Falcons cornerback miffed about benching

Updated: October 29, 2003, 9:09 PM ET

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Unhappy about being benched for the first time in his career, Atlanta Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan accused the coaches of putting all the blame on the secondary for the team's woes.

The Falcons, who have lost six in a row, decided to go with four new starters in the defensive backfield for Sunday's game against Philadelphia.

Buchanan was benched along with cornerback Tyrone Williams and safeties Keion Carpenter and Gerald McBurrows.

"We've been talking about holding things together and not pointing fingers," Buchanan said Wednesday. "Well, it seems like the finger pointing has started."

The Falcons are giving up a staggering 416.6 yards per game -- the worst figure in the league by nearly 50 yards and on pace to be the second-highest total in NFL history.

Opposing quarterbacks have completed more than 63 percent of their passes, and the Falcons have just four interceptions. The situation has really gotten grim in recent weeks: opponents have completed 107 of their last 156 passes (69 percent) for 1,514 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Pro Bowl linebacker Keith Brooking said he wasn't the least bit surprised by all the changes in the secondary.

"We haven't gotten it done with the guys who were back there, to be bluntly honest with you," Brooking said. "The numbers don't lie and the eye in the sky (game film) doesn't lie, either."

Cory Hall and rookie Bryan Scott will start at safety, while Juran Bolden and Tod McBride are taking over at cornerback.

"I guess they think the reason we're losing is the secondary," Buchanan said. "They want to give some younger players a look. I thought that's what the preseason is for. I guess around here, it's what the regular season is for."

In all fairness to the secondary, there's plenty of blame to go around the defense's dismal performance. The line has managed just six sacks in the last 5{ games. The linebackers have been ravaged by injuries.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Buchanan said he's playing as well as he ever did in his 11-year career. He has just one interception, but was quick to point out that he's broken up a team-high eight passes.

"I'm definitely not the reason we're losing," he said.

At 32, however, it's clear that Buchanan is on the downside of his career. He likely would have been let go by the Falcons after a disappointing 2002 season if not for the fact that his contract was guaranteed for another year.

Now, Buchanan is looking ahead to the possibility of playing elsewhere.

"I have no idea what my future with this team is," he said. "If they don't want me around here, there's 31 other teams I can play for. I can still run with the best of them. I can still cover with the best of them."

Buchanan has started 148 of 149 games since moving into the lineup for Indianapolis as a rookie in 1993. He joined the Falcons in 1997 and is tied for third in team history with 30 interceptions.

While Buchanan had expected to move to safety as part of any shake-up, the Falcons decided to go in an entirely different direction. He wondered if the team was already looking ahead to 2004.

"Is this throwing in the towel?" Buchanan asked. "If we had four games left, I could see it. But we've got nine games left. We can still turn things around."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index