Falcons players talk perfect season

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons have "the pedigree" to finish 16-0, receiver Roddy White said Wednesday.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team in the modern era to make it through an entire year without a loss. The 2007 New England Patriots are the lone squad to go undefeated in a 16-game regular season (before losing, of course, in the Super Bowl).

The Falcons have won their first eight games, the best start in franchise history. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Falcons are the 20th team to start 8-0 in the Super Bowl era and the 31st team to start 8-0 in NFL history. Of the previous 19 teams to start 8-0 in the Super Bowl era, 12 reached the Super Bowl and eight of those teams won the NFL title.

"I think we've got the pedigree to do it," White said. "Offensively and defensively and how we are as a team. The locker room is very, very united right now. We go into every week expecting to win. ... We've still got to be consistent, don't turn the ball over and get turnovers. That's been the key to winning games all over this league. If we continue to do that, we'll be just fine."

The odds of the Falcons running the table will start to look much better if they can get to 9-0 with a win over the Saints on Sunday. Other than the NFC East-leading Giants (6-3), the remaining opponents on the schedule are a cumulative 17-24. (Atlanta still has two games left with division rival Tampa Bay.) Four of the last seven games are at the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons have a 30-7 record since Mike Smith took over as coach in 2008.

Longtime center Todd McClure said Wednesday he believed Atlanta could achieve perfection.

"We can," McClure said without a hint of hesitation when asked whether the Falcons can finish 16-0. "There's no reason we can't. If we play our game, go out and do what we're supposed to do, we can. The sky's the limit for this team. Is it going to be hard? Yes. Will it be hard this week? Yes.

"But," he added, "if we approach it week by week, it's definitely possible."

Right tackle Tyson Clabo was more guarded when asked about the Falcons' chances of going 16-0.

"We're only halfway there," he said. "Statistically, the chances of that are really slim. I mean, we base our game plans on statistics. Statistically, this is what's going to happen, so we're going to do this. So I don't think we should deviate from our entire mindset based on this big, golden cow that everybody thinks we should try to get to."

Besides, despite being the league's only unbeaten team, the Falcons are still searching for a little national respect. Outside of Atlanta, there's still a great deal of skepticism about whether this team will end up holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season, no matter how good it looks at the moment.

The Falcons have defeated only one team (Denver in Week 2) with a winning record. The combined record of their first eight opponents is a rather dismal 24-41. Perhaps the two toughest games are still to come -- Sunday's contest at New Orleans against the surging Saints, Atlanta's fiercest rival. Then there's a December contest against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, who thoroughly dominated when the teams met last season in the playoffs.

"At this point, we have so many other goals that are more important than" going 16-0, Clabo said. "Like winning the division. Like trying to get a game in the (Georgia) Dome in the playoffs. We have a whole bunch of things we have to do before we even worry about doing that other thing."

The Saints (3-5) have shown signs of bouncing back from an 0-4 start, and they've won their past three meetings with the Falcons. New Orleans would love nothing better than to snuff out hope of an unbeaten season in Atlanta.

"We've got an opportunity to do something nobody's been able to do this year, and that's beat Atlanta," Saints offensive lineman Jahri Evans said. "I'm kind of glad that they're undefeated."

But much like the Falcons have to ward off the natural tendency to look ahead, New Orleans must guard against putting too much emphasis on ruining the Falcons' perfect season.

"That doesn't make a difference really," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "It would be great for the fans. I know Saints fans would love that, but for us, we can't get caught up in all that hype and hoopla. They're a good team. They're 8-0 for a reason. It's not by luck that they're 8-0, so we have to understand who we're facing."

The Falcons know that this season won't be judged on how many games they win during the regular season. This team has been one-and-done in all three trips to the postseason under Smith, so there truly are bigger goals than going 16-0.

Winning in the playoffs is the main thing.

"That's what everybody is waiting for us to do," running back Michael Turner conceded. "We've been winning here for a while now. This is nothing new. We just happen to be 8-0."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.