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The Falcons may be coming off one of their most rewarding wins of the 2012 season, but with a Thursday night contest on the horizon, they won't have much time to relish the victory. As Atlanta returns team headquarters the focus shifts towards the New Orleans Saints, who will visit the Georgia Dome in two short days.
The Saints fell to the 49ers last week in a hard-fought battle in the Big Easy, as their record fell to a modest 5-6.
"It’s tough because I know we played well enough to win in so many ways and yet, two plays like that can just completely change the outcome of a game, which obviously those did," said quarterback Drew Brees, who finished with three touchdowns but two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
He added, "Yeah, it’s tough to swallow because I feel like we can beat that team, should beat that team. But listen, they’re really, really good. They’re going to be in the hunt just like we want to be in the hunt. We might see them later on. For us, it’s a short week. We’ve got to be able to turn it right around."
While New Orleans may not be contending for the Lombardi Trophy the way they have in recent years, Atlanta already knows how dangerous of a club they are. They'll be ready come Thursday night—that we can count on.
When your team sits at 10-1 and has a complete stranglehold on its division, it's hard to consider any game before the playoffs a "must-win." While the Falcons don't have to beat the Saints this week,
Given the Falcons' knack for winning by the skin of their teeth, this would be as good of an opportunity as they'll get to prove just how good of a team they are—on national television versus their most hated rival.
"We feel really good where we are at," Roddy White said. "We've got a game coming up against the Saints on Thursday night and that's going to be a big one for us in the division. So we've got to move past this one and move on and get ready for the next game."
The Falcons may have the best record in the NFL, but head coach Mike Smith believes there's a lot of work to be done before this team can be classified as elite. While Sunday's win over the Buccaneers was a more impressive victory than the previous few, it was far from a perfect performance—and thus there remains a lot to build on. Tony Gonzalez agrees:
"Everyone was saying (the Buccaneers) were the hottest team in the NFC South, and they probably were," Gonzalez said. "To be honest, we could have played a little better, but when you win close games like that, it’s only a positive."
"I know we outplayed them," Penn said. "We're a better team than them—it didn't show. They made one or two more plays, and that made the difference."
After playing last week's game with injuries, Asante Samuel and Peria Jerry did not participate in Monday's walkthrough at Flowery Branch. Samuel and Jerry have shoulder and quadriceps ailments, respectively, and it's unclear whether or not either will play on Thursday night. Losing Samuel would be a huge blow to Atlanta, who is already without the services of Brent Grimes at the CB position and would be especially thin if No. 22 doesn't suit up.
As always, Pat Yasinskas over at ESPN put together a great list of stats following the Falcons win on Sunday. The most important note in this piece: Atlanta is just the second team in NFL history to win seven games by seven or fewer points and maintain a record of 10-1 or better. The only other team to accomplish this was the 2006 Colts, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
Additionally, Michael Turner tied the franchise record in touchdowns (57), Tony Gonzalez became the first tight end in league history to amass 14,000 yards, and Matt Ryan continued to win when producing a passer rating of 100 or higher—improving his record to 30-1 when he accomplishes that feat.