After Sunday's game, the Falcons' locker room wasn't nearly as celebratory as you might expect considering the team earned just its fourth division title in the franchise's history. That's because there's still work left to do. But what Sunday's win gave the Falcons meant a lot to the players in that locker room and they took some time to reflect on what they had accomplished during the regular season
Brian Finneran has seen it all in Atlanta. He has been here for the good times and the bad. Perhaps that's why he had a difficult time finding the words to describe what Sunday's 31-10 win over the Carolina Panthers meant to him.
In his 12-year career, Finneran has never gotten what he and his teammates earned Sunday all at one time — an NFC South title, the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The moment and the magnitude of it were not lost on the wide receiver.
"It's awesome to be a part of it," Finneran said. "The last few years, we've set some good records as far as having a winning record in back-to-back seasons. Now, we've done it three times in a row. We've got a good group of guys here, and this has been a long, long dream for not only the team, the guys who have been here but the city of Atlanta, which has been behind us all the way."
The Falcons know the circumstances in their favor, but they'll have to wait a week to find out who they'll face in the NFC Divisional round. As the top seed, the Falcons will face the lowest remaining seed after the NFC's Wild Card round next weekend.
The Falcons will play at 8 p.m. Jan. 15 in the Georgia Dome.
And that's an important point. With home-field advantage throughout, the Falcons wouldn't have to travel again until the Super Bowl if they make it.
Being able to stay at home while also getting a first-round bye is an invaluable prize.
"It's huge. The playoffs are a different animal," safety Erik Coleman said. "Playoff games are intense, they're physical and after playing 16 games, it's nice to have a break before you go into a playoff game. You don't get beat up in a wild-card game. It's a great luxury."
More than anything, however, the Falcons get to stay in front of the home crowd that has been such an advantage since Mike Smith took over as head coach. The Falcons are now 20-4 inside the Dome under Smith, and the players know how much easier things can be when the crowd is in their favor.
"We really feel like we have the home-field advantage here with our fans," Coleman said. "They know the right times to get it loud and that causes a lot of penalties for the opposing team. They give us a lot of energy and we feed off of that. I think you can see that in our play.
"We owe a lot to our fans."