Atlanta's goals have changed in the past few years

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ATLANTA — The guys who play for the Atlanta Fal­cons find it a little hard to believe. Nine wins used to be a big deal for this franchise?

“Really? I never knew that,” said defensive end Ray Edwards, who signed with the Falcons before this season. “I guess times have changed.”

The Falcons (8-5) are on the verge of their fourth consecutive winning season going into tonight’s game against the Jacksonville Jag­uars (4-9). Not long ago, that kind of sustained success would’ve seemed unimaginable.

Remember, this was a team that went through its first four decades without so much as back-to-back winning seasons. Now, anything less than a Su­per Bowl title would be considered a disappointment.

Coach Mike Smith barely acknowledged the chance to wrap up another winning mark in prime time tonight. He’s clearly got bigger goals in his sights.

“I haven’t even thought about that,” the coach said, chuckling. “The significance of this game is we’re continuing to be in the conversation to be a relevant team here in December. We want to have sustainability, and I guess one of the measuring sticks of sustainability – maybe at the low end – is winning seasons. But there’s other things on the high end in terms of how you measure your successes.”

Atlanta came into the season rated as one of the leading Super Bowl contenders but has yet to play with the sort of consistency it showed in 2010.

In a sense, last week’s victory over Carolina epitomized the entire season.

The Panthers raced to a 23-7 halftime lead, but the Falcons were a different team after the break. Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes, the defense came up with two huge interceptions and Atlanta rallied for a 31-23 victory.

“We’ve been trying to do that all season long,” Smith said. “We would like to continue to play with the consistency we played with in the second half of the ballgame in Charlotte. It was obviously much better than the first half. That’s something we’ve been striving for. Unfortunately, we’re still having to have a conversation about it.”

JAGUARS AT FALCONS

8:20 p.m.

NFL Network

RECORDS: Jacksonville 4-9; Atlanta 8-5

SERIES RECORD: Jaguars lead 3-1

LAST MEETING: Jaguars defeated Falcons 13-7,
Sept. 16, 2007

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES: Falcons are one victory away from fourth winning season in a row. Before 2008, Atlanta had never put together back-to-back winning records. … Jacksonville RB Maurice Jones-Drew leads NFL in rushing with 1,222 yards and set franchise record with four touchdowns (two running, two receiving) in last weekend’s rout of Tampa Bay. … Falcons WR Roddy White is 35 yards shy of fifth consecutive season with 1,000 yards receiving.

– Associated Press


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