New Orleans (6-4) at Atlanta (5-5)

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November 23, 2006 8:23pm CST
Game Info: 1:00 pm EST Sun Nov 26, 2006 TV: FOX Add to Calendar Buy Tickets By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Former New Orleans Saints coach Jim Mora doesn't believe Michael Vick can be a consistent passer in the NFL. His son hopes he's wrong. Vick and coach Jim Mora Jr.'s struggling Atlanta Falcons try to regain their footing in the NFC playoff race when they take on the Saints on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. The quarterback has struggled during Atlanta's three straight losses, completing less than 50 percent of his throws (44 of 93) with four interceptions and only three touchdowns. With Vick under center, Atlanta (5-5) has been held under 20 points the last three weeks, leading to the controversy with his coach's father. This week, the elder Mora, who coached the Saints (6-4) from 1986-96, agreed with the host of a radio show that Vick was a "coach killer." ADVERTISEMENT "It worries me a little bit because my son is the head coach down there," Mora added. "But he's a great athlete, my son likes him a lot, he's a good kid. But he's not a passer. And you need a passer at quarterback to be successful consistently in the National Football League. And he ain't getting it done in that category." While the younger Mora said he had spoken to his father, who "regrets it," Vick said he was just trying to move on from the controversy. "I think it was inappropriate," said Vick, who is 5-1 in his career against the Saints. "But, hey, when you're commentating, I guess you've got a right to say what you want to say. I just keep playing football. At the same time, it's crazy." The elder Mora's comments came after last Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Vick was 11-for-22 for 127 yards and one touchdown in the defeat. He also ran for 54 yards on six carries, but Atlanta managed only 186 yards of total offense and converted just two of 11 third-down opportunities. The Falcons coach refused to blame the quarterback, however. "Michael's doing what Michael's doing," Mora said. "Every week someone tries to get me to stand up here and criticize Mike Vick when we don't win. It's not about Mike Vick; it's about the Atlanta Falcons." The three-game losing streak has dropped Atlanta one game behind the division-leading Carolina Panthers and Saints in the NFC South. Amid the controversy surrounding Vick, the Falcons received some good news with the expected return of defensive end John Abraham, who has played only two games because of a groin injury. The three-time Pro Bowler's return would provide a big boost for a defense that has been playing without four of its regular starters. After injuring himself in Week 1, Abraham missed the next three games before returning to face the Giants on Oct. 15. He finished that game on the sidelines and underwent abdominal surgery nine days later. Abraham denied that he is rushing his return. "I don't think we're rushing it all," he said. "We did a good job of treating it. I'm not going to go out there unless I feel 100 percent and I'm confident that I'm going to be all right. I don't want to go out there and re-injure myself and miss the rest of the year." Although Atlanta's offense is struggling, so is the New Orleans defense. The Saints have lost three of their last four, including a 31-16 defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, the third time in the last four games New Orleans allowed at least 30 points. New Orleans had a season-high 595 yards of total offense led by quarterback Drew Brees, who was 37 of 52 for 510 yards and two touchdowns. However, he also had three interceptions -- two of them in the end zone. "Our focus has to be on getting better, across the board," coach Sean Payton said. "We have to demand more from our players, show them the mistakes that we are making, point out to them the ramifications of the errors, and correct." Rookie wide receiver Marques Colston is listed as questionable after spraining his ankle against the Bengals. The seventh-round draft choice has 54 catches for 869 yards and seven touchdowns through the Saints' first nine games. He didn't have any catches Sunday. "We'll treat it and see how much pressure he can put on it," Payton said. "It's just a matter (of) how much weight it can support and how quickly he can come back off of it." The Saints are trying to avoid a repeat of the 2002 season, when they started 7-2 but missed the playoffs. Last season, after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans won only two of its first 10 games before finishing 3-13. "Our season is in front of us. Everything that we want to accomplish as a team is in front of us. That's what I'm here to focus on. I'm not here to focus on 2002 or even the last two weeks," special teams leader Steve Gleason said. New Orleans defeated the Falcons 23-3, on Sept. 25 at the Superdome. Vick went 12-for-31 for 137 yards in that matchup, while Brees was 20 of 28 for 191 yards. Neither threw a touchdown pass.
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