CHARLOTTE — The Falcons were trying to move on from their 30-20 loss to Carolina as quickly as possible.
They face the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
The Giants knocked the Falcons out of the playoffs in the wild-card round last season.
“We have to come out against a real tough football team in the Giants and get this thing rolling,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “It’s only three games left to try to go out there and hit our stride. We can and we will.”
The Falcons stormed out of the gates this season. They were 8-0 before dropping their first game to New Orleans on Nov. 11. They then won three more games before facing the Panthers.
The Falcons know that good teams play well in December and January. In the December standings, they are 0-1.
“That’s something that Smitty always talks about; you want to play your best football in December,” center Todd McClure said of head coach Mike Smith. “Nobody remembers how you played in September and October. It’s how you play in December and January that people remember.”
The Falcons can even up their December mark with a win over the Giants, who beat them 24-2 at MetLife Stadium on their way to the Super Bowl title last season.
“It’s the next one on the schedule,” McClure said. “The last time we played them, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted. They are coming into our place.”
Ryan stopped: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had won six straight games against the Panthers before Sunday.
In the previous four meetings, Ryan had a passer rating of 100 or more.
He completed 34 of 49 passes for 342 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on Sunday. He finished with a passer rating of 94.1.
Hope starts: Chris Hope started at strong safety for William Moore (hamstring). Moore finished the game against New Orleans, but showed up on the injury report last Wednesday. The severity of his hamstring injury is unknown.
Hope, from nearby Rock Hill, S.C., made his first start with the Falcons. After playing for Pittsburgh and Tennessee, the former Pro Bowler and 10-year veteran was signed by the Falcons in June.
“It was a good opportunity, but it didn’t end the way I wanted it to end,” said Hope, who finished with two tackles.
Moore was declared inactive along with quarterback Dominique Davis, wide receiver Tim Toone, guard Phillipkeith Manley, guard Harland Gunn, defensive end Lawrence Sidbury and defensive tackle Travian Robertson.
Cornerback Asante Samuel, running back Michael Turner and defensive tackle Peria Jerry were active after being listed as questionable for the game. Samuel did not play.
Turner milestone: Michael Turner was held to 14 yards rushing on seven carries. He now has 5,970 rushing since joining the Falcons.
He trials Gerald Riggs (6,631), William Andrews (5,986) and Warrick Dunn (5,981) on the team’s all-time rushing list.
Etc.: The Falcons wore a patch on their jerseys commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame… Right tackle Tyson Clabo, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, defensive end Kroy Biermann, wide receiver Julio Jones and cornerback Robert McClain were the captains… .Defense tackle Jonathan Babineaux left the game with under 8 minutes to play in the second quarter after taking a helmet shot to his left arm. It was announced as a rib injury. He returned to the game.
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