TAMPA – Just minutes after awarding owner Arthur Blank with the game ball, Falcons coach Mike Smith was already pointing toward 2010.
“We are very disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs,” Smith said. “We are pleased that we were able to get nine wins. This is the end of the 2009 season. But really it’s the beginning of the 2010 season on the calendar. We wanted to finish strong with three straight wins to lead us off heading into this 2010 season.”
The Falcons opponents for 2010 are set as they will face the AFC North, NFC West and the second place teams from the
NFC North and NFC East.
At home the Falcons will play Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina, Arizona, San Francisco, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Green Bay.
On the road, the Falcons will play Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina, St. Louis, Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
RYAN TOUGHED IT OUT: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan would not let on how tough it was to battle back from his turf toe injury.
At least now, he will get a chance to let the injury heal.
“I can’t say enough about Matt Ryan and his toughness,” Smith said. “That was a very significant injury in terms of the turf toe. For him to come back and the work that he did with our training staff and athletic performance, to come back and work as hard as he did, he spent many, many hours, the last three weeks, when he hasn’t been able to practice. He had to get a lot of mental reps.”
YOUNG CORNERS PLAY WELL: For the second consecutive game, cornerbacks Christopher Owens and Brent Grimes had interceptions.
“He got outside the pocket and he tried to make a play,” Owens said. “I felt like he threw it into a crowd and I was the fortunate one to pick it off.”
Grimes had another game-sealing interception.
“They ran a double move, I just played the man and made the play on the ball,” Grimes said.
Grimes appeared to be steadier once he moved over to the right side in Chris Houston’s spot. He doesn’t feel that he plays one side better than the other. He opened the season at left cornerback.
“It doesn’t really make a difference,” Grimes said. “It’s corner. You are back pedaling and running on both sides. I don’t really feel any different on either side.”
Grimes led the team with six interceptions.
“I’m just out there trying to make plays and help the team win,” Grimes said. “If interceptions are the way that I can help, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
JENKINS HIT 50 CATCH MARK: Wide receiver Michael Jenkins had four to give him 50 for the third consecutive season.
Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib had to be separated from Jenkins after an errant pass in the second half. He was talking trash and Jenkins wasn’t taking any mess from the second-year player.
“The ball was out of bounds and he was acting like he made a spectacular play,” Jenkins said. “He wasn’t talking about nothing.”
BROCK GETS SOME ACTION: Safety Eric Brock, who was moved up to the active roster on Dec. 22 from the practice squad, got some action on defense when Thomas DeCoud went down with a groin injury.
“It felt really good,” Brock said. “All of the preparation that goes into it and to finally get some snaps on defense was really encouraging. A lot of those vets like Mike (Peterson) did everything they could to encourage me. I felt real comfortable.”
Next season, Brock, who played at Auburn, will have to make the roster because his practice squad eligibility is up.
“I know that my practice squad eligibility is up,” Brock said. “I just have to continue to work hard in the off season. Continue to learn our plays, learn our checks and get more comfortable in the defense. When you feel comfortable, you’ll make plays. I have to continue to work on special teams. . . my main thing is to keep working.”
McCLURE WANTS TO KEEP LINE TOGETHER: If the league and the players union reach an collective bargaining agreement by March, right guard Harvey Dahl and right tackle Tyson Clabo will become unrestricted free agents.
“Hopefully, we can keep this group together as much as possible,” McClure said. “When you look at teams that have success, they keep their lines together for the most part.”
McClure was impressed with the how the team closed out the season. Despite being eliminated from the playoffs, they won their final three games.
“We had three games where we knew that we weren’t going to the playoffs and this team kept playing,” McClure said. “That says a lot about he character of the guys in this room.”