Falcons looking for December to remember

Falcons coach Mike Smith is likely saving his "December to remember" speech for Sunday.  (Curtis Compton/ Ccompton@ajc.com)

Falcons coach Mike Smith is likely saving his "December to remember" speech for Sunday. (Curtis Compton/ Ccompton@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH – After most of the NFL games last week, the coaches gave their teams a little calendar reminder.

On the “Inside the NFL” show on Showtime with my guys James Brown and Cris Collingsworth, most of the coaches pointed out that December had arrived. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, after a big comeback win over Jacksonville, was bending over exalting his squad to pick it up in December.

Falcons coach Mike Smith hasn’t delivered  his December speech. I think he’s saving it for Sunday around 4:10 p.m.

“December is when the playoff picture becomes a little bit clearer,” Smith said. “It’s really what you do in December that makes a difference. Like, I’ve said many times, the difference between Team 1 and Team 32 is just a couple of inches when you really start to analyze it. Now, the guys that are going to get an opportunity to play on are going to put themselves in the race. That’s why I think the coaches and the players understand the importance . . .of the games in December.”

The Falcons (9-2) are hoping to have a December to remember, starting with their NFC South showdown with Tampa Bay (7-4) at 4:15 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

“This is kind of where you make your hay,” center Todd McClure said. “This is kind of where it’s decided if you’re going to keep playing after December or if you’re going to be going home.”

Center Todd McClure, who's in his 12th NFL season, will make is 140th consecutive start on Sunday. (Curtis Compton/CCompton@ajc.com)

Center Todd McClure, who's in his 12th NFL season, will make is 140th consecutive start on Sunday. (Curtis Compton/CCompton@ajc.com)

The Falcons have been pointing toward December for awhile.

“One thing that we’ve talked about is that we wanted to play well enough in the beginning of the season to be relevant in December,” McClure said. “Now, we are at that point. Now, we just want to keep playing like we’ve been playing.”

McClure and right guard Harvey Dahl will go up against Tampa Bay rookie defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 draft. He’s been coming on strong lately.

“I think he’s going to be a great player for a long time in this league,” McClure said “He’s got some nice moves. He plays really hard. That whole defense just plays with a lot of energy. It’s going to really be hard for us, going down there to their place. It’s something that I think we’re ready for.”

The Bucs have a major issue at safety. Rookie Corey Grimm suffered an ankle injury last week and is out for the season. His replacement, Sabby Piscetilli played so poorly in relief that he was released.  It looks like special-teamer Corey Lynch will start in

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had two sacks last week against Baltimore. (Associated Press)

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had two sacks last week against Baltimore. (Associated Press)

Grimm’s spot.

“I think they’ll have a game plan to protect whomever they have back there,” McClure said. “This will be, I’m pretty sure, the first start for whoever it is. They’ll have something ready for us. They’ll be pretty jacked up. I read a quote from Ronde (Barber) saying that they’ll be at their best. We wouldn’t expect anything less. A game this important, they’ll be at their best and we’ll be at our best also.”

The Falcons needed a goal-line stand with 2:44 left to pull out the 27-21 victory on Nov. 7 against Tampa Bay. But if Dunta Robinson doesn’t slip and  give up a 58-yard touchdown play to Tampa Bay wide receiver Michael Williams and if the coverage team didn’t allow an 89-yard kickoff return, the Falcons would have routed the Bucs.

The Bucs are saying they lost by a yard.

“You can always say ‘if ‘ and ‘but,’ ” McClure said. “There have been games this year were we could have said the same thing. Football is a game of inches.”

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92 comments Add your comment

Poppa Falcon

December 3rd, 2010
12:38 pm

Falcons about to make the stretch RUN!!!

Money_Launderer

December 3rd, 2010
12:42 pm

Set your DVR and get ready, folks. The Falcons will make their way to DALLAS this February. :)

PMC

December 3rd, 2010
12:50 pm

They need to play defense in this game similarly to the way they played vs Green Bay. Keep EVERYTHING in front. Play solid run D in the middle…and tackle well. Hopefully the Falcons can keep taking care of the football like they have the last several weeks.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

December 3rd, 2010
12:50 pm

What’s up Poppa!!!!

Money_Launderer
: Don’t know why, but I like you’re name.

PMC

December 3rd, 2010
12:50 pm

Special Teams needs to take this one personally because of how poorly it went in the last game.

Falconrich

December 3rd, 2010
1:04 pm

If “Ifs” and “Buts” were candy and nuts, Tampa and New Orleans would be overwhelmed with rats this year. Oh wait, New Orleans already was.

The Joker...

December 3rd, 2010
1:05 pm

As stated, the keys are special teams, pass rush (of course), and no turnovers!!!!!! See all of you in Dallas!!!

Tough NOLLA Guy

December 3rd, 2010
1:11 pm

december is here time for the ‘cons to assume their title as world champs of gagging.

Blackpete387

December 3rd, 2010
1:12 pm

Birds Defense will be fast and furious, Offense will be deliberate and Dangerous. However let us be hopeful our special teams are Special.

Ryder

December 3rd, 2010
1:16 pm

The key for Atlanta to win will be based on their ability to stop Tampa from executing the big play. Freeman and Williams still pose a huge threat, and the running of Blount will be sure to create headaches if the Falcons aren’t careful.

This game will be a low scoring affair so the Falcons’ defense must continue to make the big plays on the road like they have all season long.

J-ROD

December 3rd, 2010
1:19 pm

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ATLHOMER, A-BayBay, DeMario, Darrell From Ga, D. Orlando Ledbetter and others. D. Orlando Ledbetter said: Falcons looking for December to remember http://bit.ly/ijNdzH [...]

PMC

December 3rd, 2010
1:21 pm

Dear God, Thank you in advance for the Christmas present that we get on December 27th.

Really Really appreciated.

rebelson

December 3rd, 2010
1:23 pm

if the defense plays like its capable of and the special team holds their own….i think matty ice and boys put this one in the win coluem by halftime

bigslow

December 3rd, 2010
1:31 pm

turner is the only healthy back right now

Really?

December 3rd, 2010
1:36 pm

D-Led, you have to start proof-reading.
CollinGsworth?

Sabby Piscatelli?
Makes you look dumber than all the Saints posters!

mark

December 3rd, 2010
1:41 pm

I think our defense is ready to put together a complete game by shutting down the run and pass. I look for some blitzing early on to force a turn over or two. I am really looking for Spoon to bust out. Dunta is due a pick. Dled any idea on how serious Snelling hamy is, we need him to spell Turner and give us run/pass option on 3rd down.

searge

December 3rd, 2010
1:49 pm

falcons 27 bucs 14 super bowl all the way

JB FALCON

December 3rd, 2010
1:53 pm

It seems to me that spelling is not Really more important than the content. Dled brings the news and is one of the best news lines we have, spelled correctly or not.

Really?

December 3rd, 2010
1:59 pm

JB, it has everything to do with credibility

Open Minded

December 3rd, 2010
2:05 pm

The Bucs are not strong enough just yet…. all is building to the Saints/Falcon MNF… that is where we’ll see where we really are.

Rod444 Falcon

December 3rd, 2010
2:08 pm

Is there really a team out there besides Chicago that has a real shut down D. We should have whupped the Steelers at home in OT, & we spanked Ray Ray & the boys. There is no defense out there that the Falcons should fear other than Chicago, nuff said.

extremus

December 3rd, 2010
2:12 pm

The line heavily favors the Falcons if you go by what all of the analysts are predicting, and that’s exactly why I hope the Falcons don’t read that stuff. The Buccaneers find ways to stay in games (their loss to Baltimore on the road was closer than the Ravens would have liked, I’d guess), and in their house they’ll be motivated and tough to beat. You CANNOT overlook ANY game against ANY team in the NFL, no matter their record; Mike Smith surely realizes this and I hope has the team prepared to do what they have to to win both in this game and all down the stretch. Home field advantage is an ENORMOUS difference-maker in the NFL come playoff time, none moreso than for the Falcons. I sure hope they can hold on and keep it.

GO FALCONS!!!!

MightyQuinn

December 3rd, 2010
2:13 pm

Yep, December begins the Big Push! More No Huddle offense! No equals Mo!

ml

December 3rd, 2010
2:14 pm

it’s very important that the Falcons wake up and don’t come into the Tampa Bay stadium sleep-walking like they have several times before. the Falcons are the better team and should win but that won’t be enough. the Falcons must come out of the locker room awake, alert and ready for a fight for all 4 quarters of this game if they want to win, if they want to be a real playoff team and a team that can make it through any playoff games they need to win games like this, especially a division opponent. it can’t be emphasized enough: BE READY TO PLAY WHEN YOU GET THERE! DON’T SLEEPWALK AGAIN LIKE SEVERAL PREVIOUS GAMES IN TAMPA!

GABird

December 3rd, 2010
2:29 pm

The Bucs is a rivalry game I don’t expect these guys to go out like losers. They will be out to prove they belong, put the gloves on and throw haymakers. If the networks think we are the best in the NFC, who else can they measure themselves against. We need to stay healthy and focused, this will be a street fight and it might get ugly.

PreyDawg

December 3rd, 2010
2:35 pm

No apologies here…I want an absolute BEATDOWN this week. I am SO SICK of hearing from ESPN how Tampa is “one of the best teams…and blahdee blah blah…Well guess what WE ARE the best team.

Time to school these punks and show them who the real champs of the South are. All you Falcon fans…never…ever…ever…ever forget Tampa taunting us in OUR house back when Sapp was playing. Never forget Sapp stepping on Chris Chandler’s head. We OWE the BUCs. Time for them to pay the Piper.

MF

December 3rd, 2010
2:36 pm

The word for Sunday is exploit. Ryan, Turner, White, Gonzalez and crew will completly exploit the Buc’s secondary.

Doc Cheney

December 3rd, 2010
2:38 pm

So good to be back in a rivalry w/ the Bucs without John Gruden across the field outsmarting us on every play. Now that the special teams seems to have their act together, we are solid in all aspects of the game. I expect this Sunday to be the rout the Bucs avoided in ATL. Falcons -11.

PreyDawg

December 3rd, 2010
2:40 pm

Dont let McClure fool you. He is being a good sport here in this article. But I bet my bippy that the Falcons heard Tampa loud and clear when they said, “we only lost by a yard.” This Falcons team is nothing if not competitive. They are too smart to talk about it in the paper, but in the locker room I guarantee you they dont like being dissed by the Bucs. Dont worry about them being ready to play. They will BE ready.

Doc Cheney

December 3rd, 2010
2:41 pm

I’m looking to sell my MNF tix to raise $$ for playoffs. They are face $150 (6th row on the 50). Anybody care to estimate what I might expect to get for the pair?

scott

December 3rd, 2010
2:53 pm

please falcons i,m so excited i could soil my pants..please get home field advantage and falcon fans arrive and get loud and tear the roof off the dome..get loud enough that it sounds like a 757 landing in the middle of the georgiaa dome…RISE UP!!!falcons you can bring together this racialy torn metro area by winning bringing folks together..lets do the doggone thing rise up!!

PreyDawg

December 3rd, 2010
2:54 pm

I paid 60% of face for some similar tickets to the 49er game. I think I got a good deal though. I bet you can do better than that now. I would love to buy them myself but it conflicts with family Christmas plans.

PreyDawg

December 3rd, 2010
2:55 pm

Hey Scott,

We are all together on this one Bro. Not to worry.

inkspot

December 3rd, 2010
2:55 pm

The NFC South is completely up for grabs at this point. The Falcons are 2-0 in the division but still have 4 division games left to play. Everything will be decided in December.

FACTS

December 3rd, 2010
3:00 pm

Atlanta D has 19 sacks
Tampa D has 18 sacks
Matt Ryan has been sacked 17 times
Josh Freeman has been sacked 18 times

This will be a passing feast for both QBs, if nobody on either team can get any pressure on the other QB, its gonna be a long day!

Reality Check

December 3rd, 2010
3:14 pm

What about the Eagles?

Kurt

December 3rd, 2010
3:19 pm

PreyDawg, I like your style. And I couldn’t agree with you more about a beatdown. I do remember Warren Sapp acting stupid and taunting us in our own house. And that arrogant Gruden, who was replaced an even more arrogant, dilusional Raheem Morris. Yes sir, I hope they lay a 40 burger on them “Sucs” Sunday.

Supes

December 3rd, 2010
3:24 pm

What about them? Anyone could have beaten the Houston Texans at home…

JakeDSnake

December 3rd, 2010
3:32 pm

What seems to have gone unnoticed is that the Falcons have guaranteed themselves a winning record for the third year in a row already. We have such high expectations for this team that already clinching a winning record seems unimportant. We want a Super Bowl win. Doesn’t take much to spoil us, does it?

Leeman Bennett

December 3rd, 2010
3:35 pm

Tampa should play very tough as usual. It’s “clean ol’ fashioned hate” pro style. Time for Gartrell Johnson to step up. He needs a breakout game so he can sell all that merchandise on his website. Go Birds!!

Lank

December 3rd, 2010
3:39 pm

If we beat the bucs, we pretty much have the division wrapped up if we take care of business against the panthers and seahawks. the falcons would win a tiebreaker against the saints even if the saints can somehow manage to beat us in the dome.

Reality Check

December 3rd, 2010
3:40 pm

Supes

December 3rd, 2010
3:24 pm
What about them? Anyone could have beaten the Houston Texans at home…

2008 vs Eagles 27-14 (loss)
2009 vs Eagles 34-7 (loss)
2010 vs Eagles 31-17 (loss)

Greg

December 3rd, 2010
3:43 pm

Buccaneers at home this year: beat Cleveland by 3, lost by 25 to Pittsburgh, lost by 25 to New Orleans, beat St Louis by 1, beat Carolina by 15. Two blow out losses and two close wins over very mediocre teams….even the Carolina game was 21-16 going into the 4th quarter.

10-15k empty seats is common at Tampa home games…they are still trying to sell tickets for this game on their website.

doesn't matter

December 3rd, 2010
3:44 pm

Open Minded.. if you play the playoff scenario out.. if the Falcons win out but lose to the Saints and the Saints win out (meaning we are tied) we will win our division and that game won’t matter… and by the way we’ll still get the number 1 seat in the NFC even if we lose to the Saints and everyone else wins out.. just thought you might want to know.

falconfan 24-7

December 3rd, 2010
3:49 pm

Buck the Bucs.Go Birds! I got your back.

FACTS

December 3rd, 2010
3:53 pm

I like about every post on here but how would you call Raheem Morris delusional with that group youngsters at 7-4?

Buckeye

December 3rd, 2010
4:05 pm

Weems – The unsung MVP. Go Falcons!

PreyDawg

December 3rd, 2010
4:30 pm

FACTS he is delusional because he thinks they are better than us. They are good. Not better than the Falcons.

KURT- hope we both get to sit in the Dome and watch our first ever NFC championship. Would love to buy you a soda after Smitty hoists that trophy in our house!!

Head-Mo-Fo

December 3rd, 2010
4:33 pm

Special Teams!!!

RISE UP!!!