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Falcons Team Report


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Inside Slant

Despite having a playoff berth wrapped up, don't expect Falcons coach Mike Smith to take his foot off of the gas pedal for the Carolina Panthers.

Being a division foe, Carolina falls under Smith's category of "not to be taken lightly" despite the league's worst record.

The Panthers rushed for 212 yards in the last meeting between the two teams.

Also, young players like William Moore, who is in his first season as a starter, can get some more live bullets before the playoffs start.

Moore playing in just his second start, had a rough time with Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey, who caught eight passes for 78 yards and one touchdown in the Sept. 27 meeting.

Moore has been coming along since that learning moment.

"I like where he is in terms of his study habits right now and his attention to detail," Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. "I'll be quite frank with you, he's done a better job than even I had anticipated early on as he entered our lineup and that's a credit to him. ... he's going to make mistakes, but we look forward to him really playing through some of those mistakes."

Also, safety Erik Coleman, who lost his job to Moore, has been a professional about the move after being the team's second-leading tackler over the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

"Erik is tremendous," VanGorder said. "He's very knowledgeable. He's a good solid man that has been extremely helpful to William through this process."

Rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who is still recovering from a knee injury, could use the extra action also.

"I felt like I had a little burst out there this past Sunday," Weatherspoon said.

Young defensive tackles Corey Peters, who's starting, and Peria Jerry, who's playing on third downs, could use the extra work, too.

"I think he continues to progress through his injury," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "I think even though you're healthy enough to play at the start of the season, when you're recovering from a knee injury it takes time to build confidence and get back to 100 percent."

Notes, Quotes

Trending:

The Falcons' offense features a 3,300-yard passer in

quarterback Matt Ryan, a 1,200-yard running back in Michael Turner, a 1,300-yard receiver in Roddy White and a tight end with more than 60 catches in tight end Tony Gonzalez. The quartet of players is largely responsible for an offense that was ranked in the top 10 in three key categories going into Week 16: points per game (26.4, fifth), rushing (122.6, seventh) and time of possession average (32 minutes, 39 seconds, third).

Under The Radar:

The Falcons have given up just 21 sacks, which is the third-lowest total in the NFL going into Week 16.

Falcons left tackle Sam Baker was battling through an elbow and knee injury early in the season and his play his picked up considerably late in the season.

"He's really coming along really well," Falcons offensive line coach Paul Boudreau said. "We've monitored him. Smitty made sure that we had a rotation where he wasn't getting hits or taking as many reps when he was trying to get through the injury bug. It's helped him in the long run."

Strategy and Personnel

Player Notes

*WR Roddy White led the league with 33 catches for 465 yards on third downs before the Monday night game against the Saints. Four of his touchdowns have come on third downs.

*QB Matt Ryan has a career-high 25 touchdown passes, tying him with former QB Chris Chandler for the fourth most TD passes in a single season through 14 games. The third-year pro has completed 320 passes this season and needed just 17 completions against the Saints to top Jeff George's club record of 336.

*TE Tony Gonzalez has recorded 11 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Falcons. He currently ranks fourth on the team's all-time touchdowns list at the tight end position. Only Alge Crumpler (35), Jim Mitchell (28) and Junior Miller (13) have more TD receptions in a Falcons uniform than Gonzalez.

*DE John Abraham has 12 sacks after recording just 5.5 sacks last season.

*WLB Mike Peterson, according to coaches' film breakdown, has totaled 1,568 tackles in his 12-year NFL career and ranks fifth among active players in total tackles. The veteran linebacker is the shortest tenured player in the top five.

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