Falcons gain momentum for showdown with Saints

Matt Ryan insists the Atlanta Falcons weren’t thinking about the

defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints as they crushed

the Arizona Cardinals.

It sure didn’t take long for talk to shift to the Saints after

the game.

The Falcons gained momentum for this week’s NFC South game at

New Orleans by overwhelming the Cardinals 41-7 on Sunday. The

Falcons, led by backup running back Jason Snelling’s 129 yards

rushing, 57 yards receiving and three touchdowns, took a 33-11

advantage in first downs in the dominant win.

Atlanta held the ball almost twice as long as Arizona, stopped

each of the Cardinals’ eight third-down plays and intercepted three

passes.

It was just the well-rounded performance the Falcons needed

after a tough opening loss at Pittsburgh.

”We’re going to be a more confident football team going into

next week against New Orleans,” said receiver Roddy White, who had

seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.

The Falcons needed the momentum boost after opening the season

with a 15-9 overtime loss at Pittsburgh.

”We had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” said receiver

Brian Finneran. ”We felt like we lot one slip away against a good

football team up in Pittsburgh. So we needed to come down here and

prove to ourselves and the rest of the league that we’re still

someone to be contended with.”

Bring on the Saints.

”It’s got to give us confidence but at the same time we’re

going against the world champions, so we know our plates are

full,” said tight end Tony Gonzalez. ”We know we’ve got to

duplicate what we did this week and maybe even keep rising up.

We’ve got to get better.

”We’re going to be a pretty good football team. We’ve got the

talent. We just have to keep putting it together week in and week

out.”

The Falcons controlled the game against the Cardinals even after

losing running backs Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood to

injuries.

Turner suffered a groin injury and was held out in the second

half even after being cleared to return. He had nine carries for 75

yards before leaving the game in the second quarter.

Norwood was carted off the field with a knee injury. Coach Mike

Smith said Monday he will say more on Wednesday about the severity

of the injury.

”I know everybody’s concerned about Jerious,” Smith said.

”Jerious has had some evaluation this morning and we’re going to

continue to evaluate it. Hopefully we’ll have a lot more

information on Wednesday.”

Running back Antone Smith, who was not on the active list

against Arizona, may be needed behind Turner and Snelling against

the Saints.

The Falcons lost running back Dimitri Nance off their practice

squad last week. Nance signed with Green Bay on Tuesday.

The Falcons had 221 yards rushing, including 64 yards in the

final quarter. Atlanta limited Arizona to 29 total yards in the

final 15 minutes.

”We want to be able to run the football and possess the ability

to finish games,” said coach Mike Smith. ”I thought it was

evident that we did that. I thought that we were the tempo-setters

in the game, and I think that’s very, very important for any

successful team.”

The workhorse was Snelling, who averaged 5.4 yards on his 24

carries.

”Just says a lot about the depth of this team that our

personnel staff has put together over three years,” Smith said.

He’s just a darned good football player, not only running the

football, but catching the football.”

Snelling said the win helped the team ”get back to playing

Falcons football.”

Snelling said the win will boost the Falcons for the big game

against the Saints. Ryan said the team’s focus was on the

Cardinals.

”We didn’t have next week in mind,” Ryan said. ”I think the

biggest thing was to focus on getting a win, and we were able to

accomplish that.”