Of the 5-4 Atlanta Falcons, “Arthur Blank didn’t pay to assemble a bunch of scrappers,” scolds the Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, who describes Michael Vick & mates as “not very well coached.”

The Falcons are 7-10 since the midpoint of last season, and more and more Jim Mora and his staff seem incapable of fitting resources to scheme. There’ll come a game that appears a great leap forward ”- Blank described Vick’s passing against Cincinnati as “a breakthrough” ”- but no gain gets consolidated. The Falcons alternate assured performances with addled ones, and that’s a function (or a dysfunction) of coaching.

“We all need a little adversity to find out what we’re all about,” Mora said Monday, but the man paying Mora’s salary might see this latest dip rather differently. At 7-2, the Falcons would be alone in second place in the NFC and would be staring at a first-round bye. As it is, they’re no lock for even the last wild-card spot.

Mora: “We’re right in the thick of this thing. … We’re in a dogfight.” Indeed, he used the word “dogfight” a half-dozen times, and he closed his address with, “Fight on.” (Sort of like Dan Rather signing off with, “Courage.”) Nodding toward his team’s injuries, Mora said: “We’ll fight to the bitter end with whoever’s standing. And we’d better fight. If I don’t see a guy fighting, he might not be playing.”

Might not?

Perhaps Mora’s men will respond to his gentle urging. But after last season’s collapse and these recent fluctuations, it’s reasonable to wonder if they still believe in this coach and his coordinators. Say what you will about Dan Reeves, but his teams played pretty much the same way every time. For reasons unclear, the 2006 Falcons have more talent but a fainter signature than in Mora’s giddy inaugural season.