Falcons 5-0 for 1st time, but winning now routine
The Atlanta Falcons are in uncharted territory.
Then again, this is starting to feel downright routine.
Since Mike Smith took over as head coach in 2008, the Falcons
are tied for the second-most wins in the regular season, their
48-21 record surpassed only by the New England Patriots (51-18).
With Atlanta (5-0) off to the best start in franchise history,
Smith is just one victory away from tying Dan Reeves as the
winningest coach in team history.
The Falcons host the Oakland Raiders (1-3) on Sunday.
”We want to sustain this not just from game to game, but season
to season,” Smith said Monday. ”We want to be a relevant football
team in the months of December and January. That’s what we really
want to do as an organization.”
When it comes to constructing the roster, the credit goes
largely to general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who also came aboard
in 2008. He is already recognized as one of the league’s top
personnel gurus, having relied mainly on the draft to rebuild the
Falcons but supplementing his picks with some timely free-agent
signings and trades.
Once they take the field, the Falcons take on the personality of
their coach. Smith is steady as can be during the week, instilling
a sense of calm and purpose in his team, but he can turn fiery on
The team seems to feed off his energy.
”During the week, we try to be even-keeled,” Smith said.
”You’ve got to go through your preparations as a coaching staff
and as a team. Then, you go play with emotion on game days. The
guys do a really good job of that.”
After cruising through their first three wins, the Falcons have
showed plenty of resiliency the past two weeks with second-half
comebacks. They beat Carolina on a last-second field goal and
knocked off Washington 24-17 behind another big game from
quarterback Matt Ryan, who is looking more and more like the early
favorite in the MVP race.
Smith traditionally lets his players take Monday off when they
win, but he estimated that at least 80 percent of the team turned
up at the training complex after beating the Redskins.
”They’re visiting with their coaches and wanting to talk about
certain things, more about the things they did poorly than the
things they did good,” Smith said. ”When you have guys doing
that, it takes care of itself. We have great leaders in the locker
room who make sure we focus on the task at hand. Right now, it’s
just a start. Yes, we may be 5-0 for the first time in franchise
history. But it’s just a start, guys, just a start.”
Ryan is the league’s second-rated passer, behind San Francisco’s
Alex Smith, and no one has been more important to their team
through the first five weeks. The Falcons quarterback is completing
more than 68 percent of his attempts, accounting for 1,507 yards
with 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
”Matt has really matured and stepped up his game,” Smith said.
”He has a very good idea of how guys are trying to defend us. If
there’s something we haven’t seen, he goes over and looks at the
pictures and – boom -he’s got it. The next time he sees that, he
knows where to go with the football. He knows how to get us into
the right play. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and
distributing the ball to multiple players.”
Washington’s defense was determined not to get beat on deep
throws to the Falcons’ dynamic receiving duo of Roddy White and
Julio Jones. So Ryan kept going to ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez,
who caught 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Not bad for a
36-year-old who will likely be retiring at the end of the
”Every time we threw the ball deep over the middle to (White
and Jones), there were two or three guys around them,” Gonzalez
said. ”That means I’m getting man-to-man coverage underneath. I’ve
told you guys since I got here that … if I get man coverage, I
should be able to get open most of the time.”
Ryan completed 34 of 52 passes for 345 yards and a pair of
touchdowns, shaking off a brilliant play by Washington linebacker
Ryan Kerrigan, who picked off a little screen pass early in the
second quarter and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.
Maybe it helps that Ryan was not around for this franchise’s
largely forgettable history. Before 2008, Atlanta had never even
put together consecutive winning records, truly one of the most
remarkable runs of ineptitude in any sport. Since arriving the same
year as Dimitroff and Smith, Ryan has been part of four straight
winning seasons. The only thing marring these new-look Falcons is
They are 0-3 in the postseason under the current regime.
It’s a little too soon to be thinking playoffs, even though the
Falcons might clinch the NFC South by Thanksgiving at the rate
”It is a great start for us, it really is,” Ryan said. ”At
this point, you can’t really worry about what is going on in the
history of our organization, but we have put ourselves right where
we need to be five games into it.”
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