FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. A slip of the tongue gave away Atlanta coach Mike Smith's focus Monday.
Smith was just starting his review of the Falcons' 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoffs when it became clear his thoughts were on this week's NFC Championship Game against the 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, 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."
Sunday's win over Seattle 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 victory was the most important for the Falcons and would allow Ryan and other players to relax.
Smith shot down both theories.
"I don't think we'll be able to play looser," Smith said. "We've 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. Our guys understand the challenge this week is going to be big."
Atlanta is the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
The Falcons lost at home to Green Bay as the top seed following the 2010 regular season, then lost to the New York Giants on the road in the first round last year.
Ryan and the Falcons built leads of 20-0 and 27-7 against Seattle before falling behind 28-27 with 31 seconds remaining.
Ryan then completed passes to Harry Douglas for 22 yards and Tony Gonzalez for 19 yards to set up Matt Bryant's go-ahead 49-yard field goal with eight seconds left.
Smith said it was a "fun" win for the team and the city of Atlanta but it didn't 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 Sunday's 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.
Ryan and some teammates acknowledged they are glad there will be no more questions about not winning a postseason game.
"But at the same time, our goal is not to win one playoff game," Ryan said. "Our goal isn't to stop answering that question. Our goals are still in front of us. We still have two more games to go. That's the mindset I have. That's the mindset this team has."