The Falcons jumped out of the gate this season building an early lead in the NFC with an 8-0 start. They finished well, going 6-3 down the stretch, but with the three losses coming at the hands of divisional opponents, head coach Mike Smith felt his team's focus in some ball games wandered a little.
"We played a lot more efficiently in the first half of the season," Smith said. "I think at the end of the season, we didn't have the type of focus that we need to have in a couple of ball games."
This is the bye week for the Falcons, a break they've earned by locking up the first-round bye in the playoffs. While the work week is a little lighter than a typical week for the Falcons, Smith sees the type of focus during a week of preparation that he's seen all season.
"These guys are very focused," he said. "I think we've prepared every week well. We haven't always gone out and executed like we're capable of doing."
As they enter a tournament that doesn't allow for losing, the Falcons know they can't have the kind of lapses in focus that led them to lose three games this year. They're spending this week getting back to the basics with no specific opponent to play for.
"I think it's very important for to work on fundamentals and that's what we were trying to do (Thursday)," Smith said. "We spent a lot of time in individual periods during practice with our focus on the defensive side working on tackling, paths to the ball and pursuit angles. On the offensive side it's about blocking in the run game and protecting the quarterback and working on the timing of our passing game."