The Falcons are 3-1 going into Sunday's game at Cleveland and their past two victories have come by three points (in overtime at New Orleans) and two points (against San Francisco). They lost their opener 15-9 in overtime at Pittsburgh.
But there seems to be no panic in Atlanta, at least if tight end Tony Gonzalez and coach Mike Smith are any indication.
'We'd love to stay out of that situation but that's what the game has dictated for us,'' Gonzalez said during a Wednesday conference call. ''I'm just happy with the way we responded.
''A win is a win as far as I'm concerned. I don't care what it looks like. This isn't a beauty contest. It's not about how pretty it looks, it's just about getting that victory. At the end of the season they're not going to say you squeaked out a couple games. They didn't say that about the Saints last year and they won the world championship. We've got to learn from it and try to stay out of those situations. But when they do come up, we have to respond and have that confidence that we can win the game.''
If the Falcons get in another close contest with the Browns, the odds of winning seem in their favor. Since 2008, the Falcons are tied for third in the NFL with a 7-2 record in games decided by three points or less. This season, three of their four games have been decided on the final play.
The Browns (1-3) have been in similar situations, with markedly different results. All four of their games have been decided by seven points or less, three of them by three points or less.
'' The league is so close when you start talking about the No. 1 team to the No. 32 team. We've had our fair share of close games and we've been fortunate to make plays when the opportunity has arisen,'' Smith said. ''Throughout the season you'll see a number of games that are going to come down to the last four or five minutes. Everybody strives to be playing their best ball in the last four or five minutes.''
Last week, receiver Roddy White saved the day for the Falcons. With 2:32 remaining, quarterback Matt Ryan's pass was picked off by 49ers cornerback Nate Clements. But White chased him down and punched the ball out, with center Harvey Dahl recovering for Atlanta. Ryan led the Falcons on a 12-play, 68-yard drive capped by Matt Bryant''s 43-yard field goal with two seconds left.
''That was no doubt the play of the game,'' Smith said of White's forced fumble. ''He hustled down the field, but there were other guys involved in that play -- Harvey Dahl for recovering that fumble, we had other guys who were chasing the ballcarrier as well. We pride ourselves on being a team that runs to the football, whether it's offense or defense. We want to make sure that we play with outstanding effort and that was definitely a play that was extraordinary in terms of effort.''