By MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
FLOWERY BRANCH — Could it be that the Falcons somehow became a bit too self-satisfied before falling flat at Carolina last Sunday?
It might seem implausible that the Falcons would relax when they still have much room for improvement and so much is at stake. But the circumstances suggest it’s possible.
“You would like to not have that happen to you where you get complacent, but it’s human nature sometimes,” Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “You have to fight through that.”
The Falcons shouldn’t have a problem getting charged up to face the Giants on Sunday but perhaps they did let down for the Panthers. Follow the time line:
The Falcons beat the Saints on Nov. 29 to avenge a defeat to their most hated rivals earlier in the season. The Falcons next wrapped up the South title when the Buccaneers lost the following Sunday. And 10 days passed between the Saints game and the game at Carolina, the last-place team in the NFC South.
Atlanta misfired from the start on the way to its worst performance of the season and a 30-20 defeat.
“Having a loss like that, it’s a new focus for us,”Gonzalez said. “ We have to — we will — come out and play a lot better than we did, especially that first half. I hate to call it a wake-up call because you shouldn’t need that, especially the kind of team we think we are. I don’t know, maybe it was.
“But we have to use that as motivation to say we’ve got something special here and we’ve got to go out and prove it this week.”
Falcons running back Michael Turner, for one, doesn’t buy the explanation that the long break between the Saints and Panthers games was a factor. He said it was a tougher to prepare to play the Saints on a Thursday just four days after playing at Tampa Bay.
“I think everybody went into that [Panthers] game feeling fresh,” he said. “It was like a bye week. We handled the first bye week fine.”
The Falcons won 30-17 at Philadelphia following their bye week.
Panthers hold on to defeat Falcons 30-20
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