FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Everything seems to be falling into place for theAtlanta Falcons.
First, they knocked off a Philadelphia team in disarray. Then, they rallied against the New York Giants, who can't seem to run out the clock.
Now, the Falcons head to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, who are missing quarterback Tony Romo and star receiver Dez Bryant, both sidelined with injuries. Another win would giveAtlanta only the fifth 3-0 start in franchise history.
Can the Falcons seize the moment Sunday?
Coach Dan Quinn stressed that his team was not taking the Cowboys (2-0) lightly.
But there was no denying Atlanta's chances of making it three in a row improved significantly when Romo broke his collarbone in a victory over the Eagles last week.
With Brandon Weeden taking over at quarterback, the Falcons are actually a two-point favorite in Arlington.
"It comes down to us each week," Quinn said Wednesday. "We never determine by who we're playing how we get ready. They've got a terrific team. All across the league, people get injured and other people step up. It's no different with them. We expect a heck of a fight."
He's given that same message to his players. If anyone is suddenly feeling a bit cocky, the first-year coach will be the first to remind them it's only September.
Don't start making those playoff plans just yet.
"We approach it the same way we have the last two weeks," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "I don't think it's worth worrying about what's going to happen three months from now. It doesn't matter. I think guys really believe that in here."
Still, the fast start was just what the Falcons needed after going 10-22 the past two seasons. With each victory, the team's confidence grows a little more — in both themselves and their rookie coach.
"Winning is more fun that losing," Ryan said, breaking into a smile. "There's no question about that."
The Falcons expect Dallas to rally around Weeden, a former first-round pick who hasn't had much success in the NFL. He did a solid job after taking over for Romo in Philadelphia, completing all seven of his passes, including the game-clinching touchdown.
"You look past somebody, that's when they're going to beat you," safety Ricardo Allen said. "Our coaches said it best: 'A wounded animal fights the hardest.' That's true. They will give you their best. So we're going to go out there and play them like they're the starters, like they're the best players on the team."
While Weeden will be making only his second start for the Cowboys, the Falcons don't expect any major changes from the Dallas offense. They're also counting on tight end Jason Witten, who is bothered by ankle and knee injuries, to be in the lineup.
Witten was limited in practice on Wednesday.
"We've seen that movie before," Quinn joked. "He's a terrific player on third down and in the two-minute offense. They know how to feature him."
Dallas coach Jason Garrett, speaking on a conference call with Atlanta reporters, stressed that his team isn't feeling sorry for itself despite two major injuries.
"Everybody on this football team, we have high expectations of how they approach it and how they're going to perform," Garrett said. "One guy goes down, the next guy has got to go in and play. We'll be ready to play our best on Sunday, no matter who's in there for us."