A few weeks ago, the Atlanta Falcons were talking about gaining home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Their focus has switched to just making the playoffs.
Atlanta looks to end its two-game losing streak when it visits Detroit in the Lions’ annual Thanksgiving game.
The Falcons won six of their first eight contests and had their sights set on securing home field after losing the NFC championship game at Philadelphia in January.
Atlanta, though, has dropped two in a row at home and now finds itself in third place in the highly competitive NFC South.
With six games left, the Falcons trail co-leaders Carolina and Tampa Bay by one game in the division. Four other NFC teams also have better records, which means Atlanta could miss out on the playoffs entirely if it doesn’t turn things around.
The Falcons still have two games remaining against Carolina, road trips to Tampa Bay and NFC North-leading Chicago, and a home contest against last-place New Orleans.
This is only the second two-game losing streak for Atlanta under coach Jim Mora since he took over before last season. The Falcons lost their final two regular-season games last year, but that skid came after they already had clinched the division championship and could afford to rest their starters for the playoffs.
“No one is going to cut their wrist, no one’s going to jump off a high building, or walk around like the sky is falling,” Mora said following his team’s 30-27 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday. “We have to learn from it and we have to keep pressing on. This is a little bit of uncharted territory for this football team.”
Atlanta fell behind 13-0 to the Bucs, then moved the ball at will against Tampa Bay’s highly-ranked defense. Michael Vick led five straight scoring possessions, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins that gave the Falcons a 27-20 lead with 7:36 remaining.
The Bucs, though, tied the game with 1:55 left, then got the ball back when Vick fumbled. Tampa Bay converted the game-winning field goal with 42 seconds remaining.
The Falcons have been outscored 38-0 in the first quarter of their four losses, including 24-0 in the last two games.
“It doesn’t matter how you start,” Vick insisted. “It matters how you finish.”
Detroit failed in its attempt to win back-to-back games for the first time this season with a 20-7 loss at Dallas on Sunday.
The Lions were their own worst enemy, getting penalized 17 times for 129 yards and nine first downs. Each of Dallas’ four scoring drives included a failed third down that became a first down after Detroit was flagged.
“It’s those type of things that add up … to the level of frustration I had,” coach Steve Mariucci said.
Mariucci has said Garcia will be the starter when he’s ready to return, but on Monday, said the Falcons will not know whether Harrington or Garcia will play until game time Thursday.
Detroit is hoping to get some other injured players back as well.
Standout cornerback Dre’ Bly said he will play against the Falcons after missing four games because of wrist surgery. Linebacker Boss Bailey (ankle) and safety Terrence Holt (back) may also return to the lineup, though linebacker Earl Holmes (knee) is a longshot, Mariucci said.
“We are hoping and keeping our fingers crossed that we will add to our personnel,” Mariucci said.