|Falcons coach Mike Smith is doing his best to maintain focus on the Raiders, despite the hype surrounding the team's best start in franchise history. (US Presswire)|
Not everyone’s buying the Falcons’ 5-0 start, the team’s best in franchise history. Various pundits are skeptical of the team’s potential primarily because the Falcons are known for having successful regular seasons and then flopping in the playoffs. The Falcons have won 23 games in the past two regular seasons but have lost the two playoff games by a combined score of 72-23.
As Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution noted, ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson described the Falcons as a team that “sounds good … smells bad” on the network’s pregame show last Sunday.
Don’t expect outside criticism to affect anyone in the Falcons organization -- they are well aware of the recent playoffs failures.
“You ask, 'what do you think about 5-0 for the first time in franchise history?' It’s a start. That’s all it is,” coach Mike Smith said. Smith, in particular, has reason to seek immediate gratification. His 48 wins are one shy of the team's all-time record, currently held by Dan Reeves. But with 11 games remaining in the regular season, Smith is practicing tunnel vision to avoid getting distracted.
“You’ve got to focus on the task at hand," Smith said. "The task at hand is mission number six for our football team." He later added that the wins record “doesn’t mean anything in terms of what we’re trying to do here.”
Their next test is against the Raiders on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Perhaps the best thing for the Falcons is that they haven’t become complacent. Were it not for Matt Ryan’s savvy fourth-quarter play the last two games, the Falcons could easily be 3-2.
“The team is much better than what we’ve played thus far,” C Todd McClure told Orlando Ledbetter. “It’s easy to make corrections when you’re 5-0. We have a lot of room for improvement.”
Looking at the raw numbers, the Falcons do have a lot of room for improvement. They are allowing 142 yards per game on the ground, the sixth-worst in the NFL. On the offensive side, running back Michael Turner hasn’t been utilized nearly as often as he was last season and there’s going to come a time when the Falcons will need to drain the clock with a lead late in the game.
For now, the Falcons -- the only remaining undefeated team in the NFC – aren’t concerned about anything other than mission number six.
For more Falcons coverage, follow Mike Singer @CBSFalcons.