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One team will recover


Put yourself into Bob Petrino's shoes.

You're the rookie coach of a team that lost its franchise quarterback to a dogfighting scandal. That was after, of course, you traded away your young and promising backup quarterback, who is now the anointed savior in Houston.

When you accepted the job, you came with the reputation of a coach whose teams score a point a minute. You're an offensive genius, but you're coming off a 24-3 loss and you're still looking for your first touchdown as coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

Your starting quarterback is on his third team in three years and one of your starting cornerbacks is a guy, Lewis Sanders, the team you're playing this week cut a few years ago.

This isn't what Petrino envisioned when he took this job last winter. He was hired with the idea he would put Michael Vick in a fresh, new offense that would suit Vick's talents and resurrect his days of exhilaration. Everything since then has gone to the dogs.

The 0-1 Falcons face the 0-1 Jaguars on Sunday at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, in a game that will salvage one team's start and destroy the other's. Must-win game? Not in week two, but it's difficult to deny its importance.

"It was a difficult situation to deal with," Petrino said of Vick's conviction on dogfighting charges. "We're just trying to adjust everything to Joey's (Harrington) strengths and what he does well and how we can get the ball into our playmakers' hands. There are certainly things we can't do that we planned on doing."

Petrino was an assistant coach with the Jaguars under Tom Coughlin. The last time Petrino was at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium was as the winning coach for Louisville in the Gator Bowl. The big story that day involved a flagrant foul by Vick's brother, Marcus Vick.

"I have a lot of good memories in Jacksonville. I certainly enjoyed my time there working for the Jaguars. It'll be fun to go back in there," Petrino said.

It's most important the Jaguars spoil Petrino's fun. On the heels of a disheartening opening-day defeat to the Titans, the Jaguars need a speedy recovery and they need it to happen on Sunday because games in Denver and in Kansas City follow.

The Falcons can be expected to attempt the same strategy Tennessee used effectively last Sunday: spread the field on offense and run the ball. Atlanta has speed at receiver the Jaguars will have to respect and the Falcons have one of the game's great open-field runners in Warrick Dunn.

Quarterback Joey Harrington is shouldering the blame for Atlanta's failures in Minnesota last week. Harrington threw two interceptions and had a 61.8 passer rating in that game. He was the starting quarterback in Miami last year when the Jaguars scored a 24-10 win.

"There are a lot of people in this country who didn't see what happened in that game. It was two bad bounces of the football that led to those interceptions and that happens, but the thing I learned is to not let that stuff bother me any more. I don't care. I am who I am and I am proud of who I am. I am going to continue to play for this team no matter what people may say on the outside," Harrington said.

Nerves are raw for this one.

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