FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – A slip of the tongue gave away Atlanta coach Mike Smiths focus.
Smith was just starting his review Monday of the Falcons 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoffs when it became clear his thoughts were on this weeks NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.
We knew the San Francisco Forty ... excuse me, the Seattle Seahawks, were a very good football team and they showed a lot of resiliency, Smith said before smiling after catching his verbal miscue.
We were very fortunate to make the plays there at the end of the game and get the win, he said.
The win over Seattle on Sunday was the first for Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan in four postseason games with Atlanta. There was much talk after the game that the long-awaited first playoff win was the most important for the Falcons and would allow Ryan and other players to relax.
Smith shot down both theories.
I dont think well be able to play looser, Smith said. I think weve got to get back into our preparation mode. I know many people have talked about the outcome and what does it mean to the Atlanta Falcons. It means we have an opportunity to play again, and in the playoffs you want to keep playing. I think our guys understand the challenge this week is going to be big.
Ryan and the Falcons built leads of 20-0 and 27-7 against Seattle before falling behind 28-27 with 31 seconds remaining. Then Ryan completed passes to Harry Douglas, for 22 yards, and Tony Gonzalez, for 19 yards, to set up Matt Bryants go-ahead 49-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining.
Smith said it was a fun win for the team and the city of Atlanta, but he said it didnt mean the Falcons have realized their goals.
Our goals and our expectations are a lot higher than just winning one playoff game, he said.
The Falcons will be home again for Sundays NFC championship game as they look to advance to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. The 1998 season ended with a Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos.
Our goals are still in front of us, Ryan said. We still have two more games to go. Thats the mind-set I have. Thats the mind-set this team has.
Smith said he didnt sleep well Sunday night but not because of a big celebration.
No, not celebrating, he said. 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 certainly was. Then I got going this morning on San Francisco.