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The Falcons are 3-0, and despite winning five of their last six against Carolina, are focused making sure they start NFC South play 1-0.
The Falcons are looking good at 3-0, but all three wins have come against the AFC West, a bit of a scheduling hiccup in the rotation and distribution of teams. Now the Falcons will open NFC play within their division on Sunday against a Carolina Panthers team that was blown out by the New York Giants last Thursday night, but upset the New Orleans Saints the week prior.
When asked about Carolina's fast start in games (short of the Giants loss, Carolina has built leads early), Falcons head coach Mike Smith acknowledged the importance of not having to fight back against Cam Newton:
"When we played over there in Charlotte, it was a very tough first half for us. If I’m not mistaken we were down 17 points in that ball game, and we had to come back in the second half. I think it shows a resiliency and its part of being a mature football team. You’re never out of it, and I think if you watched the games all weekend long this past weekend, I think you’ll see many examples of that. Every week in this League you’ve got to be prepared to play because if you’re not prepared to play then you’re going to get your tail kicked."
Newton will be the first mobile quarterback new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has schemed against so far this season. The previous three signal-callers – Matt Cassel, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers – were by-the-numbers pocket passers. Smith talked about changing schemes and account for Newton's dual threat ability:
"It’s a different type of quarterback that we’re facing this week. We have to account for him as a runner in the offense. He’s not the guy that’s going to distribute the ball. He’s going to be a guy that you have to account for. In the zone read scheme, the quarterback can be a ball carrier so we’re having to account for him. It’s a different type of offense than we’ve faced in the first three weeks. There is no doubt about that."