With their 45-26 win over the Buccaneers, the Atlanta Falcons have effectively clinched the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, and are set to take on the New York Giants this Sunday at 1 PM.
After getting flattened by the division-rival Saints during week 16 (on Monday Night football, no less), the Falcons wanted to get back on track and build some momentum for the upcoming playoff game. Specifically, they wanted to get back to running the football with Michael Turner he was held to just 39 yards rushing against New Orleans. Head coach Mike Smith on the subject:
"It's something that we knew we were trending down in terms of our yards rushing the football. You’ve got to be able to run the football. That's what we believe. I thought we got it fixed today. I thought our offensive line did a very good job. Michael (Turner) was very aggressive. He was downhill. His shoulders were north and south, and we weren’t running east and west. He was decisive and there were some good blocks downfield by our wide receivers."
It's natural Smitty wants the Falcons to reaffirm their commitment to keep the football on the ground and pound away with Turner. In both of the team's playoff losses under Smith, Turner has amassed only 81 yards rushing. With a Giants run defense that currently ranks 19th in the league on deck, that should be a primary focus for the Falcons.
The defense, while not perfect, also had a much improved day at the office, holding the Buccaneers to only seven points in the first half before several starters were rested. Multiple plays were made to force turnovers, but it did seem like the Falcons took their feet of the gas in the second half, a potential problem going forward. Smith again:
"I thought that across the board we executed offensively. The turnovers were big early, and we ended with four for the game, three picks and a fumble recovery, was important. Some things in the second half we didn’t do as well as we needed to do. There are a few things we've got to concentrate on and try to fix this week."
As for the playoffs, the Falcons have yet to earn a postseason under Mike Smith. But having already been there twice, Smitty seems pretty confident that his guys have the experience and determination to finally attain that coveted playoff success this team hopes for:
"We've got guys in that locker room that have experienced it and experienced playoff football. It's different than regular season football. Again, you learn from your previous experiences and we will try to take advantage of what we've learned the times that we have been there before and use it to our advantage."
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic; for more on the Giants, head over to Big Blue View.