season and in the second half, champions rise up in November and December.’’

Vick’s status
uncertain for Carolina

    Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who injured his groin in the second half and had to leave the game on the final drive of a 38-28 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, reported to team headquarters for treatment on Sunday.
    Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts had no information regarding Vick’s status for this weekend, when Atlanta (7-7) hosts the Carolina Panthers (6-8).
    Atlanta enters Week 16 trailing the New York Giants (7-7) for the sixth and final NFC playoff spot. New York would win a tiebreaker over the Falcons after beating Atlanta earlier this season at the Georgia Dome.
    Vick improved to 6-2 in his career against the Panthers after opening the season with a win at Carolina.
    Much of Vick’s NFL success, however, begins with his ability to avoid defensive pressure and make plays downfield, so a groin injury would seem to limit him significantly.
    ‘‘We’ll have to wait and see,’’ Vick said Saturday night. ‘‘I felt a pain I have never felt before. It was a sharp pain.’’
    Vick, who broke Bobby Douglass’ single-season NFL record for rushing by a quarterback, needs 10 yards to become the first player at his position to run for 1,000 in one year.
    Against the Cowboys, Vick threw four touchdown passes and an interception that DeMarcus Ware returned for a 41-yard score in the second quarter.
    The Falcons’ No. 2 quarterback, Matt Schaub, completed three of five passes for 33 yards. Schaub took three snaps with Vick lined up at running back, but Dallas safety Patrick Watkins intercepted his final attempt, a 48-yarder in the end zone.
    Vick accounted for 293 yards of total offense. He was 16-for-24 passing for 237 yards.