FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Thursday was an ugly, rainy day at Atlanta’s practice facility – a perfect setting for the Falcons to be reminded they can make sure they don’t play another game outdoors this season.
That’s added motivation to avoid a letdown in Saturday night’s game at Detroit’s Ford Field.
The Falcons (12-2) can secure home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs by beating the Lions. They play their final regular-season game against Tampa Bay next week in the Georgia Dome. The Super Bowl in New Orleans also will be played in a dome.
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon had a big smile taking about how a win at Detroit would mean there would be no chance of a January game in Seattle’s rain or Green Bay’s snow.
“That’s awesome,” Weatherspoon said. “We have a lot to play for. It should be fun.”
The Falcons have painful memories of their last road game, a Dec. 9 loss at Carolina that followed a home win over the Saints.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez said players must respond better to last week’s impressive 34-0 win over the Giants.
“Our focus going into that game was the best it’s been all year,” Gonzalez said. “We have to have that type of effort week in and week out for the rest of the season. That’s what good teams do in December, it’s what they do in the playoffs, and ultimately Super Bowl championship teams. They have great focus throughout the week because that’s what helps you win the game.”
This week’s schedule left little time to savor the shutout of New York. Because they play on Saturday night, the Falcons started their practice schedule on Tuesday, their normal off day. Thursday’s one-hour practice at the team’s indoor facility was like the normal Friday workout.
“We’ve had times like this before,” receiver Harry Douglas said Thursday. “We’ve had a Thursday night game and a Monday night game, and we don’t look at it like a distraction. When we had practice on Tuesday, in my mind it was already Wednesday. I got my mind right on Monday.”
Atlanta’s two losses have come on the road – at New Orleans on Nov. 11 and the disappointing 30-20 defeat at Carolina on Dec. 9.
Gonzalez said the loss at Carolina should be a lesson as the Falcons prepare to play a 4-10 Detroit team that has lost six games in a row.
“You can’t just show up and think you’re going to beat a team,” Gonzalez said. “Maybe we learned that against Carolina. Maybe that loss was something good for us. It’s something that I think we learn from our mistakes and we keep moving forward.”
Weatherspoon said there was no mention of the Carolina game this week.
“No, we didn’t go back that far,” Weatherspoon said. “We just tried to focus on what we did last week in preparation and we want to kind of imitate that this week. If you practice the right way, you should have a pretty good outing.”
The Falcons would clinch home-field advantage just by splitting their final two regular-season games. They’ve resisted any suggestion that this isn’t a must-win game.
“Don’t leave anything to chance,” said running back Michael Turner. “We control our own destiny and we want to leave it in our hands.
“I think we learned our lesson from the Carolina game. We are not taking anything for granted. We’ve still got work to do. We’ve still got things to get better at. We are going to take this like they are going to give us their best shot. We know that. Everybody tends to play better in prime time.”
NOTES: WR Roddy White (right knee) had limited participation in practice after behind held out on Wednesday. SS William Moore (hamstring) has not practiced all week and could miss his third straight game. Reserve DE Cliff Matthews (hamstring) also was held out. DT Jonathan Babineaux (ribs), OT Tyson Clabo (thigh) and CB Christopher Owens (hamstring) had limited participation.