There's a phrase I've heard around the Falcons in the last few years that I'd never heard before.
"Keep chopping wood."
If you've ever faced a stack of wood, you understand the saying. The only way to turn the mess of logs into a neat stack that is fireplace-ready is to take it one log at a time. Chop wood one by one.
It's definitely relevant to the Falcons this season. With each week, it seems they're closer to putting all the pieces together to make a run at a championship that once seemed inevitable. The wins have escaped the Falcons three times this season and even the ones they got came at a hard-fought price.
But Atlanta has shown glimpses of what they can be. The glimmers continue to provide hope to a fan base that still believes in the talent this year's Falcons have. They just have to find a way to put it all together. Head coach Mike Smith made this point saliently clear on Monday.
"We've got to collectively make sure that we find ways to win football games instead of finding ways not to win football games," Smith said. "When we haven't been successful this season, we have found ways to lose football games where in the past we have always found ways to win games."
One of the ways to win is to score and the Falcons have shown they can do that this season when given the chance. A stat that makes it crystal clear to me that this team is close to putting it all together is their success in the red zone.
Scoring inside the opponent's 20-yard line is a tricky proposition. Quarterback Matt Ryan once explained that when you're that close for the score, the shortened field and the lack of angles and space make punching it in as much a math equation as a football scheme.
This season Atlanta has visited the red zone 15 times, coming away with 79 points. Ten of those scores have been touchdowns. Their 66.7 percent scoring rate is good enough for fourth-best in the league. Success in the red zone often means wins and it's just a matter of time for the Falcons.
In a release from the NFL, NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk explained what red zone scoring can do to the mentality of a team's opponent.
"When you are efficient in the red zone, teams understand that defending 80 yards of the field becomes extremely important," Faulk said. "Because they know once you get inside the 20-yard line that points will be put on the board especially if you are a team that is efficient in scoring touchdowns."
The Falcons will continue to chop wood this season, hacking away to work through the pile. There's still a long way to go, but there's a lot to like about the stack Atlanta is building.