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Falcons take fundamental approach to stay unbeaten

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Falcons take fundamental approach to stay unbeaten

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The more Atlanta keeps winning, the more coach Mike Smith keeps tinkering with ways to help the Falcons improve.

Smith's Falcons are 7-0 and the NFL's only unbeaten team, but the fifth-year coach still sees a club that's far from perfect.

``You may not believe this, but you're in a week to week cycle in the National Football League,'' Smith said on Monday. ``It really doesn't matter what happened the week before. It's all about the next game, and that's how you have to approach it.''

Nearly everything seemed to work in Atlanta's favor during a 30-17 victory at Philadelphia on Sunday.

Quarterback Matt Ryan directed scoring drives on the first six possessions. Atlanta's defense kept the Eagles off-balance all afternoon.

But Smith pointed back to a rudimentary practice session last week that played a significant role in helping his team beat Philadelphia.

Despite the league's best record, Smith gave his players an entire week off during the bye before he took them back to the field last Monday to work on the basics of football - blocking, tackling and using proper angles to make the right plays.

Maybe the approach sounds too simple, but Smith said the results were evident against the Eagles.

Smith estimated the Falcons spent 45 minutes of ``remedial, 8th-grade football'' to help everyone restart the season.

Defensive players were retrained to take better angles in pursuit, and Smith believes that's one reason why Atlanta's run defense, which began Sunday with the league's 28th-ranked run defense, had a season-best performance that held Philadelphia to 92 yards rushing.

``We worked on the approach, the fit, where your eyes should be, things that,'' Smith said.

Later in the week, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan installed some hybrid looks that seemed to confuse Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

Reserve defensive end Kroy Biermann, who finished with one sack and seven tackles, lined up at free safety for one play. Nolan also deployed a three-tackle front to start the game in which Jonathan Babineaux, Vance Walker and rookie Travian Robertson were lined up with Biermann - not four-time Pro Bowl selection John Abraham - at end.

``The (previous) two games we didn't play as well as we could have,'' free safety Thomas DeCoud said. ``But now we are starting to hit our stride and it's good to come out after the bye week and get a good solid win under our belts and really play well on all sides of the ball.''

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter gave his reserve players a bigger role.

Drew Davis, who spent last year on the practice squad, had his first career touchdown pass. Running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling took on significant roles to score touchdowns while two-time Pro Bowl pick Michael Turner had a slow day, averaging just 2.4 yards on 24 carries.

During the ``remedial'' practice, offensive linemen worked on combination blocks. The fruits of that work, including the debut of rookie right guard Peter Konz, could be seen on Rodgers' 43-yard run that set up a fourth-quarter field and gave the Falcons a 30-10 lead.

Smith and his staff are mindful, too, that they must keep players fresh, not just for an entire game but for the whole season. Since taking charge of the Falcons in 2008, Smith has routinely given veterans, particularly his ``over-30'' club, as he calls it, a day of rest during the week.

But monitoring snap counts in games helps Atlanta make better use of less experienced players to take a bigger role on offense or defense and not just exclusively on special teams.

``We've got to focus on the game and win the game, but we also have to focus on the entirety of the season. We want our guys to be as fresh as they can possibly be when we get into November and December when you've got to be playing your best football.''

Smith and the Falcons know they will be judged more for their play in January than their play in the regular season. Atlanta is 0-3 in the playoffs.

But there's little argument that Smith is getting his job done in the regular season.

He now 50 career victories to surpass Dan Reeves as the franchise's winningest coach. Smith needed just 71 games to earn 50 wins. Since the 1970 merger, only George Seifert with San Francisco and Chuck Noll with Pittsburgh won 50 games faster.

Joe Gibbs needed 72 games to reach 50 victories with Washington, Bill Cowher (Pittsburgh) and Mike Ditka (Chicago) 73 games.

Smith says he is too immersed in the task at hand to pay attention to his individual success or his team's unbeaten record.

``We've been fortunate to have a very successful season, play some efficient football, and we've made some mistakes,'' Smith said. ``So I've tried not to even think in those terms. Everyone else is going to concern themselves with it. We've got to make sure we're preparing for the next game.''

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Ravens' Jimmy Smith suspended for multiple games without pay

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Ravens' Jimmy Smith suspended for multiple games without pay

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith has been suspended for four games without pay for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The suspension, announced Tuesday, stems from Smith's behavior toward his ex-girlfriend.

The Ravens released a statement that in part read: "The Ravens fully support the NFL's decision. The NFL found evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors by Jimmy toward his former girlfriend that showed a pattern of improper conduct. Our player's behavior was inappropriate and wrong."

The suspension will take effect after the final mandated roster cuts on Sept. 1 and extend through Baltimore's game at Pittsburgh on Sept. 30.

Smith, in a statement issued by the Ravens, said: "I promise that I have already learned much and will continue to learn more from this experience. ... I take full responsibility for my past conduct."

Smith will be allowed to participate in all of the Ravens' preseason activities, including games. The 30-year-old is one of Baltimore's best defensive backs.

The team said it reviewed the case to decide whether to keep Smith on the roster.

"We convened a group of Ravens women and men executives, not directly involved with our football operations, to review the matter. We also engaged in conversations with Jimmy about his past behavior and his intention to change," the statement said.

"Additionally, it is our understanding that following a long-running and difficult custody dispute with his former girlfriend and mother of his son, Jimmy has resolved his custody and support issues."

As a result, the Ravens will allow Smith to return after his suspension.

"Jimmy has acknowledged his behaviors were wrong and accepts full responsibility for them. He has completed a clinical evaluation and has agreed to undertake any follow-up care or treatment that may be recommended. ... Jimmy has assured us that he is fully dedicated to making this change. He also understands the consequences if he does not."

Smith has played seven seasons for Baltimore since being drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft. He started in 12 games last season before an Achilles tendon injury forced him to miss the team's final four games. During those four weeks, he chose to accept an NFL suspension for using performance enhancers.

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Two other Redskins RBs intend to learn whatever they can from Adrian Peterson

Two other Redskins RBs intend to learn whatever they can from Adrian Peterson

A few weeks ago, running backs coach Randy Jordan floated a hypothetical out to his unit: If you could start a franchise with any guy, who would you pick?

Rob Kelley's answer was Adrian Peterson. And as fate would have it, Peterson is now a part of Kelley's franchise, a fact that has the third-year back floored. 

"I was kind of amazed," Kelley said on Tuesday, which was Peterson's first day as a 'Skin. "I have a opportunity to play with Adrian Peterson, it feels surreal."

Kapri Bibbs' reaction was much of the same.

"It's amazing having him in the building," he told reporters. "I couldn't hope for anything better."

Samaje Perine wasn't in a position to speak to the media by the time the locker room was closed, but at least in the eyes of Kelley and Bibbs, Peterson's arrival is something to embrace. It's not too often you get to go through drills and meetings with a guy who's going to have a bust in Canton sometime soon.

"I don't think there really is a cap to that," Bibbs answered when asked what he's hoping to pick up from Washington's new No. 26. "There's not too much you can learn from him."

"I got him here, what can I learn from him?" Kelley said in reponse to a similar question. "What can I gain from this situation? How can I make myself a better player by watching him?"

Bibbs revealed that Peterson is already "spilling information" to him, which lines up with Peterson saying at the podium in Ashburn he wants to come in and be a positive influence on the rest of the group.

However, Peterson also said in his presser that he "without a doubt" wants to be the starter, and if that does eventually happen, it'll come at the expense of someone else's spot on the roster or someone else's reps in a game, whether that be a Kelley, a Bibbs or a Perine.

That's not something that bothers two of the options already in the Burgundy and Gold's backfield, though.

"I'm always gonna come in every single day, regardless," Bibbs said when Peterson's resume and talents were brought up as something that could pressure him.

Kelley isn't stressed, either.

"Right now, I'm just putting my head down and working and trying to get better."

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