ATLANTA – The Falcons (4-6) lost yet another heart-breaking game on Sunday, but they can't afford to linger on their 22-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys (5-5). Not with a Thanksgiving Day, prime-time showdown against the New Orleans Saints (8-1) just four days away.
The short week could turn out to be a positive for the Falcons if they can turn their attention immediately towards the future. But it could be a negative if they aren't able to shake off the latest last-second loss before rolling into a very hostile environment to play their bitter rival.
"From a leadership standpoint, we've got to make sure there is no hangover," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "I mean, we've got to get to work on New Orleans tomorrow morning, first thing. It's a short week and they present a lot of challenges with what they've been doing, so we've got to get to work on them quickly."
Leading into Sunday's game, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he expected a tough fight from a team that was also fighting for its playoff life. That's exactly what Atlanta got.
A kicker duel for much of the game, both the Falcons and Cowboys had long offensive possessions but could not get many explosive plays. An explosive play, a 34-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, helped Atlanta tie the game late, but there was a bit too much time left on the clock.
There should be plenty of fireworks Thursday night, however.
When the Falcons and Saints met in Week 3 this season, they scored a combined 80 points and gained nearly 1,000 yards of offense. New Orleans has become one of the top teams in the NFL since it came to Atlanta earlier this season, making the Falcons' ability to turn the page all the more important.
"I think the opponent that we're going against, the stage that it's on, makes it pretty easy to be able to turn around quickly and put this one behind us," Ryan said. "And then you just have to stay on them, too. You just have to say, 'No, listen, we are done with yesterday. We learn from it and we get to work and start to prepare.'"
As is the case anytime the Falcons and Saints play, records don't matter. If there is a team Atlanta will be able to shake off a loss for it is New Orleans, especially with the nation watching after eating way too much Thanksgiving turkey.
"Honestly, we'll just go into this week and just this game," Quinn said. "Not think about the big picture, and just this game, this attitude, this mindset. That's where our focus will lie for this week … The only thing on our minds is getting ready to go fight and play on Thursday night."