Falcons' coach looks for answers

New Orleans' Chris Ivory leaped over Atlanta's Brent Grimes on Monday. Coach Mike Smith said the Falcons didn't match the Saints' physicality in the blowout loss.



FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Coach Mike Smith has led the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs in three of his four seasons.

He’s not thinking about that right now.

Smith spent Tuesday trying to find answers for major breakdowns after the Falcons’ blowout loss the night before in New Orleans.

A 45-16 defeat left him determined to fix these problems before the postseason begins in two weeks.

The Falcons (9-6) play host to Tampa Bay (4-11) in the regular-season finale on Sunday and will learn later that day where they will travel to open the playoffs.

But Smith has more immediate concerns after watching his team lose badly to the Saints.

“We did not match their physicality,” Smith said, “and I don’t think we played real smart either.”

Atlanta’s offense, which had scored a combined 72 points in the previous two games, was inconsistent:

• Before the score was lopsided, the Falcons had to settle for field goals on three red zone possessions and went three-and-out both times the defense picked off Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

• Running back Michael Turner finished with 39 yards on 11 carries.

• Rookie receiver Julio Jones lost a fourth-quarter fumble that New Orleans’ Malcolm Jenkins returned for a 30-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach.

The Falcons’ defense was worse:

• New Orleans converted its first nine chances and finished 10 for 13 as Atlanta failed to match the Saints’ frenetic substitution patterns.

• The Falcons were a mess in the red zone, allowing four touchdowns in six opportunities. It seemed appropriate that Brees ended the night by setting the league’s single-season passing record with a 9-yard TD pass on second-and-goal.

But even though a win over New Orleans would’ve given Atlanta the chance to win the NFC South and play host to a playoff game, Atlanta defensive end John Abraham wondered if his team was too confident after beating Jacksonville 41-14.

“I don’t know why we came out a little sluggish, but we did,” Abraham said. “And in the end they got the momentum and held onto it.”


For the 12th time in his career, tight end Tony Gonzalez was selected to the Pro Bowl roster. He was the only Atlanta Falcon selected to this year’s team.

Gonzalez, who has 79 catches for 867 yards and seven touchdowns, will join Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints in Hawaii.

Among the Falcons not selected were receiver Roddy White, running back Michael Turner, linebacker Sean Witherspoon and defensive end John Abraham.

– From wire services



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