The Falcons have rocketed to 5-0, and only a home game with the Raiders next Sunday stands in their way of entering the bye week at 6-0. Coupled with the struggles of teams like the Panthers, Buccaneers, and Saints, it’s a matter of when Atlanta clinches the NFC South, not if.
Still, true respect for the franchise hinges on the question of if they win in the postseason. And coach Mike Smith understands that.
“We have not played well in the second season,” Smith told PFT by phone after Sunday’s 24-17 win over the Redskins, in reference to the team’s 0-3 postseason mark since 2008. “We’ve got to continue to play well now. We’ll worry about the season season when it comes.”
Playing well now includes playing well on the road. The Falcons are 3-0 in open-air games, with 52 passes thrown Sunday under rainy conditions at FedEx Field.
Was it in the game plan to put it in the air that much? “I just kind of happened that way,” Smith said, pointing out that even with more than half of a hundred throws the Falcons still won the time-of-possession battle.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan did an excellent job of finding the open receiver, given that the Redskins changed the coverages to focus on different players at different times. In the end, less attention was devoted by the Redskins to tight end Tony Gonzalez, who caught 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Sunday’s performance from the future Hall of Famer is the kind of thing that could get the Falcons to try to persuade him to stick around in 2013. Smith pointed out that Gonzalez said before the season that he’s 95 percent certain that 2012 will be Gonzalez’s final year.
“You hope for the five percent,” Smith said, laughing.
The Falcons also were hoping for the five wins they now have before the season started. And they’ve gotten each of them, putting them atop the NFC and, pending Monday night’s game between the Texans and Jets, possibly atop the league.