The Lions hit the road this week to play the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday. The Falcons are coming off a difficult loss to San Francisco last week that dropped their record to 6-8. Atlanta is still alive for a playoff berth, but likely can't lose another game and still get in. These last three weeks are essentially playoff games for them.
Detroit's coming off their best performance of the year in a 30-12 victory over Arizona. They'll be looking for their second straight win and third in their last four as they try to build some momentum to finish the season and head into the offseason.
Here's what the Falcons are saying about this week's matchup with Detroit:
1. The Falcons are winless this season at home, which is somewhat of an anomaly for a six-win team. Atlanta was the home team in a London game earlier this year, but that's a neutral field contest.
"I love the passion of our fans," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said this week. "We need to reward them at home. That's not lost on us."
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021.
2. Atlanta's defense allowed 31 points in the loss to the 49ers last week. Cornerback A.J. Terrell said this week against Detroit they have to get back to playing like a unit. Terrell said he likes Detroit's receiving corps and it's been talked about in the DB room that they need to come with their A game this week.
3. The Lions and Falcons have played games with some wild endings over the years. The Golden Tate clock runoff loss by the Lions certainly jumps out to me. But which one jumps out to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan?
He said losses stand out more than wins for him, and doesn't agree with the ending in London in 2014 when the Lions missed a field goal as time expired, but because the play clock ran and it was a dead-ball penalty, Detroit got another chance to kick it five yards further back and made it for the win. All these years later and that still stands out to Ryan.
4. Smith said it's a huge credit to Dan Campbell and the Lions coaching staff that they've continued to play hard and play in close games all year.
"They've stayed the course," Smith said in a conference call with Detroit reporters Thursday. "It's impressive when you turn on the film, especially on Sunday's game against Arizona, how physical the team is. There's been a lot injuries and guys coming off the practice squad and guys that they picked up off waivers, it's really impressive."
5. Ryan was asked about former Falcons defensive end and current Lions outside linebacker Charles Harris, who leads the Lions with 7.5 sacks. He had a career-high 3.0 sacks with the Falcons last year.
"He's looked good, he really has," Ryan said of Harris. "I think he's playing with really good effort. Has done a nice job for them this year. I always enjoyed Charles as a teammate. He was a quiet guy, but worked hard every day. I'm happy for him personally that he's playing well."
6. Smith said the Falcons are preparing for quarterback Jared Goff (Reserve/COVID-19 list) to play Sunday, but will have a contingency plan in place if it gets closer to gameday and looks like Goff won't play. Smith said teams are always aware of who the backups are every week and what they do well because they are just a play away from facing them.
7. The Falcons did their homework on Lions rookie tackle Penei Sewell drafting No. 4 overall last year. The Falcons picked tight end Kyle Pitts, who made his first Pro Bowl this year, but Smith said Sewell is playing really well right now. Smith likes how physical Sewell plays, and said he looks to be playing really comfortable right now.