Leave it to Coach Smith to plan everything, including the bye week.
Week 8 in the NFL for the Falcons brings a week off and it's well-timed and the organizer that is Falcons head coach Mike Smith is making sure it's well-planned also.
On Monday, Smith said he and his coaching staff will finish the evaluations of Sunday's opponent as they normally do in the first part of their work week. Without an opponent to gameplan for next, Smith said the coaches will look inward, self-scouting and evaluating their own performances, tendencies and decisions. They'll examine everything from looking for ways to improve specific areas of the football team to whether the practice schedule can and should be tweaked as they move into the second half of the season.
Third-down efficiency and red-zone efficiency are two areas that Smith cited as specifics they'll continue to work on. But he said, by week's end the staff will be looking to do exactly as they players are this week — take a few days off to disconnect from football.
"At the end of the week, we will take some time off as a coaching staff," Smith said. "We need to re-energize our batteries just like the players are and get ready for the second-half run. I know when the guys come back in here on Monday, players and coaches, we'll be ready to roll and start our preparation for Indianapolis."
Although the season is entering its eighth week, the Falcons are actually around 13 straight weeks of aggressive work if you consider the long days of training camp back in late July and August. After a grind like that, the players and coaches are due for a break. He knows, however, what kind of team he has and he knows they're not satisfied with their 4-3 mark, despite winning two straight. Some injured players will be around for rehab, but he's sure he'll see more than just that handful of players around the facility.
"We'll have guys that are injured in here getting treatment and I've got a hunch that we'll see a lot of guys even though they're 'off' that are going to be in the building this week," Smith said. "I just have that feeling."
Still, Smith stressed to his players that they needed to take time to get away from the game and he's confident they will. Second-year defensive tackle Corey Peters, who has played at an extraordinarily high level in the last two weeks, plans to pull the plug on football for a few days.
"I have no plans set in stone but I know I'm getting away from football," Peters said. "That's about it. Period, 100 percent, turning it off."
The head coach granted his team the entire week off after seeing their gutsy 23-16 winning performance on Sunday against the Lions in Detroit. Smith said he made up his mind late last week that he'd grant his players that if they produced a specific outcome against Detroit. With the way the 3-3 Falcons had unevenly played this season, the coach was probably looking for more than a win.
Atlanta put together a physical game and were especially impressive on defense, shutting down a Lions offense that routinely posts 300-plus yard games. After the performance he saw, he knew his players had earned it.
It's not uncommon for Smith to plan a week in advance. His players probably expected such a thing, but they likely didn't expect to be granted an entire week off. As Smith said, many of them will still stumble into the facility, not completely sure what to do with all the unexpected free time.
They'll enjoy their bye week, as the early tweets from many of the Falcons players on Twitter suggests, but they've still got some plans of their own remaining for this season.