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

Mike Franklin

October 2nd, 2012
4:56 pm

Play to win every game like you were four games behind…

Rise up and fly high!

just a troll

October 2nd, 2012
4:58 pm

them trolls ate my winkie.

Sheffield

October 2nd, 2012
5:06 pm

Well…When we were 13-3 We were overrated. We got lucky a lot that year. This year we are “Beating” Actually Beating them. All yall in trouble!

LOL at The Aints

October 2nd, 2012
5:10 pm

LOL at the Kia Dome,, I like it!

Sheffield

October 2nd, 2012
5:10 pm

Dont you fans of other teams have your own newspaper blog? Go cheer for you team and stop hating on mine!

LOL at The Aints

October 2nd, 2012
5:22 pm

Hey Joe Tess, whatever happened to Camaro Bob,

Lesa

October 2nd, 2012
6:01 pm

What happened to “Matt ‘Choke’ Ryan” and his rants about #2’s “noodle arm”?? Actually, why am I asking? I certainly don’t miss him. So glad Ryan is doing so much to discredit his many haters this season. GO FALCONS!!!!!!!

Samuel L. Jackson

October 2nd, 2012
6:10 pm

The path of the righteous fan is beset on all sides by the tyranny of negative bloggers. Blessed is he who shepherds the weak through the valley of darkeness, for he is truly his ticket holder’s keeper, and the winner of lost games. And I will strike down with great vengence and furious anger those who seek to poison and destroy my brothers, and you will know my name is The Burner when I lay my big thighs upon you! What do Falcons do? RISE UP!!!

[...] Smith breaks the season up into four quarters, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This helps keep his players focused on short-term goals and keeps them from getting "too far ahead [...]

[...] Smith breaks the season up into four quarters, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This helps keep his players focused on short-term goals and keeps them from getting “too far [...]

[...] abounds here at The Falcoholic. At this point, the Falcons have a three game lead o more… Falcons jump out to commanding NFC South lead – blogs.ajc.com 10/02/2012 Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham helps knock the ball [...]

fishnboy

October 2nd, 2012
10:01 pm

Nice Post Jealous–OWEN FOUR–Very Cool!!!!

Fats

October 2nd, 2012
10:05 pm

Ryan showed some real guts throwing the bomb from his endzone to his great reciever. Carolina had to know Ryan and compa;y were playing like they meant business and they did

Just Sayin

October 2nd, 2012
10:34 pm

Schedule makers must have owed Art Blank a big favor. Neither of the 5 teams had a winning record.

Just sayin….

Just Sayin

October 2nd, 2012
10:42 pm

(34-46) is the combined record of the 1st 5 teams this season.

Just Sayin

October 2nd, 2012
10:44 pm

That was the 5 teams 2011 records.

Ackshun

October 3rd, 2012
9:03 am

Damn Chargers in the Super Dome on Sunday….. welcome to 0-5.

BTW-Not hearing to many calls to get rid of Michael Turner on the boards this week. Told ya he could run!

Ackshun

October 3rd, 2012
9:09 am

@Just Sayin – Chiefs were favored to win their division. The Broncos were in the playoffs last year and added Peyton Manning. The Chargers lead their division and were beaten soundly at home.

Bottomline: The Falcons torched good teams at home. And any of these teams would and some already have beat the Saints. So you are pretty much full of it.

Stumpknocker

October 3rd, 2012
3:08 pm

@FailCants who is really Seen That B4/ Tired of that tattered old paper bag? I’ll offer you a nice new plastic one, heavy duty w/a draw string so it seals air tight.

ken

October 3rd, 2012
8:34 pm

Maybe we should let the ‘Aints go back to Cheating (bounty) again so they can at least give us a game..Curtis Lofton What was you saying again about playing for the AINTS LOL. As A Falcons fan I loving this 4-0 and the Cherry on top Aints 0-4.. Break out those BAGS Aints fans!! :)