Green Bay's defense poses problems for Falcons
Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White don't see any great secret to beating a physical Green Bay defense.
The Atlanta Falcons must be the tougher team.
''They play to the whistle,'' said Gonzalez, the NFL's career-leading receiver at tight end. ''There's no relaxing in their game.''
White knows nothing will come easily Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Any letup could result in the Falcons (8-2) falling out of first place in the NFC South - or in the overall conference standings.
''If we get this win, we'd be two games ahead of them and we'd have the tiebreaker,'' White said. ''It'd be a good win for us. This is probably the biggest game of the year for us.''
Like Atlanta, the Packers (7-3) have won four straight, thanks in part to a defense that's allowed just 10 points in three games, the stingiest streak since New England did the same in December 2005.
What's worse, the Packers seem to pose problems for many of the Falcons' offensive strengths:
-Atlanta, which has allowed two sacks in four games, ranks fourth in fewest sacks per pass attempt. Green Bay has the fourth-best team total and the NFL's sacks leader in Clay Matthews.
-Last week marked the Falcons' third straight game without a giveaway. The Packers have nine takeaways in their last three games.
-White, who leads the league with 79 catches and ranks second with 1,017 yards receiving, considers Green Bay's secondary elite.
Cornerback Charles Woodson has 18 interceptions since the start of 2008, second only to Philadelphia's Asante Samuel. Safety Nick Collins has 14 over the same span, and right-side cornerback Tramon Williams has four or more picks in each of the past three seasons.
''This will probably be the best secondary we've faced this year,'' White said. ''Those guys are pretty good on the back end, and we've got to get ourselves ready for them.''
For the Falcons to win, quarterback Matt Ryan likely will need to manage the offense well enough to control the game's pace. Atlanta has the league's second-best offense in time of possession and third-down efficiency. Behind running back Michael Turner, Atlanta ranks seventh in rushing.
Green Bay's defense is 13th in time of possession, 19th on third down and 18th against the run.
Those discrepancies concern Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
''They are very impressive in everything they do offensively,'' McCarthy said, ''with their ability to run the ball and the action in the set of plays that come off of that.''
Gonzalez has played enough games against defenses managed by Packers coordinator Dom Capers, a longtime NFL assistant and twice a head coach, to know that Green Bay is unlikely to show many exotic looks. The Packers' approach is to beat you down.
''You watch the film, and you know what's coming, so you've got to prepare for it,'' Gonzalez said. ''You have to understand that what you see on film is what you're going to get, so you have to make sure you're in position to go out there and finish.''
White believes the Falcons must take advantage of their success at home. Since the start of 2008, Atlanta is tied with New England for the league's best home record at 18-3. The Falcons have won six straight at the dome.
The Falcons' next three games are on the road.
''We're a dome team,'' White said. ''This is a big game for us at home. We're looking, not ahead right now, but we need to get this win so we can have all our (playoff) games at home.''
Note: Falcons DE John Abraham was limited in practice for the second straight day with a groin injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday. Abraham missed his first game since 2006 in last week's victory at St. Louis.