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Offensive woes continue for Falcons after another disappointing loss

ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons will never know if Michael Vick could have solved the offensive failures so obvious in a 1-5 season.

Increasing calls for change - if only for the sake of change - following Monday night's 31-10 loss to the New York Giants may lead coach Bobby Petrino to find out if Byron Leftwich can move the offense.

Petrino last week promoted Leftwich to be the top backup to starter Joey Harrington, but then Leftwich left Thursday's practice and missed Friday's workout with a sore ankle.

Leftwich, who signed with Atlanta on Sept. 18, was the No. 3 quarterback instead of the top backup against the Giants. Harrington played the full game, completing 18 of 39 passes for 209 yards with an interception.

Leftwich showed no sign of favoring the ankle in pregame warmups. Petrino said Leftwich would have been healthy enough to play but needed more practice time.

The Falcons were off Tuesday and will begin practice today for Sunday's game at New Orleans. Might Leftwich play a bigger role against the Saints?

'Like everything else, we evaluate the game and evaluate every position,' Petrino said after the game.

'He probably could have got in there and played, but missing two days of practice and he's only been here for a month, it's real hard. It was a decision to just stick with Joey and see what we could do.'

The offense needs help.

The Falcons have scored 33 points combined in four of their five losses and have only seven touchdowns in six games.

The Falcons scored no points off three Giants turnovers.

'I'm frustrated. Everybody is frustrated,' Petrino said.

'We're going to stay working at it. Our attitude has been OK. ... Eventually it's going to turn.'

The two newcomers - Petrino and Harrington - are facing the most criticism.

Harrington signed with Atlanta as a backup but moved up as the starter when Vick was suspended indefinitely by the league in August following his guilty plea on a dogfighting charge.

Vick will be sentenced Dec. 10 in the federal dogfighting case. He's also facing felony dogfighting charges in Virginia, which carry possible sentences of up to five years each.

Harrington was sacked four times and often didn't have time to consider passing the ball downfield. The Falcons had two players making their first starts at tackle - undrafted rookie Renardo Foster and second-year player Tyson Clabo - after starters Wayne Gandy and Todd Weiner were lost with knee injuries last week. Gandy is out for the season.

The Falcons were shut out for the final three quarters. Worse, they didn't come close to scoring.

'It seemed as if we hit a wall in the second quarter,' said Harrington.

The wall was painful. Harrington was hit so hard when sacked twice in one series late in the half that Leftwich and backup Chris Redman began warming up on the sideline as the starter had difficulty rising to his feet.

The Falcons had no red-zone possessions. The only time they reached the New York 20 was when Jerious Norwood ran 67 yards for a first-quarter touchdown.

The Falcons' first two possessions produced 108 yards, four first downs and 10 points.

The next 10 possessions netted 119 yards and six first downs.

'The way this game started, I felt like this was going to be a good, fun game,' said tight end Alge Crumpler.

Norwood provided more evidence of his big-play potential with a 16-yard run in the second quarter. The rest of the team netted 3 yards in the quarter.

Norwood entered halftime with four carries for 83 yards and a touchdown. With the rest of the offense struggling, it might seem obvious to give the second-year back more touches in the second half.

Instead, Norwood had one carry in the third quarter, when the Giants couldn't extend their halftime lead of 21-10, and one carry in the final quarter.

Norwood gained 87 yards on only six carries. Starter Warrick Dunn had eight carries for 15 yards.

The Falcons reached 100 yards rushing as a team for the first time this season, but the 103 yards was hardly reason for celebration.

Take away Norwood's big run, and the team had 14 carries for 36 yards.

After the game, no one had any answers about how to fix the offense.

'I really don't know,' said receiver Joe Horn. 'You've got to look yourself in the mirror and see what you could have done better to help your team win.

'Right now you can't be looking at New Orleans or whoever. It doesn't matter. You have to correct what's going on in your situation. That's what we'll do.'