Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

December 4, 2012

Falcons not too impressed with title

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Atlanta Falcons aren't too impressed with winning their second NFC title in three years.

In fact, the latest division championship hardly stirred excitement when coach Mike Smith congratulated the players on Tuesday.

"We've won the division before, so it's not that big of a deal, you know what I mean?" receiver Roddy White said. "When coach said, 'Congratulations,' nobody was woo-wooing or nothing like that, which is good.

"We've got our eye on the big prize."

First among those goals is to earn the top playoff seed and secure home-field advantage through the conference title game.

The Falcons are mindful, however, that their 2.5-game lead in the NFC is no guarantee, particularly after earning the No. 1 seed two years ago and collapsing in a second-round blowout loss to Green Bay at the Georgia Dome.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon believes the entire team knows that there's too much at stake to feel complacent.

"You have to be happy with where you're at right now, but ultimately it's all about finishing it," Weatherspoon said. "We set our goals high. That's just part of the step, so now it's on to the next part."

Smith did his part to keep players energized by giving the team four days off following last Thursday's home win over New Orleans. The mini-bye week, as Weatherspoon calls it, marked the second time this season that Smith rewarded his team for winning.

After an Oct. 14 home victory over Oakland that improved the Falcons to 6-0, Smith gave the players an entire week off. Center Todd McClure, now in his 14th season, credits the fifth-year coach with having a good feel for knowing when to motivate his players and when to back off.

"Smitty knows this locker room," McClure said. "He's down here a bunch. He knows how everybody's feeling physically. He knows when we need rest. He knows when we need to turn it on and when we need to go harder and keep the pads on in practice. He's got a great vibe of the locker room, and I think that's what's making him successful as a head coach."

On Tuesday, Atlanta's first workout on the field since the win over New Orleans, Smith and his staff sent the team through a session he calls "Falcons on Falcons."

Smith took the same approach after the bye week, and Atlanta responded on Oct. 28 with a 30-17 victory at Philadelphia a few days later.

The goal is to remind players of the rudimentary importance of technique and timing. Coaches keep the focus on one-on-one matchups, scheme assignments and third-down efficiency as offensive starters practice against defensive starters.

"You're getting the best in-season work, except on game day, because you're going against one another and not working off cards," Smith said. "You're actually getting a crisper play run when you're working against yourself. I think it gets the guys focused, and it gives them an opportunity to come out and compete.”

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