Smith: Falcons lost some focus in New England


ON THE ROAD: Since Smith and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff took over, the Falcons have gotten younger at a number of positions -- more noticeably this year than last.

The last two years, the Falcons are 9-1 at home, including 2-0 this year, but are 4-6 on the road including last season's playoff loss at Arizona.

Smith said the team's road performance is an area that he would like to see improved.

"Well, we are a young team," he said. "I told our guys all through the week, it's hard to win at home, it's hard to win on the road, it's hard to win in the NFL. And we have played better at home. For the most part, you'll see most teams do, but I don't think it should be a mental block.

"When we go out on the road, we've got to go out and make plays just like we do when we're playing here in the Georgia Dome. I think that our guys have to have a mindset that wherever you play, when an opportunity arises, you have to make the play. And I think that's something we will continue to work on."

SCHEMEING PATRIOTS:The Falcons have not produced a sack from their defensive line over the last two games, but on Sunday Smith seemed to indicate New England's game plan had something to do with that.

The Patriots showed a completely different look on Sunday than what they had the previous week in their 16-7 loss to the New York Jets.

Smith said on 50 of New England's offensive snaps the Patriots used formations with two or three tight ends to help protect quarterback Tom Brady, who was hit only twice (once by Kroy Biermann and once by Lewis).

Against the Jets, the Patriots had 70 offensive snaps in which they used a formation with one tight end and three wide receivers.

"We have not rushed the passer as well the last two games as well as we did in the first game," Smith said. "…And what [the Patriots] wanted to do yesterday, they wanted to make sure they protected their quarterback better than they did the week before. That's what this game is all about. You can't really talk about what you did in the previous game because each team is going to make adjustments. They made the adjustment to go with two and three tight end formations."

Similarly, Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder had said going into the Carolina game that he thought the Panthers would make protection of quarterback Jake Delhomme an emphasis point after Philadelphia's pass rush hurt Carolina in Week 1.

The Falcons had only one sack in that game, by linebacker Stephen Nicholas.

SECOND-ARY LOOK: With the benefit of the bye week, Smith said the team would take a "good, long, hard look" at cornerback Tye Hill, who was acquired from St. Louis during the preseason but has yet to play.

Hill has been learning the team's system and Smith said the week off would provide a good time to see how much he has learned.

Asked to evaluate the performance of cornerbacks Chris Houston and Brent Grimes in Sunday's game, Smith said, "I thought they made some plays, we left some out there and some we'd like to have back."

Another defensive back, rookie safety William Moore, should be healthy enough to play against San Francisco, Smith said.

Moore, the team's second-round draft pick, has missed the bulk of his time with the team since training camp started with a knee injury that was followed by a hamstring injury. Smith also said he expected running back Jerious Norwood (head) would be healthy enough to play against the 49ers on Oct. 11.

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