The Union Recorder

Local Sports

January 4, 2013

Falcons use bye week to work on themselves

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Everyone wants to know if the Atlanta Falcons can finally win a playoff game under coach Mike Smith.

The Falcons whiffed on their first three tries, but now they're back as the NFC's No. 1 seed with a 13-3 record for the second time in three years.

Any reason to think this time will be different?

"It's a more determined attitude," running back Michael Turner said. "We know nothing is promised, nothing is guaranteed."

The Falcons learned as much the last two years, getting blown out at home by Green Bay and failing to score an offensive point in an ugly road loss to the New York Giants.

Those embarrassments, as well as the playoff defeat at Arizona four years ago, gave the Falcons a reputation as underachievers.

"We've got a zero in the win column in the postseason and until we get that rectified, they have some right in saying what they're saying," free safety Thomas DeCoud said. "But I think if we come out and play hard and play sound, I think we'll get that first playoff win."

Smith, now in his fifth season, made several changes to the approach he used when Atlanta earned a bye in 2010, deciding this time to schedule a 75-minute session on the field each day and lessen time in the film room.

Because the Falcons won't know their opponent until Sunday, Smith wanted his players to concentrate solely on improving their craft.

For offensive players, the focus was to improve the timing of pass routes, blocking in the run game and the protection of quarterback Matt Ryan.

Defensive players worked on refining their techniques after last week's loss to Tampa Bay in the season finale. Buccaneers running back Doug Martin broke off three gains totaling 83 yards as the Falcons failed to get off blocks and took improper pursuit angles to the ball.

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