Finally a victory workweek at Flowery Branch

It had been five straight Monday’s with Falcons head coach Mike Smith answering questions about his team’s most recent loss, until yesterday’s 27-17 road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith now got the chance to answer more positive questions about his team.

The difference in this win for the Falcons is that they did two things that hadn’t been done in the five previous games. They were able to overcome a fourth quarter lead by the Bucs and made some game changing plays to seal the win.

Falcons gave up the go-ahead touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a Josh McCown one yard pass to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The very next series, the Falcons answered back with a five yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White. They then went for two-points and got the conversion thanks to a Harry Douglas catch.

Some plays later in the game is what Mike Smith was really happy to see in the win.

“We all stepped up and we made plays in the fourth quarter of the game,” Smith said. “We had the two turnovers that we big turnovers. The (safety) Dwight Lowery interception was a fantastic individual effort and it was a big play in the ball game.”

The Lowery interception came right after the two minute warning and was initially ruled an incomplete pass. Since it was under two minutes left in the game, referee Clete Blakeman ruled that the video evidence was convincing to show that Lowery got his hands underneath the football and that was a good interception.

The other interception that Mike Smith is referring to is courtesy of safety Kemal Ishmael to pick up the Falcons third turnover of the game and then give quarterback Matt Ryan the chance to just come in a and take a knee to run out the time.

That fourth quarter was very different than some of the final 15 minutes of play we’ve seen from this team so far in 2014. With exception to the season opener against the Saints and first win over Tampa, the final frame of play has been brutal to this team.

Could the bye week have helped? Mike Smith liked the break, but knows that his team was anxious to cure what has hurt them in the second half of games.

“Last week we probably didn’t want to have a bye-week,” Smith said. “We wanted to get back out there, play and compete. We fought through that week as a group and as an organization. We’re very fortunate to come away with a win this past week and finish the game off the way we know we’re capable of finishing.”

Want even more good news? With the Falcons win yesterday and Saints overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta now trails New Orleans by one game for the NFC South division lead. That said, Mike Smith says he’s not stressing that to his players.

“We can’t concern ourselves with what other teams are doing,” Smith said. “We know what we’ve done thus far and it’s not to the standards that we want. We can’t change that. But the thing that we can control, is that we can control being 1-0 this week. I think that is our mantra at this point in time.”

The Falcons will try to beat yet another division opponent on Sunday, when they head to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. Bank of America Stadium has not been a nice place to this Falcons squad, with the Panthers coming out on top in their last two trips up North.

Mike Smith anticipates this will be a tough matchup, calling the games “a dang barn-burner.” If history of the last few seasons repeats itself, that is exactly the type of game we’ll see on Sunday.


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