Posted November 16, 2011 on
AP on Fox
The Atlanta Falcons' chance to take the NFC South lead last week essentially ended when coach Mike Smith's gamble didn't pan out.
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak has to like his team's chances in the AFC South with the division leader facing a major injury.
The Falcons try to avoid losing two straight for the first time this season Sunday when they host a resurgent Titans team looking to continue its success against NFC foes.
A win last weekend would have lifted Atlanta (5-4) past New Orleans in the South, but instead, the Falcons are looking up in the standings following a 26-23 overtime loss to the Saints.
Atlanta forced the extra session with 10 unanswered points in the final 4:13, but Smith's decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Falcons' 29-yard line backfired as Michael Turner was stuffed.
The Saints went on to kick a 26-yard field goal that ended the Falcons' season-high three-game run as well as a six-game November winning streak.
"I know (the decision) will be scrutinized all week long," said Smith, whose team converted its first two fourth downs of the season earlier in the game. "I want everybody to understand I take full responsibility."
However, quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense should shoulder some of the blame after failing to score a touchdown in three red zone opportunities.
The Titans (5-4), meanwhile, lead the NFL in red zone touchdown efficiency at 71.4 percent (15 for 21). Chris Johnson has rushed for just 15 yards on 10 carries inside the 20 this season, but his 1-yard fourth-quarter TD run in last Sunday's 30-3 victory at Carolina capped a season-high 130-yard effort for the three-time Pro Bowler.
His second 100-yard game of 2011 helped Tennessee - the league's worst running team at 81.3 yards per game - pile up a season-best 172 on the ground.
"We finally gave him carries (a season-high 27)," said Munchak, whose team is 3-0 when Johnson runs at least 15 times. "This was one of those games we have been waiting for."
If the Titans can get their ground game going against the Falcons' third-ranked rush defense, which allows 90.3 yards per game, they should have a good chance of winning for the third time in four weeks.
A victory would also close the gap with idle Houston, which leads the division by 1 1/2 games but could be without starting quarterback Matt Schaub for the rest of the season due to a foot injury.
The Titans have won 18 of 20 against NFC opponents.
"It's hard to figure out why that is, but I hope the pattern stays the same," Munchak said. "... Going to Atlanta's going to be a great challenge."
The Falcons have won their last four at home against the AFC, but Ryan has dropped four of seven at the Georgia Dome - including last season's playoff loss to Green Bay - after a 15-game winning streak.
Ryan gets his first look at the Titans after setting career highs with 351 yards and 52 attempts last weekend. Atlanta is 3-11 during Ryan's career when he's thrown 40 or more passes.
The Falcons have won five of six this season when Turner gets at least 19 carries. That loss was last Sunday when he finished with 96 yards on 22 rushes.
"I would love to be in that situation again," Turner said after his final carry came up short.
The Titans franchise has posted five consecutive victories over Atlanta since a 47-27 Falcons home win over the Houston Oilers on Sept. 9, 1990.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith was in no mood to rehash his decision to go for it on fourth-and-inches from his own 29-yard line in overtime a move that failed and cost the Falcons a key 26-23 NFC South Division game on Sunday to New Orleans.
Smith maintains a 24-hour rule for everyone associated with the team on the day after games in which win or...
Everyone seems to be playing Monday Morning Quarterback with Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith.
By sending Michael Turner up the middle for no gain, Smith might have doomed the Falcons to an overtime loss to New Orleans, but the fourth-year coach wasn't surprised by the public's response.
''I'll say this, OK? We have passionate football fans here in Atlanta,...
Mike Smith is going to go down as the best coach in Falcons history by the time he's done coaching.Just another Falcons vs Saints classic. That seems to be what has become the norm when these two teams meet. Overtime games, back and forth scoring, lots of momentum swings, lead changes, and and someone getting a win by only a few points. It’s exactly what you want any great...
Mike Smith is moving on from the Falcons' failed fourth-and-1 gamble against the Saints in overtime on Sunday. It cost Atlanta dearly, but the coach is comfortable with his decision -- even if you're not.
Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith plans to be cautious with rookie wide receiver Julio Jones.
Jones exited Sunday's game against the NFC South rival New Orleans Saints after aggravating his right hamstring. Jones had missed two games earlier in the season with an injury to his left hamstring.
"We have to make sure we make the right decision for putting a player back out...
PFT is checking in on each team during their bye week. The last four teams are up this week, starting with the Saints. Great Position The Saints have been an uneven team, but the end result through ten weeks is a 7-3 record and terrific position in the NFC South. Mike Smith’s fourth down call…
Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) signals his offensive line against the Indianapolis Colts during the third quarter of their NFL football game in Indianapolis November 1, 2010. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
What are some of the big questions heading into this week in the NFL?
1. Can Matt Leinart save the Texans’ season?
You almost have...
FLOWERY BRANCH — When the going gets tough, like it is right now for the 5-4 Falcons, the team internally looks to its veterans for leadership.
In part, that’s why coach Mike Smith has a key veteran within each position group and empowers his “Over 30” club. The group is working overtime this week to help the team rebound from a difficult 26-23 overtime loss to the New Orleans...