If you want to play for Falcons head coach Mike Smith, you learn pretty quickly he values a few very specific things about the game of football. At the top of his list is discipline and if you can't play a disciplined style of football in a winning effort, you can't play for his team.
Under Smith the Falcons have consistently played with discipline and as a result have been among the least-penalized teams in the NFL year after year. Since 2008, the Falcons under Smith have finished each season in the top 10 in the NFL in terms of fewest penalties. This season they're on track to have the fewest penalties a Smith-led Falcons team has finished. Atlanta's 67 penalties this year also ranks as the top team in the NFL in fewest penalties. The previous low was set in 2010 when they had 73.
Of Atlanta's 67 penalties this year, 53 have been accepted. What's most impressive about Atlanta's penalties record is how it stacks up against the rest of the league. The two teams with the next fewest penalties are the Giants and Jets, with 88 on the season, more than 20 more than Atlanta.
That kind of margin sets the Falcons apart as easily the most-disciplined team in the league, but Atlanta's disciplined approach can be seen beyond just their top ranking. Many penalties are worse than others and some of the more egregious of them cause teams to lose the most yards. The Falcons haven't beaten themselves too often this season with penalties like that. They have only one personal foul, one defensive pass interference and two facemask calls on the season.
The Falcons' top penalty called this year is offensive holding with 12. Only 11 of Atlanta's penalties resulted in first downs for the opponent.