The Atlanta Falcons have risen up to a franchise best 6-0 start after Sunday’s 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders, leaving them as the only undefeated team in the NFL.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has been the key to this power surge by the Falcons. Over the first six weeks Ryan has thrown for 1,756 yards, 14 touchdowns with six interceptions.
Not only has the offense been stellar, which was expected with so many weapons, but the defense has made big plays to keep the team undefeated. Cornerback Asante Samuel came up with a huge interception late in the fourth quarter and returned it for a touchdown. And defensive lineman John Abraham forced a fumble on a sack of Carson Palmer and provided pressure much of the day.
Even though the Falcons’ record is flawless, head coach Mike Smith knows this is no time to get complacent.
“They’ll watch the tape and they’ll realize that we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Smith said. “I can assure you that. They don’t need to have myself or any of the coaches in there watching it. They’re off during the bye week, but they will be in there watching tape. That’s the way we do things. That’s a great locker room and they realize that we haven’t played the best football that we’re capable of playing.”
Indeed, they have needed late fourth quarter drives to beat the Panthers, Redskins and Raiders. But the fact is, Ryan accomplished the goal.
“We need to strive to play our best,” Ryan said. “I don’t think we’ve done that the last couple weeks. It’s going to be critical for us to use this week to find ways to improve.”
“I think we can improve so much,” cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “We’re not where we want to be as a defense. We want to be perfect.”
The bye week allows linebacker Stephen Nicholas to get healthy after aggravating an ankle injury. The Falcons may also get back defensive tackle Corey Peters, who has been on the physically unable to perform list. That will help a defense that allowed 149 rushing yards on Sunday.
With the Falcons being the only undefeated team left in the NFL they know the challenges will be significant.
“The thing now is we know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Robinson said. “We’ve got to take our game to another level.”
After the off week, the Falcons go to Philadelphia to take on old friend Michael Vick and the Eagles.