2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Falcons look to bounce back from dismal showing

By PAUL NEWBERRY - AP Sports Writer
    2012-12-10 18:53

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - The Atlanta Falcons finally played a stinker of a game.

They don't want it to become a habit.

Certainly not at this time of year.

The Falcons (11-2) already clinched the NFC South title but have struggled to win in the playoffs, so they are especially mindful of having some momentum going into this postseason.

``A lot of teams get hot at the right time. They can string a couple of wins together and carry that into the postseason,'' safety Thomas DeCoud said. ``On the other side of the coin, you definitely don't want to drop a couple of games going into the postseason, because that will be in the back of your mind and keep you from progressing in the postseason like you want to.''

The players normally get the day off after victories, so it was a rare Monday appearance for many of them at the team's suburban training complex. They studied film and met with the coaches, trying to figure out what went wrong in their worst performance of the season.

Atlanta lost to division rival Carolina 30-20 in a game that wasn't really that close. The last-place Panthers (4-9) raced to a 23-0 lead midway through the third quarter and were never seriously challenged.

``We didn't play up to our standards in any phase,'' coach Mike Smith said. ``The first thing you have to do is make the corrections from the tape of the game. Believe me, there were plenty of them in all three phases.''

After taking 24 hours to review their shoddy performance, the Falcons will turn their attention to hosting the defending Super Bowl champions on Sunday. The New York Giants (8-5) are clinging to first in the NFC East and desperate for a win to stay in front of Washington and Dallas.

Last season, the Giants routed the Falcons in the opening round of the playoffs 24-2 - the third straight one-and-done postseason appearance for Atlanta since Smith took over in 2008.

These guys know they can't afford another postseason flop.

``The teams playing their best football at the end of the season are usually the teams that get to where they want to be in the last ballgame,'' Smith said.

For some reason, the Falcons looked totally flat against Carolina, a team going nowhere that played with a fire and passion totally missing on the Atlanta side. The Panthers took 28 of the first 34 snaps and built a 356-86 edge in total yards before the visiting team showed any sign of life.

At that point, it was far too late.

Smith was especially troubled by his team's dismal performance on third downs - both offensively and defensively. The Falcons converted just 2 of 8 times, while the Panthers came through on 9 of 15. That's why Carolina built a commanding edge in time of possession, holding the ball more than 10 1/2 minutes longer than Atlanta.

``We weren't the type of team we wanted to be, that's for sure,'' Smith said. ``You kind of get behind the eight ball when you can't get off the field on third down. We've got to be much better on both sides of the ball on third down.''

Despite their impressive record, the Falcons have struggled at times against seemingly inferior opponents, leading a number of pundits to speculate that the team is headed for more disappointment in the playoffs. Naturally, the loss to the Panthers stirred up even more doubts about Atlanta's ability to make a deep run in January.

DeCoud shrugged off the negativity.

``We can't be tuned into that type of stuff,'' he said. ``After a while, that stuff becomes a distraction.''

The Falcons know the skeptics will become even louder if they lose two in a row. Sure, they still have the inside track to home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but that didn't do them a bit of good in 2010, when they were routed at home by the Green Bay Packers.

After losing to Carolina, Smith knows his team must send a clear signal to the rest of the league: Beware of Atlanta in the playoffs.

``It's very important,'' he said. ``There are a lot of things that are going to happen over the next four weeks that affect the Atlanta Falcons and affect probably eight or nine other teams in the league. That's what makes it fun. We've got to go out, first and foremost, and play our best football here in the fourth quarter'' of the season.

Obviously, that was the goal last week, as well.

``We've just got to move on,'' offensive guard Justin Blalock said. ``We have gotten to this point because of a certain mind-set. You have to have a short-term memory and hope there's not too many days like that one yesterday. But there's going to be some.''

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Mike PounceyJul 23 12:33p

Miami Dolphins C Mike Pouncey (hip) could miss the first eight weeks of the season because of the hip surgery he had this offseason, according to a source. He [ More ]

Evan RodriguezJul 23 12:23p

Buffalo Bills FB Evan Rodriguez (cramps) and TE Chris Gragg (cramps) were hospitalized because of complications from cramps and were getting hydrated, according to head coach Doug Marrone. Rodriguez [ More ]

Dustin HopkinsJul 23 12:20p

Buffalo Bills PK Dustin Hopkins will have to try to make the roster as a kickoff specialist, according to head coach Doug Marrone.

Vernon DavisJul 23 12:13p

San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis has reported to camp Wednesday, July 23, according to an Instagram post from 49ers S C.J. Spillman.

Jason BabinJul 23 12:03p

New York Jets signed DE Jason Babin (Jaguars) to a two-year contract, with the second year being a team option. He's expected to serve as a situational pass rusher.

Reggie WayneJul 23 11:13a

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (knee) said he has been medically cleared to practice. He's expected to be limited, though, especially in the near future.

Kraig UrbikJul 23 10:53a

Buffalo Bills OG Chris Hairston continued to receive first-team repetitions at right guard in the red zone drills Wednesday, July 23. OG Kraig Urbik struggled with first-team the previous day.

Jamaal CharlesJul 23 09:53a

Updating previous reports, Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles will not report to training camp Wednesday, July 23, barring a major contract breakthrough.

Vick BallardJul 23 09:33a

Indianapolis Colts RB Vick Ballard (knee) reported to camp and has passed his physical.

Rob GronkowskiJul 23 08:53a

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee) has been cleared for contact and will not be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, according to head coach Bill Belichick.

Evan RodriguezJul 23 08:43a

Buffalo Bills TE Chris Gragg (cramps), FB Evan Rodriguez (cramps) and CB Brandon E. Smith (leg) were out of practice Wednesday, July 23. OT Seantrel Henderson (hip) returned to action.

Rashad JenningsJul 23 08:23a

New York Giants RBs Rashad Jennings, David Wilson and Andre Williams could be used in a three-man rotation this season to keep Jennings fresh.

Caleb McSurdyJul 23 02:53a

The St. Louis Rams waived four players Tuesday, July 22, as they cut loose OL Abasi Salimu, WR Diontae Spencer, LB Caleb McSurdy, and LB Tavarius Wilson.

Carl NicksJul 23 02:43a

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Bobby Rainey, G Carl Nicks and DE Da'Quan Bowers may be fighting for roster spots once training camp begins due to other competition for their [ More ]

Chris CulliverJul 23 01:13a

San Francisco 49ers CB Chris Culliver (knee) has been cleared to take part in practice when training camp opens this week. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament to [ More ]

Ben TateJul 23 01:13a

Cleveland Browns RBs Ben Tate and Terrance West will compete for the starting tailback job during training camp and the preseason, and it's a battle head coach Mike Pettine [ More ]

Joel BitonioJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns OG Joel Bitonio (ankle) lined up with the first-team offense during organized team activities (OTAs), and he held the spot until he suffered a sprained ankle June [ More ]

Paul McQuistanJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns OLs Garrett Gilkey, Paul McQuistan and Jason Pinkston are fighting for position in the pecking order at right guard, and one of them might even push OG [ More ]

Craig RobertsonJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns LBs Christian Kirksey and Craig Robertson will compete for an inside linebacker job during training camp, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Joe HadenJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns CBs Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine will compete for the starting cornerback job opposite CB Joe Haden in training camp. 'We weren't going to hand Justin that [ More ]

Gary BarnidgeJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns TEs Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray will battle for the No. 2 tight end spot during training camp and the preseason.

Eli ManningJul 23 12:23a

New York Giants QB Eli Manning (ankle) has shown no ill effects during camp from ankle surgery that sidelined him for earlier offseason activities.

Tom CoughlinJul 22 11:53p

New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was not happy that several players were forced to leave practice with dehydration issues Tuesday, July 22. 'It pisses me off,' Coughlin [ More ]

Brandon LloydJul 22 11:23p

San Francisco 49ers WR Stevie Johnson is the frontrunner for the No. 3 WR job, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, but he added that neither Johnson nor WR [ More ]

Darren SprolesJul 22 11:13p

Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles' ability to win one-on-one matchups in space is what head coach Chip Kelly plans to exploit this season. Kelly said opposing defenses played a [ More ]

Thaddeus LewisJul 22 11:03p

Buffalo Bills QB Thaddeus Lewis and WR Tori Gurley had miscommunications on three occasions Tuesday, July 22, resulting in two incomplete passes and an interception. Joe Buscaglia of WGR [ More ]

Thaddeus LewisJul 22 10:53p

Buffalo Bills QB Thaddeus Lewis and QB Jeff Tuel are in an open competition for the backup quarterback job, head coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday, July 22.

Brian MoormanJul 22 10:43p

Buffalo Bills P Brian Moorman was more effective than P Jake Dombrowski on punts in terms of both average hang time and average distance Tuesday, July 22.

Titus YoungJul 22 09:53p

Updating a previous story, free-agent WR Titus Young (Lions) was charged with felony battery with serious bodily injury from an alleged July 8 incident inside a Los Angeles-area hospital. [ More ]

Ryan MathewsJul 22 09:43p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews' rookie contract will expire after the 2014 season, which means this could be his final year with the organization, in the opinion of [ More ]

Mario WilliamsJul 22 09:43p

Buffalo Bills DE Mario Williams, DT Marcell Dareus and DT Kyle D. Williams were all rotated out of the lineup at times during team drills Tuesday, July 22. LB [ More ]

Nigel BradhamJul 22 09:23p

Buffalo Bills LB Nigel Bradham was one of eight players to record sacks during team drills Tuesday, July 22. The team's pass rush has been consistent since camp began, [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group