FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons’ travel routine will be challenged this week.
Under fifth-year coach Mike Smith, the Falcons, who play the San Diego Chargers at 4:05 p.m. Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, have posted a 5-0 record on the West Coast.
“We’ve been very fortunate since we’ve been here to go out to the West Coast and come back with the outcome that we were shooting for,” Smith said. “I think a lot of it has to do with how we lay it out to the players when the season starts, what our schedule is going to be and how we are going to approach it.”
Last season, the Falcons defeated Seattle 30-28, and they defeated the Seahawks 34-18 in 2010.
In 2009, they routed San Francisco 45-10, and in 2008 they won at Oakland (24-0) and San Diego (22-16).
The Falcons (2-0), who played this week on “Monday Night Football,” will leave for San Diego (2-0) on Friday and have a walk-through practice there Saturday.
Smith picked up the travel tips when he was an assistant coach under Brian Billick in Baltimore.
“We have a certain approach when we travel to the West Coast,” Smith said. “We will change up our practices during the week a little bit. We’ll try to keep our bodies on an East Coast time, the whole time that we are out there.”
West Coast teams generally are considered to be at a major disadvantage when they travel two times zones to the East. When they are playing 1 p.m. games, their body clocks are at 10 a.m. The same premise applies to East teams traveling at least two time zones to the West.
Some studies have concluded that athletes’ optimum performance time on their body clocks is in the afternoon. In will be early evening on the Falcons’ body clocks in the fourth quarter of the San Diego game.
The Falcons will make the adjustments this week in order to have their body clocks set for the time difference.
“This is a very short week,” Smith said. “We will be changing our practice schedule. Not necessarily the time, but what we are doing and how we are doing it.”
In an attempt to help their injured players recover, the Falcons will not practice in pads Wednesday.
“That was a very physical football game [against Denver] that was way too long and ended way too early in the morning,” Smith said. “Or we got out of there way too early in the morning.”
In addition to making sure they are physically ready, the Falcons are facing a hot San Diego team.
“San Diego is playing very good football,” Smith said. “[Quarterback] Philip Rivers, I think he’s number five in terms of passer rating right now. He’s throwing the ball extremely well. He’s not thrown a whole lot of interceptions. I think he’s only thrown one.”
Rivers is indeed off to a great start. He has completed 48 of 65 passes (73.8 percent) for 515 yards and four touchdowns. He has a passer rating of 110.7.
The Falcons could face Rivers without nickel back Christopher Owens, who’s in the NFL’s concussion program after Monday’s game.
“We feel like with the depth that we have in our secondary, even if guys go down, we feel like the next man can step right in and make plays,” cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “Losing [Brent] Grimes and Chris Owens. … We don’t panic because this group has been together the entire summer. We’ve seen guys make a lot of plays in the secondary. We understand that injuries are a part of this game.”
The Chargers, who have wins over Oakland and Tennessee, have allowed 83 rushing yards in two games. They held Tennessee’s Chris Johnson to 17 on eight carries.
“Their defense is outstanding,” Smith said. “They do a nice job with third-down efficiency. It’s going to be a big challenge for our team.”
Smith started to watch video of the Chargers on Monday, while waiting for the kickoff to the Denver game.
“They are playing with a lot of confidence,” Smith said. “They had a really efficient game last week. It was something where they started very, very fast, and then Tennessee was in catch-up mode.”
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