Falcons jump out to commanding NFC South lead

Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham helps knock the ball loose as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton fumbles in the final minutes of the game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. The Panthers recovered the fumble but punted it away on fourth down allowing the Falcons to drive for the game winning field goal. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham helps knock the ball loose as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton fumbles in the final minutes of the game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. The Panthers recovered the fumble but punted it away on fourth down allowing the Falcons to drive for the game winning field goal. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons coach Mike Smith stole a page out his brother-in-law’s coaching book back from his days as an assistant in Baltimore.

Smith, in a ploy to keep his team focused on short-term goals, breaks the season up in to quarters when discussing the outlook with the players, who had Monday and Tuesday off.

He admits to borrowing the approach from Brian Billick (the two are married to sisters), his old boss with the Ravens.

“Guys are going to look ahead. It’s just human nature to look ahead, but you want to have it where they don’t get too far ahead of themselves,” Smith said. “By breaking it up by quarters gives you emphasis points.”

VIDEO: Cam Newton blames himself for loss to the Falcons

The Falcons (4-0) went undefeated in the first quarter and are one of three undefeated teams remaining in the league with Houston and Arizona.

“We’ve started out fast, but it’s just a start,” Smith said. “The guys have worked hard. When we meet on Wednesday, the thing we’ll be talking about is the start of the second quarter of the season. The first quarter is behind us and we are moving on to the next mission.”

So far, so good. The Falcons have a four-game lead over the defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints (0-4) and a three-game lead over Tampa Bay (1-3) and Carolina (1-3).

“I’m aware it, but I don’t pay attention to it,” Smith said. “This early in the season, you’ve got to concern yourself with your team. You don’t even think about what’s going on with the other teams until you’re getting ready to play them. So I’m familiar with what Washington did yesterday [a two-point win over Tampa Bay].”

VIDEO: Matt Ryan discusses comeback win over Panthers

The Falcons have opened the season 4-0 just twice before in franchise history, in 2004 and 1986. The Falcons have never opened a NFL season at 5-0 since opening play in 1966.

Before the start of the first quarter, the Falcons concentrated on the fact that they were facing three AFC West teams before closing it out with division foe Carolina.

Looking ahead to the second quarter, the Falcons will begin their tour of the NFC East (Washington on Sunday, at Philadelphia on Oct. 28 and Dallas on Nov. 4) and also play their last AFC West (Oakland on Oct. 14) team before getting into the meat of their division schedule in the second half of the season.

“You’ve got to have focus on the task at hand first and foremost,” Smith said. “That’s the next game, but it’s always important for you to have some vision down the road. I don’t want you to get too far down the road, but I think you can put an emphasis on it.”

VIDEO: Breaking down the 30-28 win over the Panthers

The Falcons have some fabulous take-aways from the first quarter.

Both of the new coordinators have installed massive tweaks to schemes that are working.

Offensively, the team has been able to attack via the air while spreading the ball around. Also, the screen game has paid dividends under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

The pass protection had been stout until the Panthers romped around the Georgia Dome, amassing seven sacks and 12 quarterback hits on Sunday.

But Smith is not placing all of the blame on the offensive line.

Smith and wide receiver Roddy White pointed out that receivers were not breaking off routes in some blitz situations and that forced quarterback Matt Ryan to hold the ball longer than the play required. Also, Carolina appeared to sit on some of Ryan’s favorite routes.

“There are a lot of factors that go into protecting the quarterback,” Smith said. “We gave up way too many sacks in the game, but they weren’t all on the offensive line. I can assure you that. It was an effort that everybody was a part of. … We’ve got to shore up our pass protection.”

The Falcons have run the football better the last two games (240 yards in 45 attempts) after struggling against Kansas City and Denver.

“It was an impressive job with the run-blocking,” said Smith of the Carolina game. “The guys did a nice job. We got Michael [Turner] going north and south. He did a great job on yards after contact.”

Defensively, the Falcons have played an opportunistic brand of football that has led to an 12-to-2 turnover ratio.

The unit 29th against the run (146.2 yards per game), ninth against the pass (206.8 yards) and it has forced the opposing quarterbacks into a passer rating of 68.7, which is fifth lowest in the NFL.

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120 comments Add your comment

Michael M.

October 2nd, 2012
11:28 am

Who is braggin……………..it is simply the facts as they are……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Michael M.

October 2nd, 2012
11:31 am

Time to go …………..got a troll playing with names……………………………just a Loser !…………………………………………

Name

October 2nd, 2012
11:43 am

Use your own name coward !

AAA

October 2nd, 2012
11:44 am

Thats right stupid, you don’t know who I am, two can play this game….you must be a saints loser

BBB

October 2nd, 2012
11:45 am

Guest is an Idiot !!!

Just Wing It

October 2nd, 2012
11:46 am

sometimes he be right on the stink water nation boys everbody knows them idiots in the swamp waters cant win a game even when their backs are up against the wall.Shame on them bozos that have no life and try to mess up good things cause they have a loser for a football team
tell me what happen with them Packers bozos

CCC

October 2nd, 2012
11:47 am

HAHAHAHA, go ahead and try pull to your name chaging crap with me lol

REAMing aints

October 2nd, 2012
11:47 am

The Aints are historically the most losing franchise in NFL history. Look it up. Aints are satisfied with a subpar bowl ring they got by cheating like Tonya Harding to get it. Who’s the loser now? You can see this is going to be their only comment the rest of the year. True loser talk. Can’t face the here and now, sitting in their trailer homes, smelling festering cabbage from the sewers and trash left on the street downtown. So they point to three years ago for crying out loud. They are NOT champions today. They are 0-4 losers. What else can they say? They’re used to coming up with sad rationales for the last forty three years. Get your bags out. It’s going to be a LONG season. Aints are terrible.

DDD

October 2nd, 2012
11:49 am

Theres no saints trolls here because History channel strated taping a new season of Swamp People !!

ACT5

October 2nd, 2012
11:54 am

Hmmmm, kinda sounds lik a banished JSS…………

Just Wing It

October 2nd, 2012
11:55 am

Saints are losers with sea hag fans wearing sacks cause they ugly n afraid to be seen in the public and deserve everything they get this year LOOSING GAME AFTER GAME

ACT7

October 2nd, 2012
11:59 am

JSS, your’re easy to spot, stupid. Your hatered of the South and feminine ways give you away. So, you got kicked off huh ???? lol

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Same Stuff

October 2nd, 2012
12:06 pm

Come on out JSS !! lol you know my purposely miss spelled words are getting to you!!!

Michael M.

October 2nd, 2012
12:06 pm

It is sad when you have pissed off Caint Troll Fans spewing out garbage cause they have a pitiful garbage Team that cheated to win and after being caught at it seem to can’t find a way to even win one single game………………………………..but you know what ? …………you may resort to the trash you really are but that wont help your Team win………………you gonna be 0 – 5 after this weekend and all I can do is laugh at ya…………………………………..hehehehe…………………and I am outta here !

Banned

October 2nd, 2012
12:09 pm

All this bad spelling and grammer…..and nobody to correct it…. :(

ACT2

October 2nd, 2012
12:12 pm

HAHAHAHA, you idiot !!!! Same Stuff is a name I just made up …you buffoon !!

Chuck

October 2nd, 2012
12:14 pm

And they will STILL poop the bed come January. And then you will all be back in here crying for a new coach, new gm, new qb, new everything. Yawn…

HAHAHA

October 2nd, 2012
12:15 pm

You can’t even be an imposter correctly !!! hahahahahaha

JOKE

October 2nd, 2012
12:17 pm

oooooooohhhh….that threw us off !!!!!

just a troll

October 2nd, 2012
12:17 pm

Laughable

October 2nd, 2012
12:19 pm

I find it fuuny how you’re posting under the names I’m just pulling out of the air…HAHAHAH….like Roddy and that 60 yard bomb !!!!

just a troll

October 2nd, 2012
12:20 pm

Mommy let me have a name too

What fun

October 2nd, 2012
12:22 pm

Well thanks for the great laughs, dumb imposter !!!!! and you are truly dumb !!

just a troll

October 2nd, 2012
12:24 pm

Beat it trolls

LOL at The Aints

October 2nd, 2012
12:26 pm

11:53 Post = JSS, or a very good imitation,, bashing the south,, talking about the Flintstones

just a troll

October 2nd, 2012
12:28 pm

no telling which one of those trolls are gay

WHO CARES

October 2nd, 2012
12:35 pm

The AINT’S will stay the AINT’S, DON’T feel sorry for those NO GOOD NASTY LOSER’S. EAT YOUR HEART OUT SEAN PEYTON.

just a troll

October 2nd, 2012
12:41 pm

Samuel

October 2nd, 2012
1:00 pm

If that defense keeps taking the ball away, they’ll be called – thieves of the league. Go Birds!

just a troll

October 2nd, 2012
1:08 pm

They talking about how bad the saints are playing on 790 the zone

Flacons R idiots

October 2nd, 2012
1:26 pm

There 4 – 0 now but just wait until tehy have 2 start playing reel teams. They can still finnish 4 – 12

Flacons R idiots

October 2nd, 2012
1:50 pm

My names be Joe Tess Fish House, I’m the only “true” idiot on here….
Wow! Did I just make a complete sentence?????

Esquire

October 2nd, 2012
1:53 pm

Man, are there any Hee Haw reruns? Funny show!!

RISE UP YOU MIGHTY FALCONS!!

MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS!!!

FalCANs Rock!

October 2nd, 2012
1:57 pm

Yeah! Haters are gonna Hate! 4-0 Baby! Make some room for this year’s NFC South trophy!

Yorker

October 2nd, 2012
2:13 pm

The Birds look great and the Saints are lost/losers and my Jets well ? Credit were credit is due.

old man

October 2nd, 2012
2:16 pm

Two interesting stats: Falcons have the fewest penalties in the NFL. The Redskins are tied for the most.

On defense, you attack RGIII either with numbers (using a lot of all out blitz, rushing 5 or 6) or with finesse (rush 3, plus one LB or DB, drop a DE into coverage, have a another DB spy RGIII, etc., etc.).

Which will be the most effective? RGIII scares me.

old man

October 2nd, 2012
2:21 pm

RGIII leads the league in fumbles, with 5. Interesting. How will Nolan plug that into his game plan?

old man

October 2nd, 2012
2:25 pm

Redskins are 10th against the rush, 31st against the pass. If Washington is focused on Turner’s career performance from last week, does that open up a lot of play action? I wonder if Ryan will have a big day. After 3 or 4 TD passes, we can cross them up with Turner. I say we should open up with the air game.

Ken

October 2nd, 2012
2:33 pm

FALCONS will continue to RISE UP!!! In spite of the inability to stop the run, now this issue can be corrected as the FALCONS continue to RISE UP!! Time to get the second quarter of the season started on the right track!!

P B Orr

October 2nd, 2012
2:34 pm

The 1986 team did not even finish over .500. It’s a very long season still.

old man

October 2nd, 2012
2:36 pm

Washington leads the league in rushing yards per game. If we are blitzing 5 or 6 to disrupt RGIII, will we get burned by their ground game? Instead, I’m thinking we should confuse, contain, and spy RGIII. This would make it easier to react to running plays, and maybe we want him to have just enough time to make some ill-advised throws.

I noted earlier we were number two in the league on third down conversions. Washington is dead last.

Falcons’ defense is #8 against the pass, #29 against the run. So these two teams are mirror images. Falcons’ defense is strong pass/weak run against a team that is weak pass/strong run. Washington’s defense is weak pass/strong run versus our strong pass/weak run team. Overall, they are the 3rd and 4th best offenses in the league. On paper, it should be high scoring. So of course that means it will be something like 12-10.

Go Falcons!!!

P B Orr

October 2nd, 2012
2:37 pm

Griffin is fast once he gets going and an accurate passer but he’s slow to start and has a slow release. He piled up big numbers in college because being a slow starter is no issue when playing college boys. Thus the Falcons need to keep up a fast pace, show confusing defenses, show the safety blitz but bring the linebackers. Let the safeties then plug the run holes. Hats, hats, hats on the ball.

ijonathan

October 2nd, 2012
2:54 pm

I think a lot of disguised pressure packages (like delayed LB or safety blitzes, dropping Bierman into coverage, etc.) will work against RGIII.

GATiger

October 2nd, 2012
2:59 pm

Just imagine this. The Falcons and Texans, teams from two cities New Orleanians consider as being on par with N.O. (they’re dreaming here, of course) end up in the Super Bowl in, of all places, New Orleans. Wouldn’t that gall some Saints fans?

D man

October 2nd, 2012
3:04 pm

I thought the Falcons were 5&0 to start the 86 year? Oh well, it would be nice to win this week to set another franchise record under Smith…

old man

October 2nd, 2012
3:14 pm

I think delayed blitzes also allow one or two defenders an extra second to adjust to the run. And I like the spy idea, because even the spy is covering a zone somewhere, and I want somebody with real speed to contain RGIII, to beat him to the edge if he is diving for a first down marker.

old man

October 2nd, 2012
3:16 pm

Who is the ideal Falcon to spy RGIII?

LOL at The Aints

October 2nd, 2012
4:07 pm

1985 I think we went 4 and 12, but we did beat the Aints twice,,LOL!

ctfalconsfan

October 2nd, 2012
4:25 pm

I’m going to New Orleans for the FALCONS aints game and the tix prices continue to fall.
I’m not sure weather to buy now or wait until after SD beats them???

- Mercedes will need to take their great name off this loser stadium.. maybe the Kia Dome..