Entering the Atlanta Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch on Monday, there was definitely a different feel — a different vibe, if you will — just days away from Sunday's Week 1 matchup against the NFC South-rival New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome.
Having put a bow on their preseason schedule last Thursday, with a 24-14 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Falcons starters now transition from seeing little-to-no reps last week to every-rep-counts this week against New Orleans.
"It's just the way the game goes," Falcons WR Devin Hester said. "You just have to prepare in the preseason like it's the regular season, which we have, so now when the regular season comes around, there's not too much shock. Preseason and regular-season tempo is a lot different; it's like going from an eight to a 10 in speed."
Falcons head coach Mike Smith is a master of his craft, leading his entire staff to prepare the team for the regular season. During Smith's six-year run, the Falcons have compiled a 60-36 regular season record, which is the sixth-best mark in the NFL during that time, capturing two NFC South Division titles.
Atlanta's .625 winning percentage is the highest in team history over a six-year period. Falcons safety William Moore says the common denominator to Smith's success is simple and showcased itself again this preseason.
"Great preparation," Moore said. "In Game 3 of the preseason, we played a lot and Coach gave us a good look at the fourth exhibition; he gave us a few series (to play) as a defense as a whole, so, I think our preparation is going to be more than great, entering this first week of the season."
Falcons DE Osi Umenyiora knows a thing or two about transitioning from preseason to regular-season play, entering his 12th year in the league, and still, the thing that stands out most to the two-time Super Bowl winner is the powerful impact of practice.
"I think we've done a good job of practicing against each other and trying to simulate the intensity of the game in practice," Umenyiora said. "Practice has been very physical and fast and transitioning to the regular season is what everybody does; everybody's going to have to make that adjustment and I think we'll be up to the challenge."