FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – No NFL team has a better record than Mike Smith’s Falcons, and perhaps none has made fewer headlines.
They practice, they play and they win without hype. There’s little drama and even less national publicity in this post-Michael Vick era.
Maybe that’s why the Atlanta coach laughs when asked whether there has been more national demands on his time with the 7-2 Falcons atop the NFC.
“Uh, no,” Smith said. “They don’t want to talk to me.”
Not even after his team’s exciting last-minute 26-21 win over the Baltimore Ravens last week. Even the Falcons’ losses have been impressive – at Philadelphia and in overtime at Pittsburgh.
Doesn’t matter. Smith, who carries one of the lowest profiles of any coach in the league, never detours from the all-business script that his players follow faithfully, if almost anonymously.
And if the nation yawns, that’s fine. Call these Falcons dull, but call them winners.
“I just feel like we’re flying under the radar and we’re doing a good job of that and we’re just going to stay where we’re at,” receiver Roddy White said.
There’s not a lot of flash in the Falcons, who place an emphasis on running the ball and stopping the run. It’s not a style that commands a lot of attention, but it has Smith on pace for his third straight winning record with a franchise that had never before had back-to-back winning seasons.
Few outside of Atlanta may know much about even the team’s top players.
White’s numbers are up there with the NFL’s best receivers. He’s a clutch performer with an engaging personality and the most-quoted player on the team, not that many outside of Atlanta have noticed.
White, a three-time Pro Bowler, has 70 catches, seven for TDs, and is second in the league with 934 yards receiving. Running back Michael Turner has 733 yards rushing and should easily post his second 1,000-yard season in three years. Defensive end John Abraham is fourth in the league with eight sacks.
Then there’s Ryan, coming off a breakout game against the Ravens in which he threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to White with 20 seconds remaining. Ryan’s 16 TD passes with only five interceptions are almost identical to this year’s numbers from Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
It all adds up to Atlanta playing for a still-skeptical national audience. Winning seems to generate more questions about whether they are for real than buzz about their success.