FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --- Tony Gonzalez lets his mind drift at times. He sees himself standing on the field at the end of the Super Bowl, the confetti dropping all around, a championship finally his.
Then he snaps back into the moment.
"We're a long way from that right now," said Gonzalez, the Atlanta Falcons' tight end and surefire Hall of Famer. "I don't want to get caught up in that. I've got to get there first. We've got to get there. We've got a lot of work to do."
Gonzalez already had put together a 14-year career that's the envy of the Falcons' locker room. He's the first tight end in NFL history to reach 1,000 catches. He's just the 17th player to cross 12,000 yards receiving.
But there's one big thing missing: a playoff win. He made the playoff three times in his 14 years with Kansas City, but the Chiefs lost them all.
This might be his best chance yet to rectify that omission. The Falcons (7-2) are leading the NFC and looking more and more like not just a playoff contender, but a Super Bowl candidate.
At times, Gonzalez sounds downright giddy.
"I'm like a little kid and it's getting close to Christmas," he said. "Hey, we've got a good thing here. But we can't look ahead."
While Atlanta has successfully navigated what appears to be the most difficult part of its schedule, Sunday's contest against the St. Louis Rams begins a stretch of four road games in five weeks.
Not surprisingly, Gonzalez is taking nothing for granted.
"People are calling me up saying, 'Y'all should get this win and then start getting ready for Green Bay next,'" he said. "I'm like, 'Nah, it's not like that.' We need to improve. Each game is an opportunity to see how good we can be and keep improving, to get where we want to go."