Undefeated Falcons try to remain focused

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Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has led his team to a 3-0 start. The Falcons have an early two-game lead in the division.  DENIS POROY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
DENIS POROY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has led his team to a 3-0 start. The Falcons have an early two-game lead in the division.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Coach Mike Smith is trying to level expectations for the Atlanta Falcons.

If they keep winning, the Falcons will energize their fan base and draw more national attention, but Smith cautions that division titles aren’t won in September.

“I think we have a good foundation in place the first three weeks, but that’s just the first three weeks,” Smith said. “We’ve got to be ready to handle adversity when adversity comes. We’ve got to be resilient, and I think we’ve shown that in the past three ball games.”

A 27-3 victory at San Diego gave the Falcons a two-game lead over Carolina and Tampa Bay in the NFC South. Though Smith knows that the leadership of quarterback Matt Ryan and the arrival of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan have made the Falcons heavy favorites to win the division, Smith doesn’t buy that Atlanta has maximized its potential.

The Falcons still have concerns to address even though Ryan leads the NFL in touchdowns, completion percentage, first downs and passer rating and Nolan’s defense ranks first with 11 takeaways and fifth in scoring.

“On the negative side, you’ve got to learn from your experiences,” Smith said. “We didn’t convert (the first) extra point. We need to make sure we do that. We gave up the 52-yard run in the fourth quarter ... Then we didn’t cap it off there in the secondary.”

Atlanta (3-0) will face a different challenge from the past three weeks when it plays host to Carolina (1-2) on Sunday.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton can hurt opponents passing and running the ball, but given how well the Falcons’ defense is creating turnovers, it’s easy to think that Nolan will have a sound scheme in place.

“Even though we had only one sack yesterday, we had three or four times when we had free runners,” Smith said. “The quarterback was able to get out and was under duress and threw the ball away. It’s a combination of what happens up front and in the secondary.”

• Atlanta police arrested Falcons defensive end John Abraham on Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

John Chafee, of the Atlanta Police Department’s Public Affairs Unit, said police were responding to a call about a woman threatening to jump from one of the buildings at Atlantic Station when Abraham refused to exit the scene. Chafee said police charged Abraham with obstruction of police and obstruction of fire fighters.

Chafee said the charges are misdemeanors and Abraham was booked at the Fulton County Jail.

He is the second Falcon to be arrested in the past week. Running back Michael Turner was arrested on a DUI charge last Tuesday.


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