Atlanta Falcons: One win away from wrapping up home-field advantage





FLOWERY BRANCH — Asante Samuel is the Falcons’ resident expert on the importance of momentum entering the playoffs.

He should know. Samuel is the proud owner of two Super Bowl rings — XXXVIII and XXXIX.

He experienced a seismic momentum roll during his rookie season with the New England Patriots, who took a 12-game winning streak into the playoffs and steamrolled Tennessee, Indianapolis and Carolina on their way to the Vince Lombardi trophy.

One year later, the Patriots had less velocity, entering the postseason with just a two-game winning streak. But they still generated enough momentum to beat Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and become the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

What does Samuel think now?

“I think (Sunday) was the best game that we put together so far,” the cornerback said of the Falcons’ 34-0 thrashing of the New York Giants. “We just want to take this momentum that we’ve got and ride it into the playoffs. That’s how you win it. You take your momentum and you keep it going.”

Since the Giants and the Packers both lost their 14th games in 2010 and 2011 and then stormed to NFL titles, it’s become fashionable to talk about hot teams and winning it all.

The Falcons are outspoken about building on the big win over the Giants with victories over Detroit and Tampa Bay to close out the regular season.

“You need to win big ball games in this league to gain momentum going into the playoffs,” wide receiver Roddy White said.

There are differing theories on how momentum works.

Falcons cornerrback Asante Samuel intercepts Giants quarterback Eli Manning on the opening drive of the game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Falcons cornerrback Asante Samuel intercepts Giants quarterback Eli Manning on the opening drive of the game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

While the Giants and Packers were hot the last two seasons, the 2009 New Orleans Saints went 13-0 and then dropped three in a row before the playoffs started as they rested starters. They were able to recapture their urgency during a playoff run and defeated the Colts for the Super Bowl XLIV title.

“Momentum is very important,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to measure, quantify it and put a number on it. Momentum is kind of like when you use the word passion or when you used the word purpose.

“Sometimes, you can define them, but you can’t quantify them.”

The Falcons have studied the angles. They seek to end a four-game postseason losing streak that dates back seven seasons. On Jan. 15, 2005, they throttled St. Louis 47-17 in the division round at the Georgia Dome before Jim Mora’s team lost the NFC championship game to the Eagles.

Under Smith, the Falcons have been eliminated from the playoffs in their first games after the 2008, 2010 and 2011 seasons.

In 2008, they went into the wild-card round at Arizona with a three-game winning streak.

In 2010, they were the No. 1 seed, went 9-1 to close out the regular season and lost to the Packers in the divisional round.

Last season, they finished the schedule with a 3-1 run and lost to the Giants in the wild-card round.

“It’s important that you are playing efficiently and effectively in December and January,” Smith said. “I think that is what every team is striving for.”

Smith was on the 2000 Baltimore coaching staff when the Ravens won the Super Bowl. The Ravens dropped Game 9 to Pittsburgh 9-6 before winning seven in a row heading into the playoffs.

“That was a unique experience in terms of having really five games where we didn’t score an offensive touchdown and we had to keep the team together,” said Smith of those offensively-challenged Ravens. “We won two of those five games where we didn’t score an offensive touchdown and then we got on a roll.”

The mentality then quickly changes in January.

“When you start talking about tournament games, it’s all about winning that game,” Smith said. “If you don’t win, then you go home. There’s definitely a conclusion.”

The Falcons can extend their momentum in Detroit Saturday, when they can wrap up the home-field advantage for the playoffs with a victory. Smith will then be faced with the notion of sitting his starters for the finale.

“We are playing for a whole lot,” Smith said. “There is still a lot of things that have to be determined in terms of seeding for the playoffs.”

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88 comments Add your comment

Michael M.

December 17th, 2012
9:27 pm

I’ll take the honor of being first, just like the Falcons, D-Led, don’t you think the Lions will be up to upset the Falcons from locking it up SAturday night?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

December 17th, 2012
9:33 pm

No. I don’t. The Lions have lost 6 straight. They Cardinals beat them. They had dropped 9 in a row.

malco

December 17th, 2012
9:38 pm

with home field, the ATL will not lose—book it! ATL to the Super bowl!!!!

Eli_is_Elite

December 17th, 2012
9:49 pm

Home field means nothing. The win means nothing. Falcphonies will not win the SB. They will not even make it. Giants did not show up and had key injuries and dumb coaching. They do this every year since 2007 under Coughlin. Either they will gag and crumble or go on a prolific run now. If they win the next two and get into the post-season, I would be worried if I was a Phonies fan.

DenQ

December 17th, 2012
9:50 pm

Tampa is the game I’m scared of. Despite their problems I think think they’ll give us a hard time… especially if we rest any starters.

Falcon James

December 17th, 2012
9:50 pm

Detroit will come to play, albeit, maybe a little Dirty. But, we get that title as well. A Detroit win only gets them one thing, a better draft pick.

My guess is that the game will be close, but no way do the Falcon lose this one.

DawgNole

December 17th, 2012
9:56 pm

Falcon James
December 17th, 2012
9:50 pm

Detroit will come to play, albeit, maybe a little Dirty. But, we get that title as well. A Detroit win only gets them one thing, a better draft pick.
______________________

How does a WIN get them a BETTER draft pick? Isn’t it the other way around?

Michael M.

December 17th, 2012
10:15 pm

You know, I remember a few early in the Season was laughing at the Atlanta Fans and the Falcons because they had no draft picks or anything after dealing everything for Julio and losing money on Edwards and Grimes but you have to admit one thing about this team…………..if a player goes down, then the next man up is taking it pretty seriously and playing the position for all they have and that is saying a lot about the character behind this group on the Falcons and what they are made of.

I remember before the Season ever started looking at the schedule it looked really tough this year with all the great quarterbacks the Falcons would be facing but now as it draws down to the end of the regular season, this Falcon’s team has made it look really easy or they are dam* good one !

NFC South Champs

December 17th, 2012
11:41 pm

Keep the PEDAL to the METAL !
Gotta be 14-2 or at least 13-3
The damn 49er’s might end up 12-3-1 and Green Bay 12-4

Five in a row will take care of everything.
“““““`

Ha Eli!

December 18th, 2012
12:00 am

Go cry on the boards at the NY Post! You clowns just got it handed to your overrated a$$. I would tell you to dig out your Jets jersey from your mom’s closet, but they just got a beat down also. Shut up.

Fats G

December 18th, 2012
12:14 am

This had to be a statement victory for the Falcons. Nobody has crushed the NY Giants like this in years. Kick mo Axes Boys! :)

Falcon James

December 18th, 2012
1:55 am

My bad……A Detroit Win only gets them a worse pick.

At least you don't live in Jax

December 18th, 2012
2:34 am

I wish the Falcons played another Fla team the last week of the regular season instead of Tampa-Jacksonville. The Falcons could rest the starters AND the reserves and still win. Heck, they could have the equipment staff play and it wouldn’t matter. It’s been a LONG season here in Jacksonville!

Samuel

December 18th, 2012
5:47 am

Let’s not get too far a head of ourselves, beat the Lions secure home field advantage. Then rest the players who are banged up, and get ready for the playoffs. I don’t see any team out there that the Falcons can’t beat, if they bring their A game.

ATLRiseUp

December 18th, 2012
6:35 am

The ATL will blow out detroit and tampa–those teams are terrible. ATL beats Green Bay and SF to win the NFC, then beats houston in the super bowl. This is the year for the ATL!!! Rise up!!! Dirty birds win it all!

Falcons uniforms from 1980s ruled

December 18th, 2012
7:30 am

After this season with the Dogs and Braves I am keeping my emotions in check to not get disappointed. :( Still hoping for the best but just not getting to excited.

Whadda Ya Know?

December 18th, 2012
7:35 am

I want to see the Falcons play the Lions with the same level of intensity and attacking both their offense and defense. I’ve been wanting to see a consistent level of play from the Falcons all season and they have a chance to put to dominant performances together this week. Get that momentum going so we can steam roll our opponents–don’t hold back Smitty. Let em loose.

Pamela

December 18th, 2012
8:06 am

C’mon. You Falcons fans know that the Falcons will not win their first game in the playoffs. 9 out of the 12 games that you actually won this season was with 3 points or less. That is NOT a good win. So what you beat the Giants! Their minds were obviously somewhere else. It doesn’t matter if you play in or out of the GA Dome; your team will lose the very first playoff game. They ALWAYS do. You all had a very easy season this year. Next year you will not.

Buckeye

December 18th, 2012
8:06 am

Go Falcons.

Kick Stafford’s butt.

Tell him to make @kellybhall an honest woman.

SEC!
SEC!

Esquire is in the HOUSE

December 18th, 2012
8:09 am

The Falcons should rest as many of their starters as possible to minimize the risk of injury to them now! Sit them Smitty! They don’t need their starters to beat Detroit!

WE ARE THE MIGHTY, MIGHTY FALCONS!

Labyrinth

December 18th, 2012
8:22 am

Actually, Pamela at 8:06 a.m., the Falcons will be spending the very first playoff game with their feet up, enjoying a nice beverage, and watching two teams with poorer records this season beat each other up for the privilege of playing the Falcons a week later in the GA Dome.

SirReal

December 18th, 2012
8:25 am

Esquire. We gotta play them this week at least friend. 1) so they dont get rusty. We’ve seen what happens when we get in a lull.smh 2) Still havent locked up home field.

We do those things, I would only play starters for a quarter against the Bucs. After that, sit and prep for the journey ahead. :)

Dennis

December 18th, 2012
8:29 am

I sure hope the coaches don’t bring the same flat, conservative offensive plan to the table this year in the playoffs. Crush’em… run score… no mercy. Period.

Decatur Falcon

December 18th, 2012
8:40 am

The truth is that the Detriot Lions don’t believe in running the football. Detriot Lion coach doesn’t know how to coach a talented team or know how to coach when the game is close. If I was the Atlanta Falcons I wouldn’t sleep on this team, Matthew Stafford may have a good game, so that means the Atlanta Falcons have to score points maybe 30 plus points in this game to win. I still think the Detriot Lions have the best front four in the NFL, that being said the Atlanta Falcons need to have a good week of practice and come out of this game heatlhy. GO FALCONS!!!!

Stiff Climp

December 18th, 2012
8:42 am

To the delusional Giants fan who have wandered over here: Sunday’s game was the worst loss by a defending Super Bowl champ in the history of the Super Bowl

GJ

December 18th, 2012
8:46 am

Keep on trucking

shannyeight

December 18th, 2012
9:04 am

all I know is, they can let Moore sit out this game, and bring him back for the finisher at Tampa. All Detroit got is Megatron- the rest of their quality(?) receivers are injured.

Esquire

December 18th, 2012
9:07 am

SirReal

December 18th, 2012
8:25 am

Esquire. We gotta play them this week at least friend. 1) so they dont get rusty. We’ve seen what happens when we get in a lull.smh 2) Still havent locked up home field.

***********************************************************************

SirReal, I have to respectfully disagree. Detroit is a dangerous team with a penchant for dirty and foul play, they have nothing to lose. There will be a heightened risk of injury in this game, you can count on that. Putting our key players like Ryan, Jones, Gonzo on the line this week is foolishness. The Falcons can still beat them with their subs, after all:

WE ARE THE MIGHTY, MIGHTY FALCONS!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

December 18th, 2012
9:08 am

My man Steve Wyche just called Stafford a “Pigskin Donor” on NFLAM this morning.

BronxMike

December 18th, 2012
9:31 am

The giant were just flat and overconfident against atlanta–in the playoffs, NY will bring their A game and pull the upset—bet the house–NY will rule against atl

Really!?!?!

December 18th, 2012
9:33 am

Eli you are either smoking crack or you have some very good weed. The girly-men are the phonies.

Really!?!?!

December 18th, 2012
9:44 am

Pamela. Are you a girly-men fan? Do you realize that when they ask what your record for the season is\was they don’t have a column for how many points you WON by? Also some of those teams that we BEAT your girly-men actually LOST to. Guess by your thinking that makes it a really bad loss.

Really!?!?!

December 18th, 2012
9:53 am

Esquire. I appreciate your enthusiasm but SirReal is right. Even though Detroit has proven to be a bad NFL team they are still an NFL team. Our second team players are second team for a reason. We need this game and the starters need to play to assure a win. Once we have the win in hand then we can think about resting starters.

DR. FALCON

December 18th, 2012
9:53 am

I LOVE MY EX-UGA QB, MATTHEW STAFFORD! BUT, HE IS A TURNOVER WAITING TO HAPPEN! IT IS, WHAT IT IS! HERE WE GO! ON TO MOTOWN, BABY!

Really!?!?!

December 18th, 2012
10:00 am

BronxMike. In my best Jim Mora impersonation…..PLAYOFFS!!! Don’t talk about Playoffs!!! Are you kidding me….

Really!?!?!

December 18th, 2012
10:01 am

Couldn’t resist. LOL

take it from me.

December 18th, 2012
10:11 am

BronxMike———-I saw all the faces on the Giants team,as time was winding down in the 4 quarter,a look of defete i have never seen on their faces before.They know that a new champion will be crowned in 2013,and it won’t be them.it will be refresting without a NY team in the playoffs for a change.but if by chance you sneak in some way,get ready for a another beat down,the bird is the word,and this is the year of the Falcons!

Louisiana Falcon

December 18th, 2012
10:12 am

@BronxMike—This was a playoff for the Giants. As of today the Giants don’t have a spot in the playoffs (thanks to ATL Falcons!!!). If they couldnt get up for that game, the same thing would happen IF they get into the playoffs.

Whadda Ya Know?

December 18th, 2012
10:15 am

Pamela welcome. And who might your team be? You do know that a win is a win whether or not it’s my .5, 1, 2 or 3 points. They all count toward the ultimate goal…getting to the playoffs. I gather by your negative tone of the Falcons that your team will be sitting at home sadly watching the Falcons take the field. It’s ok, there’s always more room for another bandwagon jumper.

aint hater

December 18th, 2012
10:16 am

Pamela,…… you of course don’t know what your talking about. there are only 3 of the 12 wins that were 3 points or less.

BK

December 18th, 2012
10:17 am

ATL-34 LIONS-16 ALT WILL WIN THIS GAME AND WIN IT BIG., AS LONG AS THEY STAY FOCUS ON THIS GAME AND DONT GET CAUGHT UP LOOKING AHEAD..RISE UP ATL!!! JUST WIN AND THE REST WILL BE HISTORY!!!

SawThat1nce

December 18th, 2012
10:37 am

SuperBowl XXXVIII(aka the iddie,bittie,tittie bowl)…….Patriots32 vs Panthers 29, …..That is what you call steam-rolling?
That game was decided with a Pat. field goal with 4 seconds left on the clock.
One of the best SBs ever, but only remembered for Janet Jackson’s BS.

Whadda Ya Know?

December 18th, 2012
10:38 am

BK they won’t be looking ahead now…they’ve already BEAT DOWN the Giants. Their focus will be completely on locking up the #1 seed this week so they can rest up while wild cards fight it out.

SawThat1nce

December 18th, 2012
10:41 am

Pamela’s team is the N. O. Taints, as she is one of the trolls that used to go by different handles, before they realized how crappy their team is.

Whadda Ya Know?

December 18th, 2012
10:44 am

IF dem Giants do happen to make it back and have to play da Falcons, dey gon get box in dey mouts again!!!

SawThat1nce

December 18th, 2012
10:51 am

The Falcons need to go into the game Saturday Night and score 35 to 45 points in the 1st half, so they can pull their key players before the thugs from the TLions injure them.

SawThat1nce

December 18th, 2012
11:06 am

that’s the Thugtroit Lions……….this ajc blog-machine needs a tune-up, some kinda bad.

rhettt

December 18th, 2012
11:30 am

Pamela, here are the final scores of previous Super Bowl Games:
Winning Losing
Super Bowl Score Point difference Team team

XXV 20-19 one (1) NYGiants B Bills

V 16-13 three (3) B Colts D Cowboys

X 21-17 four (4) P Steelers D Cowboys

XIII 35-31 four (4) P Steelers D Cowboys

XLII 27-23 four (4) P Steelers A Cardinals

XVI 26-21 five (5) SF 49ers C Bengals

So, there have been several really close scoring Super Bowl Games. When time expired the team witl the most points were declared the winners. Same for the Falcons this year. And if you to look at history of each Super Boew Contestant you will find each Contestant had a record of winning several close scoring games throuhgout that season.

Also I really don’t think you grief about the closeness of the score, I think you are jealous or just want to be read.

rhettt

December 18th, 2012
11:32 am

oops about the spelling, but feel to check my history.

JONESBORO SLIM

December 18th, 2012
12:04 pm

Coming down to the finish line of the regular season feels real good…to those NY fans who said Sunday’s game didn’t mean that much to the Giants …you’re a %$#@ lie they had to have the win to stay atop the North…so to all you haters find yourself another blog to shed those tears of jealousy on…oh and by the way I’m chauffeuring Thomas and Arthur to New York to the NFL offices to select the teams they want to play next year…LOL