CATCHING UP WITH GILBERT: For a player who was inactive for all 16 games last season, linebacker Tony Gilbert got to enjoy his moment in the sun in Saturday's preseason game with a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Gilbert said the play "felt real good" and he received some good-natured ribbing from teammates over his touchdown dance.
Gilbert, who will turn 30 in October, has many connections to the Falcons' coaching staff. Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was Gilbert's defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia for two seasons and was his linebackers coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005.
In Jacksonville, Gilbert also played under Smith, who was defensive coordinator, and fellow defensive assistants Ray Hamilton (line) and Alvin Reynolds (backs).
Gilbert, a Macon native, said familiarity with the defense has helped him.
"Especially knowing the coaches and knowing the system, you know what the coaches want," he said, "and you know what the coaches expect, so you can go out and work hard and just do what you're supposed to do."
On Gilbert's interception, Stafford did not see Gilbert lurking in the middle of the field and in position to pick off the pass. Asked if he was victimizing a rookie -- a fellow Bulldogs alumni at that -- Gilbert demurred.
"Not necessarily," he said. "I think he's going to be good. They probably got some good things going on. We got some good stuff going on and we're just trying to prepare and get better."
Although Gilbert finished the game, Smith said the linebacker tweaked his leg -- an injury that was unrelated to the interception play. As a result Gilbert did not practice on Monday.
FLAGS AFLYING:The Falcons were whistled for 10 penalties on Saturday, a number Smith said he expects to see decrease on Friday in their second preseason contest.
He said that high number was partly a result of playing in a first preseason game and while the Lions only accepted half of those, Smith noted that a few hurt the team.
The most significant penalty came in the third quarter with the Falcons leading 23-10. Linebacker Jamie Winborn intercepted Drew Stanton's pass and returned it 35 yards to Detroit's 12 yard line.
But cornerback Tony Tiller was called for pass interference and Lions fullback Terrelle Smith was whistled for a personal foul. The offsetting penalties allowed Detroit to replay the down and the drive eventually led to a Lions' touchdown.
Smith called that a "big, big play."
Two offensive holding penalties by linemen also killed drives. Both belonged to reserve tackles, Michael Butterworth's in the second quarter and Will Svitek's in the third.
"I think we'll see this week hopefully our guys will play a lot cleaner in terms of the penalties," Smith said.
SMITTY ON DEFENSE: Smith singled out two young defensive players for their work in Saturday's game, including 2009 first-round pick Peria Jerry. Smith said that while Jerry did not start, he played as many snaps as any of the team's defensive linemen. (Smith said he expected that the rotation would be different for Friday's game.)
"He was explosive," Smith said. "Through the first few weeks of practice, he's done very, very well."
Second-year safety Thomas DeCoud, who is in line to win a starting spot with 2009 second-round draft pick William Moore out with an ankle injury, also earned kudos from the coach. In particular, Smith pointed to DeCoud's open-field tackle on Lions running back Kevin Smith after a 16-yard gain on a screen pass during Detroit's opening drive of the game. The Falcons were able to hold the Lions to a field goal on that series.
"He got a few more snaps than the rest of the starters just because he hasn't had as much experience," Smith said.
TRANSCRIPT:Head Coach Mike Smith recaps the first preseason game * NOTEBOOK:Owens reviews first NFL experience at cornerback * FEATURE:Falcons offensive line searching for some depth * VIDEO:Head Coach Mike Smith | Eric Weems | Mike Peterson * BLOGS:J. Michael Moores' blog posts from Aug. 17, 2009