Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 1/14/13
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Even though none of the Atlanta Falcons would publicly acknowledge the heightened pressure to win leading up to Sunday's playoff clash with the Seahawks, make no mistake, the anxiety was real. Alas, having finally earned that first playoff triumph of the Mike Smith era -- a miraculous 30-28 victory over the Seahawks -- the Falcons seemingly could breathe in a collective sigh of relief. Does it stand to reason Atlanta can now play looser in Sunday's NFC championship against San Francisco, the first home title game in the Falcons' 46-year history? Do they stand to benefit from the change in atmosphere? "I think so," safety Thomas DeCoud said after the Seattle win. "A little bit looser. Like you said, we have that proverbial monkey off our back. Now, we can, you know, really calm down, hit our stride and make sure we dont make the same mistakes we did in this game. Thats just one more thing off of our plate. "Now, we got to just correct what we did wrong and skyrocket from there," said DeCoud. Against the Seahawks, the Falcons defense allowed 300 yards in the second half and struggled to stop Seattle from erasing a 27-7 deficit with three fourth-quarter touchdowns (taking a 28-27 lead). Only a last-minute scoring drive -- capped by Matt Bryant's 49-yard field goal in the final seconds -- kept the Falcons alive in the NFC playoffs. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon echoed DeCouds comments, to some degree. But rather than citing the "relief" angle, Weatherspoon preferred to say Sunday's victory would breed confidence for the NFC title game. "Well be ready to play," Weatherspoon said. "People want to talk about playing loose. Playing with confidence -- thats what I like to talk about. Were some confident guys. We have some things we obviously have to fix, (from) the second half." Falcons head coach Mike Smith took a different approach from Sunday's victory. "I dont think that we'll be able to play looser," Smith said. "I think we've got to get back into our preparation mode. I know many people have talked about the outcome of that ballgame and what does it mean to the Atlanta Falcons? It means we get to play again, and in the playoffs you want to keep playing ... I think our guys understand the challenge again this week (will) be big. "This San Francisco team won a big ballgame on Saturday night against a team that's got a Super Bowl trophy (Green Bay, two seasons ago). Ive been very impressed on both sides of the ball." On Monday, Smith revealed, perhaps unwittingly, that he had difficulty putting the Seattle game to rest. In his coach-speak, one might replace the word fun with stressful. "I didnt sleep much last night," he said. "No, not celebrating. For everybody involved, that was a fun football game, and its hard to unwind from fun football games. I think for everybody, at least here in Atlanta, it most certainly was. And then I got going on San Francisco. In fact, so much that (when) I talked about (the 49ers) before, I thought we played them yesterday." Smith's late-night uneasiness may have been a combination of adrenaline rush and the prospect of defending 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Against the Packers on Saturday, Kaepernick set the NFL single-game record (regular season or playoffs) for rushing yards by a quarterback (181). He also ran for two touchdowns. To Falcons fans, those numbers are reminiscent of what Carolina quarterback Cam Newton accomplished against Atlanta twice this season. Newton rushed for 86 yards in the first game (301 total yards, three TDs) and 116 in the rematch -- highlighted by a 72-yard rushing touchdown in the Panthers' 30-20 victory. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Newton matches up physically with Kaepernick (6-4, 230). Both Carolina and San Francisco run the read option, allowing for both quarterbacks to be dangerous rushers. DeCoud said he was "glued" to watching the 49ers 45-31 playoff victory over Green Bay. "He was on fire with that read option," DeCoud said of Kaepernick, "and he also can throw the ball. So, he's a dynamic quarterback and we definitely need to have our Ts crossed and Is dotted next week." The Seahawks also ran the read option against the Falcons, but Seattle's Russell Wilson (at 5-11) is markedly smaller than Kaepernick and rarely kept the ball during read-option plays, preferring to hand it off. On disrupted pass attempts, Wilson often used his feet to stay in the pocket and make throws downfield. With only seven career starts, Kaepernick appears to be the greater rushing threat. "Youve got to have vision on defense," Smith said. "And you cant match up and play match coverages or man-to-man because when (Kaepernick) gets into the secondary. He's a guy who can go the distance. He outran a number of fast players in the ballgame on Saturday. Maybe playing more loosely will help the Falcons in their effort to contain Kaepernick.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Giants’ Victor Cruz cleared to practice

PETA sends Warren Sapp vegan lobster following shark bite

Report: Josh McCown has looked better at times than RG3

Mike Trout does David Ortiz impersonation

Suspended Steelers WR Martavis Bryant set to help coach HS football

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Tickets for ‘Monday Night Football’ game in Mexico sell out

Kevin Durant says he never told Russell Westbrook he was staying in OKC

God Shammgod hired by Mavericks as player development assistant

Soccer player terminates contract after being attacked by stray dogs

Todd Bowles confirms Ryan Fitzpatrick is Jets starting QB: ‘It’s his job’

Carmelo Anthony shocked Dwyane Wade left Miami for Chicago

Giants acquire All-Star Eduardo Nunez from the Twins

Vikings QB injured trying to kick open door

Josh Gordon thankful for support from Browns

Report: Seahawks DE Chris Clemons retiring

Denard Robinson blames falling asleep at stoplight for pond crash

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Hue Jackson: Browns will give Josh Gordon a fresh start

Diamondbacks nearing Daniel Hudson trade

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

What would George Costanza have traded to get Bonds and Griffey?

Gabby Douglas can make USA Gymnastics history at Olympics

Week 3 will determine the Big Ten's reputation this season

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker