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Notebook: Play To Win


With the Falcons sitting at 2-3, there's an understandable need to ask the question:

"Is this a must-win?"

The answer, as these Falcons say, is "Of course." So is every other game.

Defensive end Ray Edwards reminded reporters Wednesday of the infamous Herman Edwards' postgame speech while he was with the Kansas City Chiefs.

"You play the game to win," Herm Edwards said. Atlanta's Ray Edwards agrees with that breakdown.

There's a caveat to all of this, however. So far the string goes this season for Atlanta that they win one and lose won. By that rationale Atlanta's got a win in the books this Sunday after losing to Green Bay last Sunday night. But beyond that, things need to change.

"I think there's a sense of urgency that we have to have because we can't keep winning one game and losing one game," tight end Tony Gonzalez said on Wednesday. "We need to get off that and be consistent and put together a string of wins and be the team that we can be."

Atlanta under head coach Mike Smith has only lost consecutive games three times, all of which came during the 2009 season. History says losing two straight games isn't what the Falcons do. Losing at home is even more rare for this team. After playing three of the first four games of the season on the road, they hope some home cooking will be just what they need.

The 2-3 record is concerning and the first step toward getting more respectable is arriving at .500 and having a shot to do that at home is encouraging. If the Falcons start losing home games things could go south.

"Our plan is to win all of our home games and losing two would be bad for us," wide receiver Roddy White said. "We want to go out there and win the rest of them at home. This is a home game for us so it's a kind of a must-win, if you want to say that."

There's not much hangover from the Packers loss for the Falcons. Smith mandates a 24-hour rule for wins or loses that allows the players to not dwell to high or low in the emotions of a football season. In reality Atlanta may feel as if they should have won last week, especially considering how well they played in the first half.

Every loss hurts just as every win is golden in the NFL, but last week may have stung a little more than usual. What's the best way to get over it? Brent Grimes has an idea and it's not far off from the former Kansas City coach's comments.

"Go out and get a win; that fixes everything in this league for anybody," Grimes said. "A win makes you feel a whole lot better than a loss. That's what we're going to go out and do in front of our home crowd and forget this Green Bay game."

Missing Man:Coach Smith announced Wednesday that injured rookie wideout Julio Jones will not be available for Sunday's game.

"We hope to get him back," Smith said. "He worked with our training staff today. He did some running around. He's already back out on the field, working. We're hoping that after this week we'll get him back the following week."

Jones' injury is described as a hamstring, something he suffered in last week's game. Smith was encouraged by Jones' ability to already be back on the field working to get to full strength.

In Jones' absence slot receiver Harry Douglas will move to No.2 on the depth chart. Second-year receiver Kerry Meier will also get extended minutes. This season he's seen the field very little. In the year's first five games, he's been active for four but has not caught a pass.

"We feel very good about Kerry Meier and his athletic ability," Smith said. "We haven't done a lot of four-wide sets so we've not had an opportunity to get him many snaps. He'll get his opportunity this week."

Eric Weems will also join Meier and Douglas among the players the Falcons will use at a rotation of pass catchers at the position in Jones' absence.

No Wars With Words:The media seemed to quietly run comments the Falcons and Packers were making last week back and forth in an effort to generate a response.

It's always an interesting story line when the media can do so and sometimes players who are as competitive as most are bite at the bait.

In the wake of Atlanta's loss on Sunday night, more than a few Green Bay players had some comments regarding the Falcons and their style of play or how they carried themselves on the field.

Roddy White was vocal at various points since last season's playoff loss, saying the things expected from any player. He shared he had confidence in his team and felt they could have won that game. It's not exactly news when a professional player says he believes his team can win.

On Wednesday, White was asked if he had a response to what was said in the wake of the Week 5 loss. White closed the door on any further Green Bay-Atlanta comment battles, but hopes to get a chance to let his and his team's play do the talking next time.

"I don't concern myself with those guys," White said. "... Whatever they say, they're the defending champs so they can say whatever they want to say. They're 5-0, so what can we say? We haven't beaten those guys in the last two attempts. We can't say anything about it or comment on things until we get the opportunity to play those guys again and try to win."

Camthers:As is typically the case in the NFL, the recipe for a win this week for Atlanta is simple: Stop the quarterback.

When teams stop the player that begins each play with the ball in his hands, good things can happen.

The Falcons continue their string of good quarterbacks this week when they welcome rookie Cam Newton for his first visit to the Georgia Dome as a professional.

Newton pilots an offense ranked fifth in the league this season, averaging 428 yards per game. Though his team is only 1-4, he's clearly a dangerous player leading an offense that can be downright deadly. He threw for over 400 yards in his first two games, something no rookie has ever done.

The Panthers are second in the league with 29 plays of 20 yards or more and second with five 40-plus-yard plays. The Carolina coaching staff has devised a scheme on offense that is perfectly tailored to Newton's strengths: his big arm and his ability to extend plays with his legs.

"The package that they have around him fits the scheme of how they play football," White said of his observations of Newton. "They're doing a good job of putting him in the best position to make plays. He's making a lot of plays outside the play. I think they're like fifth in the league on offense. ... He's doing a really good job of extending plays and hitting receivers. Those guys are getting open."

Newton's fearless play results in some gambles. His six interceptions this season are one less than his touchdown total. But there's no doubting the big No. 1 overall pick in 2010 is talented and is the driving force behind Carolina's improved play this year.

"He's a little bit of everything," safety James Sanders said. "He's going through his progressions, making good reads. He's extending plays and his receivers are making plays for him. When you're doing all those things you can put up big numbers and that's what they're doing right now."

But if you ask the Falcons if they're surprised by the performance Newton's putting up, they'll say no. He was last season's Heisman Trophy winner in college football and led his Auburn team to the national championship. Those aren't feats your average player accomplishes in one season.

Then there's the whole thing about being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, a quality reserved for the best player in the draft, typically.

"He's the No. 1 pick in the draft so obviously a lot of people knew he was the best player in the draft," Weatherspoon said. "He's doing a great job. They're using his strengths. He can sling the ball down the field. He can extend plays. He can do a lot of things with his legs as well. That's something that they're doing with him that's able to keep him doing well."

Injury Update:The Falcons had a lengthy injury report on Wednesday. In addition to Jones, John Abraham (groin), Tony Gonzalez (elbow), Todd McClure (knee), William Moore (neck), Chris Owens (concussion) and Garrett Reynolds (ankle) did not participate.

Jonathan Babineaux (knee), Cliff Matthews (knee), James Sanders (hamstring) and Roddy White (knee) were all limited participants at Wednesday's practice.

Linebacker Omar Gaither and tackle Jeff Otah did not practice for the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday.

Smith said they've reached the point in the season where injuries will be a factor. They have to be prepared at practice each day and throughout the week to deal with the mounting injuries that can occur in a typical season.

"This time of the year, you come to expect that you're going to have guys that are not going to be 100 percent healthy," Smith said. "What we have to do is we have to prepare during the week and make sure that we have the right workload. We've got to have contingency plans in terms of if this guy can play, how we are going to put our 46-man roster together. But you've got to prepare for it and it really is important that you maintain the proper workload so you don't get more guys injured during the week."

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