Falcons outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is asking his defensive teammates to step up in the final five games of the regular season as the team wraps up a forgettable year. (Reuters)
FLOWERY BRANCH — Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon believes Atlanta’s defense can step up its level of play over the last five games.
“It’s no fun to lose, but everybody had moments where it was fun,” Weatherspoon said, citing how the team held the Saints to 17 points last week. “We have to get more and more of that. That will leave you with that feeling that you want to do a little bit more.”
Yet it was the defense that wasn’t able to stop the Saints’ on their last drive and get the ball back for the offense. Atlanta lost 17-13.
“It was tough,” Weatherspoon said. “We didn’t stop the run there at the end. When (coach Mike Smith) gives us a chance, we have to go out there and man up. They were able to move the ball on us and they hit a pass on us that was kind of demoralizing and everything. But take the positive and learn from the negative.”
Safety Thomas DeCoud said, “We needed to make a play and get the ball back in some way shape or form. Hey, right now, it’s spilled milk at this point. Right now, we have to keep going. We have five more games now. We have to finish strong these next five games.”
MOMENTUM SWINGS: The Falcons have discussed handling momentum swings better.
“Momentum is such a big part of the game,” linebacker Paul Worrilow said. “It’s always a pivotal factor.”
The defense is hoping that it can repeat the fast start it had against New Orleans when the Falcons face Buffalo, which features a rookie quarterback in EJ Manuel.
“We came out with tons of energy (against the Saints), came down hill and showed that we wanted to get after them,” Worrilow said.
The Falcons didn’t use many gimmicks against the Saints.
“We still ran a lot of our base stuff,” Worrilow said. “We didn’t get out of hand with it. We just stayed discipline with our eyes and our keys.”
NO MORAL VICTORIES: After four sound losses to Arizona, Carolina, Seattle and Tampa Bay, the Falcons were competitive against the Saints before losing by four points.
“You don’t want to talk about a moral victory, but we did get better,” DeCoud said. “We didn’t come away with the win, but we got better as a team and I think it showed.”
TIED FOR FIRST PICK: With victories by Tampa Bay and Jacksonville on Sunday, the Falcons are solidly in the race for the No. 1 overall draft pick for 2014.
Atlanta, Jacksonville and Houston are all tied at 2-9 for the worst record in the league. Minnesota is a half-game back at 2-8-1, ahead of Washington (3-7 before Monday night) and Tampa Bay (3-8).
There is a pack of four-win teams in Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland and the New York Giants.
If there was a three-way tie for the top pick, strength of schedule would be the tie-breaker. Since Houston and Atlanta had first place schedules, Jacksonville would likely get the first pick under the current scenario.
SCHEDULE SHIFT: The Falcons game against Green Bay set for Dec. 8 at Lambeau Field has been moved out of the primetime 8:30 p.m. slot and shifted to 1 p.m. NBC will show the Carolina-New Orleans game, which could determine who succeeds the Falcons as NFC South champions. Fox had the option of putting the flexed-out game in its 4:25 p.m. slot, but passed on the Packers, who are 5-5-1 and without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the 2-9 Falcons.
The Falcons will play San Francisco on Monday Night Football on Dec. 23, their last national television appearance this season.
ETC.: Former Falcons kicker Morten Andersen was among the semifinalists being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014. The Hall of Fame’s selection committee chose the 25 modern-era semifinalists from the previously announced list of 126 nominees. Also, the Seniors Committee nominees, who were announced in August, include punter Ray Guy (1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders) and defensive end Claude Humphrey (1968-1978 Atlanta Falcons, 1979-1981 Philadelphia Eagles). … Ronnie Wingo, who rushed 10 times for 42 yards in the exhibition season for the Falcons, is on Buffalo’s roster.