Dallas Cowboys (3-4) at Atlanta Falcons (7-0)
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FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson never questioned Atlanta's offseason trade for Asante Samuel.
Robinson, a ninth-year veteran in his third season with Atlanta, was the undisputed leader of the team's secondary when Samuel, one of the NFL's most talkative players, arrived last spring.
It didn't take long for Robinson to embrace a teammate with two Super Bowl rings and four trips to the Pro Bowl.
"We are a very close bunch as a secondary," Robinson said on Friday. "We go out and we trust one another, and I think bringing Asante in here — a guy with experience who's played in this league for 10 years and has been a lot of different situations — it was great for this team."
Samuel, whose locker is next to Robinson's at the team's training complex, said he has felt welcomed since joining the Falcons.
And it's likely that any problems resulting from Samuel's mouth would've spilled over last week during two flamboyant sessions with reporters, but that didn't turn out to be the case.
The first occurred a couple of days before Atlanta traveled to Philadelphia to face the team that traded Samuel for a seventh-round draft pick. The second came not long after the Falcons won 30-17.
Each time, teammates listened in the locker room as Samuel played up his bravado for the cameras, all but taunting Eagles coach Andy Reid for trading him away.
Maybe it's because Atlanta (7-0) is the NFL's last unbeaten team heading into Sunday's home game against the Dallas Cowboys (3-4), but the Falcons seem to have made the right call in acquiring Samuel.
"It's been a lot of fun, man," Robinson said. "You just find ways to balance it, and we don't step on each other's toes. We just go out there and practice hard and we play hard."
"I'm definitely enjoying it," Samuel said Friday. "Me and Dunta have a great relationship, man. All the DBs get along great."
Robinson, still seeking his first Super Bowl appearance and Pro Bowl bid, said he and Brent Grimes bonded quickly with Samuel in the offseason.
But when Grimes' season ended with a torn Achilles in in Week 1, Robinson and Samuel grew even closer together.
The original defensive scheme designed by first-year coordinator Mike Nolan called for Grimes to retain his starting spot on the left side and for Samuel to start on the right. Robinson would play in the slot as the No. 3 cornerback.
Grimes' injury moved Samuel to the left and Robinson to the right, the positions they have played the majority of their careers. Robert McClain and Christopher Owens took over at nickel.
So far, so good, but the defense will face a considerable challenge against Dallas with top linebacker Sean Weatherspoon sidelined by a right ankle sprain.
Snap counts will increase for Stephen Nicholas, Akeem Dent and 14th-year veteran Mike Peterson. Just as the Falcons weathered the loss of Grimes, Robinson has no doubt that Weatherspoon's replacements are ready.
"I think that's a testament to the way they put this team together," Robinson said. "Injuries come with this game and to make sure you have enough so that it's not a huge issue for you is big. I think we've done a great job of that thus far."
Robinson and Samuel each have an interception and four pass breakups in their first season together. Samuel scored on his pick, a 79-yard return in the fourth quarter, three weeks ago against Oakland.
Against Dallas' Tony Romo, the Falcons will face a quarterback who leads the NFL with 13 interceptions. Atlanta is tied for third in the league with 10 picks, four by free safety Thomas DeCoud and two by strong safety William Moore.
The Cowboys have lost of four and are coming off a 29-24 home loss to the New York Giants in which Romo threw four interceptions.
Even though Dallas will be without injured starters DeMarco Murray at running back and Phil Costa at center, Robinson believes the Cowboys still have enough playmakers to give Atlanta some matchup problems.
"It's a potent offense and it's not an opponent that we're taking lightly," Robinson said. "They're coming off a tough loss. We expect them to come in here Sunday night and give us their best shot. We definitely will be prepared."
Samuel can't wait. Even if something goes wrong, he knows Robinson will be there for support.
"Of course, I miss tackles, he misses tackles, but we make a lot of plays together, man," Samuel said. "He comes up on the ball hard and makes some good tackles. I try to do the same thing."