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Falcons savor top seed

Falcons savor top seed

Falcons savor top seed

Atlanta Falcons running back Ovie Mug...


    FLOWERY BRANCH — Mike Smith is trying to establish business as usual during the Atlanta Falcons' bye week.
    The coach said Monday it may not be easy to maintain the even keel he is seeking as the NFC South champion Falcons savor winning home-field advantage through the playoffs.
    The Falcons are off until the divisional playoffs. They will play Green Bay, Seattle or New Orleans on Dec. 15 at the Georgia Dome.
    "I know our guys are anxious to get going and start in our game-planning, but we really can't do that until we know who we're playing," Smith said. "So this week our emphasis is on getting better as a football team and it's really about the Atlanta Falcons and working on areas we need to work in all three phases."
    The Falcons (13-3) boast the NFC's best record, but Smith said the team still has not played a complete game.
    "I still think we've got a lot of things we can improve on as a football team," he said. "All the way through the season, all 16 games we still haven't put together a game like we're capable of playing. But we're very proud of the way we've played this entire season."
    Smith said it will be important to build up to the game on the same pace as a regular-season week.
    "We're going to approach this just like any other week," Smith said. "We're not going to make this any different. I'm a creature of habit, I think our players are creatures of habit, and I think when you're in a routine you stay in that routine as much as you can."
    The Falcons will work on correcting mistakes in this week's light practice schedule, which begins Thursday.
    "I think the rest will be good for us," said defensive end John Abraham. "We have a few guys banged up."
    The Falcons closed the regular season by winning nine of their last 10 games. Tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has never won a playoff game, says the team has Super Bowl potential.
    "It's a feeling. We better have that feeling," Gonzalez said. "We better be confident about it, but we know it's going to take a lot of hard work and we're going to have to face some good teams that are going to try and get at us.
    "I think if we can play like we're capable of playing, we can beat any team."
    Smith complimented his team's "traditional" run defense for holding Jonathan Stewart to 31 yards rushing on 13 carries in the Falcons' 31-10 win over Carolina on Sunday.
    But Smith said he was concerned about allowing a 60-yard run by Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell on a reverse and will work on improving that area this week.
    Another area of concern is turnovers.
    "Two in two weeks," Smith said. "Those I think are all correctable. One was a very good play. They stripped the football, but we've got to make sure we're securing it."
    Smith said a third area of focus this week is special teams.
    The Falcons lost cornerback Brian Williams to a knee injury in the second quarter against Carolina. Williams did not return to the sideline in the second half.
    Smith said he didn't have a medical update on Williams but said he saw the cornerback Monday.
    "He felt better," Smith said, before indicating there may have been more effort to have Williams return if the game had been closer.
    "Of course we were in a pretty good situation yesterday with the score in the ballgame to keep some guys out," Smith said, noting that starting linebacker Curtis Lofton was held out the full second half. Quarterback Matt Ryan and other starters were held out in the fourth quarter.
    "We tried to take different guys out at different points in the ballgame to try to get guys who had been banged up and had been on a maintenance program to limit their snaps," Smith said.

Williams had major surgery on his right knee last year. The team did not say which knee Williams hurt Sunday.

Williams, in his ninth year, does not start in the Falcons' base defense but is the fifth defensive back on passing downs. He has played in every game and had a season-high nine tackles, with a fumble recovery, against Cincinnati on Oct. 24.

Smith said Monday he was not aware of any team requesting permission to talk with any member of his staff.

Assistant coaches in a bye week can by interviewed by other teams. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, the former head coach in Buffalo, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for a head coach position.

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