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Falcons' Thomas returns to basics

FLOWERY BRANCH - One game as interim head coach was all Emmitt Thomas needed to evaluate the Atlanta Falcons.

It's obvious that the players have forgotten how to block, tackle, follow assignments and protect the football.

Coming off their fifth straight loss and first game following Bobby Petrino's resignation, the Falcons looked as bad in person as they did on film.

Thomas, a 29-year coaching veteran and former standout cornerback with Kansas City, believes the Atlanta players have strayed far from the basics.

'Don't try to do anything you're not capable of doing,' Thomas said on Monday. 'Take care of your responsibilities first and then run to the football. That's all football is. Blocking, tackling, running and catching. We've got to get back to that.'

Thomas replaced Petrino when his former boss left to take the Arkansas job last week. Though he's working his first job as a head coach, Thomas has been in the league long enough to know the Falcons (3-11) are plagued with other problems, most of them on offense, entering this weekend at Arizona (6-8):

n Opponents have scored seven defensive touchdowns, including two by Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber;

n Quarterback Chris Redman had a 0.0 passer rating in his second start for the NFL's lowest-scoring offense. Even so, Thomas confirmed that Redman will start against the Cardinals;

n Defensive end John Abraham is awaiting results of an MRI taken Monday on his left knee. Running back Jerious Norwood (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (knee) joined Abraham in the training room Sunday at Tampa Bay. Thomas expects Norwood and Houston to play against Arizona;

n Reserve cornerback Lewis Sanders (torn pectoral muscle) has been placed injured reserve, making him the 13th Falcon whose season ended early.

And in a season of unlimited distractions, cornerback DeAngelo Hall keeps causing

problems.

'We've talked to him, and he'll come to the sideline and apologize,' Thomas said. 'He'll go two or three games and do all right, and then all of sudden he'll explode again."